Thursday, February 5, 2009

Is cost more important than animal welfare?

Heath Putnam and I are both in the business of raising pigs, but we have different views of the process. Heath has gone on at length, but there's a post in particular that I have a philosophical disagreement on.

Heath put out a list of priorities for his operation, and I quote:

The priorities of Wooly Pigs are (in this order):
1) Taste
2) Controlling costs
3) Animal welfare

My reply to his question about my prorities you'll find below

Working with your list, my ordering would be

1. animal welfare
2. taste
3. controlling costs

If you put cost in front of animal welfare you're inevitably going to end up with a confinement system because there is no cheaper way to produce meat; that's why factory farms have standardized on that particular sort of husbandry.

My confinement is oriented around animal welfare, not taste or cost, and is an example of my approach.

I've toured 3 hog units (confinement pork operations) in Nebraska, and having been there and seen the conditions for both the animals and the farmers, I could not operate one of those farms.
So if I could not raise animals in a way that was humane and comfortable for the animal I wouldn't undertake it.

Taste is the reason I started growing my own; I've purchased your berkshire and mangalitsa products and I've run taste tests to see how they compare with other producers duroc or hampshire or yorkshire products. I go to the effort because I'm sincerely interested in the best tasting product that I can produce; regardless of cost.

I'm guessing that you're now running a confinement operation from your overall comments. That's too bad. Mangalitsa do great on pasture or on range, as the hungarians and austrians have shown on their small farms.

I don't think that big is a virtue when it comes to farms. I prefer quality to quantity and very few large corporations can do both well. Whole foods had meat recalls in the last 12 months, for instance.

You can find the original post by heath and the discussion on the wooly pigs blog


Anonymous said...

I'm with you. Don't you think that there is likely a link between welfare and taste/cost? (Perhaps it is a "triple constraint" ala project management-speak, that time, cost and scope all get bigger or smaller relative to each other?)

I think this is something the big producers miss or ignore: a well animal is going to taste subtly better than a barely-getting-by one. And well animals grow better and are less likely to get sick or die- all cost factors. And by "well" I mean physically and mentally well. I think that putting welfare at the top of the list can help the other two take care of themselves.

Bruce King said...

Even if there wasn't a difference in taste I'd want the animal to enjoy itself during its time here. But there is; certainly around slaughter time. If the animal is stressed or nervous there is definitely a difference in taste. Thanks for the comment!