Coming off the heels of Heritage Breeds Week where we celebrate the benefits of heritage breed livestock farming, we identify here another core benefit of the non-commodity system that is crucial to balance is preservation of farmland and the environment. Vox recently published an in depth story about Iowa's largest hog producer, Iowa Select.
In this article, Charlie Mitchell and Austin Frerick shed light on the disturbing nature of large scale hog farming. These hogs are sold to companies like Tyson in what is known in the business as the commodity market.
The article is not an easy read. It explains in great detail how ruthless these corporations are — not just towards the livestock they raise but also the environment, the communities they reside in, and the political system that the manipulate.
They write, "Since Iowa Select was founded in 1992, the state’s pig population has increased more than 50 percent — while the number of farms raising hogs has declined over 80 percent. In the last 30 years, 26,000 Iowa farms quit the long-standing tradition of raising pigs. As confinements replaced them, rural communities have continued to hollow out."
Furthermore, they discuss the unsuspecting impacts of the hog commodity market on the community at large: "As confinements have come to dominate farming, they’ve worsened Iowa’s water quality: Watersheds that are dense with livestock have a higher nutrient overload, and last summer the state closed half of its state park beaches to swimming for at least a week, citing the health risk of toxins or bacteria. Closer to the sheds, many rural residents say they’ve been plagued — and others pushed out — by the stench, the flies, and the health hazards that seem to accompany the facilities."
We strongly encourage everyone to read this article and learn about the dangers these corporations pose to the environment and our society at large. Thank you to everyone who supports small independent family farms, raising livestock the way they should be raised.