Hundreds of miles from Kellogg Farm, Jude Becker raises pigs in a very different environment. Jude says this pastoral Iowa farm has been in his family for generations. "My great-great-great-grandfather came here in 1850," he says. "We've had pigs for ages and ages."
Ten years ago, Jude took over the family business and transformed it into an organic pig farm. They started small, and today, they have 500 sows. "From those sows, if we get two litters a year, we can market around 6,000 pigs in one year," he says.
When a sow is pregnant, Jude moves her to a spacious field. Currently, he says he has close to 300 pregnant sows spread out over 32 acres. "We spread the food over a big area," he says. "Even a sow that could be smaller, weaker, lower ranked still has the opportunity to eat food."
Jude says he would never keep his sows in gestation crates. He prefers to see them root around in a grassy field. "Something about it just makes me feel good. The positive energy from the animals translates to me," he says. "I think it translates into the food as well. Food is about energy."
Some may think small, organic farms can't turn a profit or keep up with consumer demands, but Jude says they're wrong. "Consumers definitely want this product and are willing to pay the farmer to recoup those costs," he says.
Jude looks to European farmers for inspiration. For the past 20 years, he says innovative British farmers and legislators have worked together to change the way they produce pork. "Now, we have a third of all pigs produced in England today produced outdoors," Jude says.
By 2012, Wayne says gestation crates will be banned throughout the European union. "This is not pie in the sky. We're the nation that put a man on the moon nearly 40 years ago," he says. "Can't we allow animals to move? That's the basic question."
At large-scale operations like Kellogg Farm, Matt says they also want the best for their animals. "When I say this, it comes from my heart. We're not just out there to make money," he says. "We're out there to take care of the animals. The way we do it is the way we feel is the most appropriate and the best way to take care of them."
Matt says farmers must consider many factors when deciding how to house sows, including climate, cleanliness and temperature control. Indoor housing has its benefits. "There are systems to keep them cool and keep them healthy, and we can control that," he says. "In the past, that wasn't possible, and I feel lucky that we can take care of them the way we can now."
When Jude took over his family farm, he says he dealt with similar considerations. "People said: 'You can't keep these sows outside. It's winter. It's cold. It's rainy. It's muddy,'" he says. "I learned the hard way, and for years and years, I kept believing in this."
Thanks to the research coming out of Europe, Jude says farmers now have large-scale solutions to these problems. "[We know] how to keep sows, let's say, in a hoop barn or in a larger barn that isn't maybe at the far end of the spectrum," Jude says to Matt. "My farm is very, very spectrally opposite of what you do, but I think there's some middle ground."
Do you know how a veal chop gets from the farm to your dinner plate? In 2002, Bradley Miller of the Humane Farming Association, shot footage of veal calves in their crates. The footage shows the calves chained inside their 22-inch wooden crates. "They can't walk or even turn around," he says. "This is how they live every minute, every hour, every day for their entire 16 weeks of life."
Bradley says the calves are fed an all-liquid diet. "Many of the calves were so weak, they couldn't even stand up. They were just lying and coughing from pneumonia," he says. "When it comes time to slaughter, some of these calves literally need to be dragged out of their crates because they had never walked before."
Bryan Scott, a representative with the American Veal Processors Association, says while the calf crates Oprah showed are representative of 80 to 85 percent of what goes on in the veal production, Bradley's footage is not representative of the industry. "There's always some bad actors," he says. "I don't think [the footage] is a fair portrayal at all. We have a quality assurance program in place for our members. The barns are inspected every year, reviewed and audited by a veterinarian."
The veal industry is changing the way it operates, however, whether Proposition 2 passes or fails. By 2017, Bryan says all farmers will be raising their calves in group housing. "[That means] six or more animals per pen, free to roam in their own area," he says. "No tethers. No restraints, except for vaccinations and early socialization."
Bryan says he opposes the California initiative because these regulations shouldn't be dictated by lawmakers. "It's just a matter of allowing flexibility and letting quality scientists and quality universities make the decisions—not making this about a political campaign," he says. "There's room to meet on this and we're certainly moving that way, but it's a more complicated and intricate system."
Bart and Amy Mitchell, a couple from Wisconsin, are cattle farmers who don't believe in confining their calves to crates. They run a "free-raise" operation that includes around 600 calves—approximately 200 of which are tagged for veal. "They're free raised, which means they're never confined," Amy says. "They're always kept out here with their mother, given their mother's milk."
Amy says their natural approach—without antibiotics or growth hormones—actually costs less than alternative methods. "While no farming is cheap by any means ... we don't have the buildings it takes to house that many calves," she says. "So we don't have to upkeep those buildings or build any of those structures on our farm."
Free-raise farming also reduces the workload, Bart says. "Anytime you can remove the stress from an animal and leave it out [with] its mother like Mother Nature originally intended to, we feel that the day-to-day and hands-on activities that we would have with that calf are actually less," he says.
Other incentives can't be quantified or calculated in a spreadsheet. "We're really proud to be able to be raising calves in a way that Mother Nature intended," Amy says. "It's better for the planet, and it's better for the calf."
Small family farms aren't the only ones jumping on the cage-free, free-range bandwagon. Lisa says many corporations are adopting a similar philosophy. In 2000, Chipotle Mexican Grill, a fast-food chain, began using cage-free pork in their burritos and tacos. This year, all 8 million pounds of pork they'll use will come from cage-free pigs.
In 2005, Whole Foods Market began exclusively selling eggs from cage-free hens. Then, Ben & Jerry's followed suit and became the first major food manufacturer to commit to using only cage-free eggs in their ice cream. Burger King, the world's second largest burger chain, has also announced that 5 percent of its eggs and 10 percent of its pork now comes from animals not confined to crates or cages.
Now that you've heard both sides of the argument, Oprah says you can start making conscious choices about the food you eat. "California voters, Proposition 2 will be on your ballot next month," she says. "The rest of us can vote at the grocery store with the food we buy for our tables."Learn more about what's going on in your world
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