The Columbia Missourian ran a very nice piece this morning on the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s decision that on-farm vegetables and whey constitute illegal garbage feeding. Please read it; the reporter did a good job of getting details, information, and statements from a number of sources while crafting an accurate and thorough depiction of the situation. We’re really pleased with it, especially since we didn’t seek it out (they contacted us wanting to do a story). The comment thread online is pretty interesting, too.
Just a few additional thoughts/clarifications I’d like to add:
1) Why did MDA effectively refuse to cooperate with the reporter? They did the same thing to a Harvest Public Media reporter earlier in the year, by refusing any interviews and not answering any questions, only issuing vague statements that don’t address the issue? If this is such a dangerous and problematic situation, wouldn’t you think they’d welcome some free media coverage to help spread the word not to do this? If they can afford to send two highly paid vets out here to spend an hour trying to explain this to us, wouldn’t a 15-minute phone interview be manageable and cost-effective?
2) I love how the statements from both MDA (“Animals raised for commercial sale and introduction into the food system would typically be fed rations including corn, oats, barley and soybean meal“) and the Missouri Pork Association (“Our rations (at the Missouri Pork Association) are given attention to detail…Balance is important for pigs to grow and perform and be healthy.”) are perfectly accurate and fair, yet betray the level to which industrial agriculture has moved beyond diversified, sustainable, natural animal management.
Commercial hogs are confined and raised solely on grain primarily because that’s what the Federal government subsidizes, such that it’s not cost-effective to feed anything else to consumers hooked on artificially cheap meat. “Scientifically balanced” hog rations are necessary because those hogs are kept locked in buildings with no access to soil, plants, or food other than what comes down the spout. Compare this to a few quotes from my 1943 copy of Feeds and Feeding, a massive (1,000+ pages) tome on animal husbandry:
“Because of this high quality of the protein in whey, well-grown pigs weighing over 100lb will make excellent gains on a ration of only whey and barley or wheat, without the addition of any other supplement”
“Few facts in swine feeding have been so clearly proved, both by scientific experiments and by the common experience of successful farmers, as the importance of good pasture for all classes of swine”
Remind me why pastured, naturally fed pork is considered the new-age, hippy-dippy way to raise meat while the lock-’em-up and shovel-the-corn school is considered “conventional”?
3) In a world increasingly worried about food prices, especially animal protein, you’d think it would be of interest to ag “professionals” to seek out cheaper, easier, and more practical ways to feed animals. Yet our system is so wedded to subsidized, inefficient grain that these guys are all but mocking us for wanting to feed nearly free on-farm-generated feed instead of industrially grown corn that is ever-more expensive even with massive government intervention. Our way is still grain-based, but at a lower level than an all-grain feedlot, which allows farms like ours to be more resource-efficient overall. Just think how many hogs could be partially raised on the rejected or out-of-date produce and dairy products that grocery stores throw out every month, and which have no realistic chance of being contaminated by raw meat scraps if set aside for local farmers.
4) MDA still doesn’t understand its own laws. The official statement, which cutely sidesteps the actual issue, states that “Animals produced for an individual’s personal consumption are not regulated by the Missouri Department of Agriculture…However, including meat scraps of any kind in feed is not acceptable.”
Not so. The law states that “No person, other than an individual who feeds to his own swine only the garbage obtained from his own household, shall feed garbage to swine”. Period. By this wording, it is entirely legally acceptable for someone at home to feed the nastiest raw meat scraps to their personal pig as long as they don’t sell it. MDA has no regulatory authority whatsoever to tell people what they can or can’t feed their personal pig; their statement even says so. So what do they think “unacceptable” means?
They’re also ignoring the transportation part: “No person shall sell or transport any swine which have been fed garbage”. I wonder how many of the “personal” FFA or 4-H hogs on display at the Boone County Fair this weekend had some table scraps or garden seconds tossed to them at some point? By the strict wording MDA is using, anyone who did that is now a criminal for taking their hog to the fair (or taking it to a private processor at the end of the season). Then there’s “No person shall knowingly purchase any swine which have been fed garbage”; again, I wonder how many hams traded at the fair are misdemeanors?