A more recent aspect of good animal care involves feed, that is, of late there has been more attention paid to what livestock eat. Pastured, organic, non-GMO, are some of the terms used to describe what the animals are being fed. Some of this is directly related to how the animals are being raised. Many people who seek this information when buying meat are looking beyond the basic care of the animal to the end product.
Before I go on, I need to clarify the philosophy of care we at Cota Farms have. We don’t just care for our animals, we care about them. This is probably the single most important difference between the small, family farm, and the mega farm. We live with our animals and have a personal connection to each one. We tract them by name, not by a number attached to their ear. Our responsibility does not end when the work shift is over or is limited by job title.
That being said, I believe that it is not possible with the current technology, to feed the world from the small, family farm. It is no longer possible, I mean, for it was once done that way, when a very large portion of the population worked on farms. Going back to that way of living is called communism and is not a popular idea here in America.
Therefore, we don’t rally against the factory farms or do we want to see them closed down; there sure is a lot of room for improvement though. As I have mentioned before, improving the care of animals at factory farms means we will pay more money for our food and that is a very unpopular idea.
All of our animals at Cota Farms are pastured; it just makes sense (cents). Organic is a word we don’t use because its meaning has been usurped by corporate agriculture, with the help of the government, and now does not mean what it once did. GMO is so prevalent in our food today that trying to avoid it is impractical. I really don’t know if it is all that bad or not. I am sure though, that GMO is not as important an issue as antibiotics and growth hormones. By the way, we don’t use any chemicals or drugs on our animals that make it to the market.
Now, from the animals point of view, the more food the better, and don’t decide beforehand what they want or don’t want; they’ll let you know. Good animal care means, then, giving them what they want, as much as they need. If you didn’t like that, then you really won’t like this. Chickens are not vegetarians, they are omnivores, they like meat, anything that they can catch and fit in their face. That means vegetarian fed chickens for meat or eggs is not good animal care.
Grass fed meat is talked about a lot and it is easy to find at the farmers markets. We are sometimes asked if our lamb is grass fed. While our sheep are on pasture, we do supplement their diet with grains and minerals. It is a small amount, we can’t afford to give them too much, but they get some every day. The issue here is confusion between feedlot livestock that are fed nothing but grain and those on pasture. There are several reasons to give ruminants a limited amount of grain, it is not an unnatural thing for them to eat, but one reason I will leave you with is, they like it.