Correcting misinformation within agriculture (Pig Tales)
(Editor’s note: Dr. Rich Barczewski is a retired professor with Delaware State University.)
One of my hobbies in my retirement has been to watch several groups on Facebook and try to correct some of the misinformation that people have about agriculture.
I guess, once a teacher, always a teacher.
Recently a person put up a post, discussing the seasonality of egg production in chickens.
While, historically, this may be true, there were actually a couple of folks who pointed out that to get more production from your birds in the winter months, artificial light could be used.
By providing 14 hours of light per day, chickens will continue to produce through the winter.
That started the fire.
The poster then went on to describe the egg industry as “industrial” to which I quickly replied that I did not like the use of that term in reference to poultry or livestock production and the battle was on.
My concern about using terms like industrial conjure up visions of some of the ploys of the animal rights fractions.
The individual who made the statement went on to claim that some universities and the USDA use the term and posted links to a couple of websites to make their point.
In checking out the links, it turned out that when the term industrial was used in the links, it referred to using field crops for industrial purposes and in no way referred to poultry or livestock production.
The individual then decided to tell me that I was just splitting hairs and I realized that there was no hope in making them aware of what was really going on in animal agriculture.
That brings me to the point of my column today: Animal agriculture has changed over time and there is no doubt that in the quest to produce more food as cheaply as we can, we have changed some of the animals through genetics, nutrition, management and dare I say, environmental manipulation.
In the case of egg laying, we understand that light is the key to stimulating egg laying and the use of light can keep birds laying for extended periods of time.
Granted, in a natural world, birds tend to lay in the spring when day length is increasing, however, by manipulating the light, we have the ability to extend that and by doing so, we can get our birds to produce more eggs in a year then they naturally would.
Birds also have to be provided with the proper nutrition to maintain the production as well as the proper housing and environment in which to live. This does not only occur in the poultry industry but also in other livestock industries as well.
Our world population continues to grow and along with that growth comes a very real need to be able to increase our ability to produce food.
If we look at all of the species of livestock raised for food, we have seen major increases in the amount of meat, milk and eggs that are being produced by each over the last 50 years.
Milk production per cow is up, pork produced per breeding sow is up, beef produced per cow is up, lamb produced per ewe is up and even eggs and chicken production has increased.
A lot of that increase was the result of genetic selection, improvements in nutrition, better health care, better housing and environmental factors.
Everything we do for our poultry and livestock has improved to increase production and efficiency.
Does this mean we do everything perfectly? Of course not, but the agricultural industry will continue to address issues as they arise.
We will not be able to convince everyone that what we are doing is right, but at the same time we need to speak up and out against folks who do not know what is going on in the industry and the reasons why we do things the way we do.