Modern Pork Production is Humane, Not Human-like

Recently, I’ve been addressing common questions people have about Prestage Farms and the new packing plant this company is considering to build in North Iowa. I believe Prestage is a great fit in my home county of Franklin! Last week I wrote about family farms versus “factory farms.” Two weeks ago I covered pig poop and why it’s a valuable resource.

This week I’d like to talk about “animal welfare.” There is a distinct difference between treating animals humanely and humanly. In the past, I’ve described how modern pig farms are not Old McDonald’s Farm. Many positive changes have occurred since the 1950’s and 60’s, yet many Americans have almost a romantic notion about “the good ol’ days.”

Those of us who “live farming” can see how technology has led to improved production systems that are better for the environment and for the animals. Those who grew up on a farm but moved away years ago – or those who are three generations removed from the farm – may need a comparison. Here’s an analogy that may help…

Imagine you’re enjoying a beautiful spring day with blue skies, bright sunshine, gentle breezes and a high between 72 and 75 degrees. (We’ve experienced this recently, so it’s not too hard to image, right?) Now think of a day when you can’t buy a breeze, and the sun is so scorching hot it feels as though you could fry an egg on the sidewalk! Contrast this to the discomfort you feel when the north wind is gusting at 30 miles an hour, the mercury is dipping below zero and your eyelashes freeze in the few minutes it takes you to walk across a parking lot.

Iowa weather can be extreme. Our summers can get miserably hot, and the winters can be bitterly cold. When we raised pigs on pasture, they were miserable and so was I! Some people think it’s better for pigs to remain outside than it is to stay cool inside a climate-controlled pig barn.


There’s no way I’d trade a modern barn for pig huts on pasture. I’m often reminded of how much better today’s production methods are. For example, last week I was called to adjust some air ventilators inside a gestation barn. It was 95 degrees outside, but inside this stall gestation barn it was 79 degrees! I couldn’t help but notice the contented sows. Many were sleeping comfortably, and a few woke up and curiously checked me out as I worked to adjust new ceiling vents.

These vents prevent warm air from coming inside. When it’s warm outside, fresh air is pulled through “cool cells” to keep the inside temperatures consistent. One end of the building is lined with specially treated corrugated cardboard that has water continuously soaking it. The fresh air comes in through the corrugations, which cools the air down about 20 degrees!

Modern pig barns are a good place for people to work and a good place for pigs to live. Farmers make their animals as comfortable as possible. They provide their livestock with fresh food, fresh air, and fresh water. Livestock should be treated with respect and receive the best care a farmer can give them. After all, it’s the right thing to do!

We must also keep in mind that the animals we raise are livestock. Since the beginning of time, people have had dominion over animals. This means humans have the reasoning power to make life and death decisions for our livestock. We give our livestock the best quality of life that we can, and then we respect them in death because their purpose is to feed our growing population. I have blogged in the past about how developing nations increase their meat consumption as their economy improves. When an emerging economy wants to improve its diet, the country’s ruler doesn’t say “let’s eat vegan!” The people in these countries want the best protein they can afford, and that protein is meat.

Meat production facilities and a new processing plant can help grow our locally economy, as well as the Iowa economy. This is Iowa, folks, and we grow pigs here! We have great resources that makes agriculture – and pork production – a great fit here.

Farming has been a great means of growing the economy since the beginning of time! Our towns, our schools, our Main Street businesses need a growing economy. Let’s welcome new industry! Sure, there are always growing pains but we can overcome any challenges… together!