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Transparency in farm methods is good for consumers

September 8, 2018 GMT

What do you and I have in common? We want to know we’re feeding our families safe and nutritious food. That every time we go to the grocery store, we won’t feel overwhelmed by all the labels we see on foods (antibiotic-free, humanely raised, non-GMO, etc.). And that the Minnesota Twins finally make it to the World Series again. We’re more similar than you think, even though I’m a farmer.

People demand the ethical treatment of farm animals, and farmers and ranchers agree. I raise beef cattle in the Mazeppa area, and animal care is our top priority because raising these cows well isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s a part of my responsibility. Other farmers and ranchers feel the same way I do. A new study released by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association found 95 percent of cattle farmers and ranchers said well-being of their cattle is priority one.

Our farm specializes in cattle, not only because it makes sense financially, but because it allows us to become experts in raising cattle. Our advances in technology have enhanced dramatically over the last few years, with the animal’s and consumer’s best interests in mind. For example, we use individual tags to keep animal records through an app which is accessible on the go. This software allows us to keep timely and accurate information on each animal.

We also work very closely with our nutritionist to develop the animals’ diets, which in turn provides healthy and nutritious protein for your families.

And we agree with consumers as well about the environment. This past year, Minnesota members of Congress introduced the American Prairie Conservation Act, which aims to protect native grasslands across the U.S. We already strive to look for new sustainable methods that improve the land. For example, rotational grazing helps optimize grasses and prevent runoff. Also, automatic water spouts from the well prevent the cattle from eroding banks near water sources with their travel, eliminating excess nutrients in the water.

Overall, we see that consumers are starting to realize our animal welfare efforts — research from the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance shows that 52 percent of Americans believed that animals were well-cared for on farms in 2017, compared to 43 percent in 2016.

However, we still need to continue the dialogue and explain our farming methods. We’ve seen that Americans want to buy meat that was raised without antibiotics, even though they play an important part in animal welfare. We use antibiotics, but sparingly, when we need to treat sick animals. Similarly, if your child was sick and required antibiotics — you would treat them with the necessary medication to make them feel better.

On our farm, we call the veterinarian when we have a sick animal. The vet will take the animal’s temperature and describe the regimen we need to follow. If we use antibiotics to help the animal recover, we use the individual animal identification tag and keep track of it on our farm’s software program. There are strict government regulations against antibiotic residue in meat, and farmers keep meticulous records. Withdrawal periods are also enforced by the FDA, which is the time between the last antibiotic dosage and the time an animal goes to market, which ensures a safe food supply.

Animal care is the heart of everything we do to raise cattle today. Beef farmers and ranchers are committed to raising healthy animals. In many cases, many of us have lived on the same land for generations, so our livelihoods depend on healthy cattle. It’s the right thing to do, not only for the animals, but also for the consumer and the environment.