WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2015 – The agricultural industry must be more transparent about showing how things work on the farm and in the slaughterhouse, and there are “some practices we’re going to have to change,” said Temple Grandin, a professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University and winner of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2015 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award.
Grandin, who is also a best-selling author, an autism activist and a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior, made her comment in San Diego recently during AFBF’s annual convention.
“We have to open our doors,” she told AFBF members as she accepted her award. “There's a whole generation that has no idea what's going on in agriculture.”
Grandin emphasized that “everybody’s got a camera…you can’t get away from them. In everything we do, we have to think, ‘How would this play on YouTube?’”
While operations at slaughterhouses have significantly improved since she began working with livestock, she is now noticing more lame and unfit beef cattle and dairy cows entering the facilities.
The infirmities, including leg conformation issues in beef cattle, show the need for improved on-farm management as well as genetic changes that can improve soundness in livestock.
“We want to have good production, but we want what is optimal rather than what is maximum,” she said.
During her speech Grandin addressed the issue of sow gestation crates. Several major pork-producers are requiring their suppliers to switch to group housing for sows instead of individual gestation stalls. While Grandin said science shows sows can be healthy in gestation crates, “You are not going to sell (that) to consumers, it’s just that simple,” adding, “That’s one battle you’re not going to win.”
Grandin also cited the benefits of raising cattle on rangeland, with improved conservation and water resources for wildlife, in appealing to consumers who think beef is bad for the environment.
Grandin said the industry must remember most young people have no experience working on a farm or in the agriculture industry. And she said any people making policy decisions “have never actually had a real job,” while activist groups have fewer and fewer people that have practical knowledge of farming and ranching. Exposing younger generations to farming and ranching will get more people interested in applying their talents to the agriculture industry, she said.
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