Are farm animals today are raised on “factory farms” and not family farms?
The vast majority of U.S. farms are owned and operated by farm families. In fact, USDA data shows that 98 percent of farms are family-owned and operated. These farms are very diverse, producing a wide variety of crops and livestock.
Many of today's farms do look different than those in the past. Just as technologies have helped consumers improve our lives, farmers have adopted new technologies that allow them to provide better care for their animals and better protect the environment.
For example, today's farm animals are housed in barns designed to protect the health and welfare of the animal. Modern housing is well-ventilated, warm, well-lit, clean, and scientifically-designed to meet an animal's specific needs – including temperature, light, water and food.
Today's technology allows farmers to raise livestock in housing that protects livestock from predators, disease, and bad weather or extreme climate. All of these elements in the past made raising livestock difficult for both the animal and farmer. Today's housing makes breeding and birth less stressful, protects young animals, shields them from South Dakota's extreme and unpredictable weather and makes it easier for farmers to care for both healthy and sick animals.
If you would like to visit a farm check out our Events Calendar for upcoming farm events or contact us directly to schedule a farm tour.
Are farm animals in CAFO's (confined animal feeding operations) more prone to diseases, forcing farmers to routinely use antibiotics and other drugs to keep them alive?
Animal scientists, veterinarians and on-farm experience have shown that modern housing actually helps keep animals healthier because they are protected from disease, the elements, and predators. Just like each of us, farm animals do sometimes get sick. And, just like we would go to the doctor to prevent or treat illness, livestock receive check-ups from veterinarians when needed and receive treatment when sick.
All animal health products are approved and regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
How do I know the videos of farm animals being mistreated is not normal on farms?
Those videos are disturbing. We do not condone or support mistreatment of animals.
The vast majority of farmers work hard every day to provide the best possible care for their livestock. Treating animals humanely and keeping them healthy is their livelihood. It's how they produce high-quality products that feed all of our families.
Each segment of animal agriculture has their own program designed to ensure animal safety on the farm and consumer confidence about where their food comes from. Here are a few examples of these programs. Please follow the links for more information.
We also encourage anyone who is concerned about on the farm treatment of animals to tour area farms. If you are interested in touring a farm to learn first hand from those involved in production agriculture how livestock is cared for please follow this link for more information.
Is it safe to use antibiotics in food animals?
Yes. Antibiotics used in animal production must go through rigorous testing before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that they are safe and effective.
The FDA also has a mandated withdrawal time for each antibiotic used. Food or milk from animals that have been treated with an antibiotic may not enter the food supply until a predetermined amount of time has elapsed since the animal's last dosage. By law any person who administers antibiotics to livestock must follow each drug's specific withdrawal period.
The FDA and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have coordinated a surveillance program to ensure adherence to the withdrawal regulations. Samples found to be noncompliant are destroyed and the producer faces stiff penalties.
U.S. farmers and veterinarians are committed to protecting public health, animal health and animal well-being through the responsible use of antibiotics.
Do I need to buy the most expensive food to get the best for my family?
While organic food prices are often higher than conventional food, there is no difference in nutritional value, according to a review of 400 scientific papers on the health impacts of organic foods, published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.
- See more here
Why are cattle grown in feedlots rather than green pastures?
Nearly all beef cattle, whether raised organically or conventionally, spend the majority of their lives in pastures eating grass.
When mature, cattle are sold or moved to feedlots where they typically spend 4-6 months. Feedlots allow ranchers to raise beef more efficiently with fewer natural resources like land, feed and water. Feedlot cattle live in fenced areas that give them plenty of food, fresh water and room to move around. Veterinarians, nutritionists and cattlemen work together to look after each animal every day, according to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.
- See more here.
Is buying from local farms better for the environment?
Not necessarily. The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University reports that the number of transportation miles and energy used to produce so-called “locally grown” food turns out to be great indicators of what is local, but not of environmental impact. Sometimes it takes more energy to grow and harvest local food than it does to grow it far away and have it shipped. Sustainability has many complicated facets beyond the carbon footprint, including soil tillage, crop protection and fertilizer use, waste handling, shipping and water use.
Buying from local farms helps support area farmers but does not ensure that farmers grow enough food to help feed a rapidly increasing global population. Only 20 percent of U.S. farmland is located near metropolitan areas. As our population grows and competes for land, energy and water, U.S. farmers will need to be even more efficient and productive. Small, local farms will have a niche but cannot alone sustainably or practically address all future food production needs.
- See more here.
What are GMO foods?
The World Health Organization defines genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, including between nonrelated species. Such methods are used to create GMO plants – which result in GMO food crops. This technology is called biotechnology.
Farmers and gardeners have been creating plant hybrids for as long as they’ve been growing plants. Biotechnology simply serves as a more technologically advanced method.
USDA says that while particular biotech traits may be new to certain crops, the same basic types of traits are often found naturally in plants and allow them to survive and evolve.
What do we know about GMO food safety?
Every plant improved through the use of food biotechnology is examined by the FDA and EPA for potential health risks. Tests are done on plants before entering the food and animal feed supply. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that current foods containing biotech ingredients have passed human health risk assessments. In addition, the WHO says no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of biotech foods.
What are the benefits of food biotechnology to agriculture?
Growing food with GMOs can result in better-tasting fruits and vegetables that stay fresh longer and are naturally resistant to insects. Plant breeding also results in crops better able to withstand the environmental challenges of drought, disease and insect infestations.
By developing special traits in plants, biotechnology allows for more food to be grown in more places using fewer chemicals and fewer natural resources.
This increased availability of crops provides significant economic gains to farmers in developing countries.
An Iowa State University study shows that without biotechnology, global prices would be nearly 10 percent higher for soybeans and 6 percent higher for corn.
Biotechnology also benefits the environment. A Council for Agricultural Science and Technology report says biotech soy, corn and cotton have decreased soil erosion by 90 percent, preserving 37 million tons of topsoil. Biotech crops also provide a 70 percent reduction in herbicide runoff and an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
According to USDA, biotech crops may provide enhanced quality traits such as increased levels of beta-carotene in rice to aid in reducing vitamin A deficiencies and improved oil compositions in canola, soybeans and corn. Crops with the ability to grow in salty soils or to better withstand drought conditions are also in the works.
USDA also says research on potatoes, squash, tomatoes and other crops continues in a similar manner to provide resistance to diseases that otherwise are very difficult to control.
- See more here.