May 21, 2012
Farmers ‘Pay it Forward’ With PizzaBy Chris Chinn
My family participated in the “Ag Pizza Party” to show our support for Domino’s Pizza, which recently announced it would rely on animal experts to determine the best way to raise farm animals for food production. As a farmer, I respect Domino’s for its common sense decision and for trusting the experts in animal care. That’s why we are among the thousands of families across the nation to show a little love back to Domino’s.
When we picked up our pizza after a 45-minute drive from the farm, we also left a thank you card with the manager letting him know we valued Domino’s support for farmers, ranchers, veterinarians and nutritionists. Our family deeply relies on these experts to take care of our hogs. They are not just animal care specialists; they are a part of our family farm management team. They know the nuts and bolts of our farm and family and they help us customize the care we give our livestock. Every farm is different, just as every person and breed of animal is different.
Our family has been raising livestock for five generations. It’s a tradition we are proud of and we hope our children will have the opportunity to one day follow in our path. Our animals rely on us seven days a week to care for them. We do this no matter the hour of the day or the day of the week. Animal care is a top priority for our family, that’s why we rely on the expert advice of our veterinarian, nutritionist and other animal experts when it comes to the daily care we give our hogs and cattle.
We use gestation stalls on our farm to protect our sows during pregnancy from larger, more aggressive “bully sows.” The stalls also allow us to monitor feed intake of each individual sow and tailor nutritional needs individually. If a sow isn’t eating, we know it right away and can prevent problems from occurring. We also are able to give each sow individual hands-on care daily by using the stalls. Our animals are well-cared for, content and comfortable. Until the animal experts we work with tell us there is a better way, we will continue to protect and care for our sows in this way.
So, with the onslaught of animal rights activism playing out in the marketplace, the decision by Domino’s speaks volumes to me as a farmer. It shows the company trusts the experts I trust. And it shows they trust me. I appreciate that.
The trust demonstrated by Domino’s also shows me that the pizza company does not want to force regulations on farmers. There’s already a lot of consolidation in hog farming in America, with independent hog farmers declining the most in numbers.
We own our facilities and our animals. We have a big stake in the success of our business and in the happiness of those who buy bacon, ham and sausage made from our hogs. Mandating unrealistic timelines on family farmers regarding the animal care methods they choose could force more hog farmers out of business. I know that is not the goal of any company, but the unintended consequences of decisions like these can greatly influence family farms like mine.
Chris Chinn, a fifth-generation hog farmer from Clarence, Mo., is a former chair of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s national Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee.