Schlageck: Customer care in agriculture
While farmers and ranchers have always adhered to sound principles of animal husbandry and livestock care, society’s views on animal welfare continue to evolve.
Today, there is a heightened awareness of the animal’s quality of life. While there are extreme fringe groups, “activists” if you will, many people have honest questions and concerns about the quality of life for animals while they are in the production environment.
Who are these people?
These people are average individuals. They’re you, they’re me.
Today’s informed consumer wants to know that, while that sow is going through the production cycle, she has a reasonable quality of life.
Consumers want to know that animals are not abused, subjected to inhumane conditions, are well cared for and that the people who care for them honestly care for them.
Agriculture cannot afford to seek out a “culprit” or “scapegoat” for the animal welfare issue. Agriculture cannot afford to blame anyone. Those in the livestock industry must view this as our culture and society, continually evolving and coming to terms with new types of social issues. It just so happens that animals have become integrated into this process.
One reason for this interest in animal welfare may be that agriculture has become so highly regarded, so productive throughout the world. Today, Western European, Japanese and U.S. consumers do not have to worry about where their next meal comes from.
Whether we like it or not, farmers and ranchers are going to have to accept and ensure that sound animal husbandry practices are used.
If agricultural producers honestly show they are putting effort into meeting a certain standard of care that is conducive to a healthy animal, the public will accept and embrace those who raise and care for livestock.
Livestock producers must listen to societal and consumer concerns and be responsive. We must continue to enhance animal well-being throughout the life cycle of our food-producing animals. And we must be willing to listen to and have conversations with those than enjoy eating meat.
— John Schlageck is a commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. He was raised on a farm in northwest Kansas.