Honestly, I never knew I lived on a factory farm. In 1920 there were an estimated nine dairy cows on a farm. I mean literally a person who had lost a finger could still count the number of dairy cows per farm with two hands. I guess this is just the way the Scarecrow in the Chipotle video would have started. I mean, of course, if he actually had dairy cows.
There were many comments on my letter to Chipotle decrying so-called "factory farms." Obviously someone who hates farmers in general came up with that phrase, but lets think about it for a moment.
Why Do Farms Grow?
There are many reasons for a farm to grow. "Dad (or Mom, Uncle, etc), I'd like to farm with you" is the beginning of some farm's expansion. If a new family member joins the farm how will the farm pay them? These farms expand with more animals in order to be able to add that new member. Imagine this happening over multiple generations. I think this helps explain why over 97% of farms are family farms.
Decreasing margins have also caused many farms to grow. The biggest expenses for farms are feed, fuel, and fertilizer. The prices of these items have increased exponentially in the last twenty years. The price of milk paid to The Farmer, for example, has remained fairly constant over the same time period, especially when compared to the growth of the others. Adding more animals to the operations is a solution to keep the farm going.
GreedGreed was often cited in the comments of my Letter To Chipotle. I pointed out in the previous post about how the Scarecrow was a capitalist, a businessman. He can work hard, sell his product, and expand. At what point of building his business, opening more stores, and selling to more people does he become greedy? Is success evil? If you are good at something, if you are a productive member of society, when should you stop being productive at the risk of being called greedy? As a cow watching this video about a scarecrow being saddened about big business and starting his own, I can't help but wonder if he thinks that a national chain like Chipotle is greedy and bad, too.
Factories Are BadHere's another thing I have yet to figure out and that is why are factories bad? I'm not sure The Farmer could manage one of those jobs solely based on the fact that he doesn't like to tuck in his shirt. Two actual factories in The Farmer's area closed down in the last year and they were a great loss for the communities.
Factories provide honest jobs for honest people.
What about farms? The economic impact of one cow is more than $15,000, which is even more so in some areas. Farms provide jobs on site as well create a demand for local jobs. Farm suppliers, feed sources, building material, trucking, and many others benefit from farms of all sizes.
Regardless of all of this, I am a cow that is not on the farm of your grandparents or great grandparents. I live on a farm in the 21st century. The current average herd size of a dairy farm is 115 cows and the overwhelming majority have less than a hundred cows. That's still ten times larger than a farm from one hundred years ago. Am I a factory cow? I still don't know what that means. I do know that I am well cared for and I believe the same can be said at other farms no matter the size.
I'll let you ruminate on that because I've got to go. I'm next in line to be milked!
Agent 101, reporting from the Udder Side.