I finally got around to watching Chipotle’s much-talked-about web series, “Farmed and Dangerous”. It was the same message as before: farmers are bad, conventional agriculture is killing us all and Chipotle will save us from modern food production. This time it’s being packaged in a web series.
The national restaurant chain believes that animals should be raised “naturally” and that farmers that chose to use improved nutrition, antibiotics and other modern techniques are bad people producing bad food. That’s fine, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but I don’t believe raising cattle naturally is the best practice for the animal, the farmer or the consumer. Using Chipotles’ definition we raise our cattle un-naturally and, frankly, I’m proud of that.
Allow me to explain our un-natural practices:
*We use antibiotics. Animals get sick, often with something curable such as pneumonia, scours or a respiratory infection. We never want to see an animal suffer so we do everything we can to return them to perfect health. That includes administering antibiotics. One dose can often help an animal fight off the infection and recover in a timely fashion. We keep record of all antibiotics given to our animals and do not let them back into the food chain until the antibiotics have cleared their system. Healthy cattle produce safe beef. We want to keep our animals healthy and we don’t believe in letting our cattle suffer and die from a treatable condition. That’s not natural.
*Our animals live indoors. No, we don’t have a building full of cows but we do have barns and sheds we use to provide our animals protection from the often brutal Kansas winters. Our mother cows calve in the winter and early spring. When temperates drop and the snow begins to fall, we pull our expectant mothers under roofs and into pens to keep the mother and new calf warm and dry. We like to stay out of the wind and snow and think our animals do as well.
*We feed them crops. During the spring, summer and early fall months, our animals graze on Kansas grasses. They spend their days in pastures located throughout the Kansas flint hills. The grasses meet their nutritional needs and keep them happy and full. But grass doesn’t grow in the cold Kansas winters so our animals need another option for food. That’s especially true for our mother cows who are eating for two – both during pregnancy and while nursing. Our animals thrive when provided a well-balanced diet that includes grains, proteins and minerals. The crops we grow on our farm stay on our farm provide essential nutrition for our cows and growing calves.
*We use GMOs. The world is growing and so too is the number of people demanding high-quality, affordable food. The resources available to grow those crops, however, are not. Farmers have to be diligent with what they have. We use GMO crops on our farm because they allow us to provide more food on less acres using less water and inputs. GMO crops also tolerate drought, floods and extreme temperatures much better, allowing farmers to harvest a crop in less-than-ideal conditions.
I guess we’ll never get to sign a contract to supply beef to Chipotle, but we do take pride in caring for our animals, producing high-quality, healthy beef and feeding the world with safe and responsible farming practices. If that’s not natural, I’m not sure what is.