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We wish it didn’t require a global pandemic for the world to suddenly take notice of the systemic issues that persist in our country’s meat supply chain. From Day One, Farm To People has worked to support small farms who raise their livestock the right way. We identify and promote farmers who prioritize animal health, regenerative Ag and a diverse farm ecosystem. Supporting farmers who treat their animals humanely is the moral and environmental way to go. This pandemic has exposed how badly our food system has gone off course in the past 50 years… and how important it is for us to put a renewed emphasis on local supply chains and smaller decentralized facilities.
The Industrial Meat System Is All F*$Ked Up
For decades, the meat industry has consolidated, going from some 10,000 US facilities in 1967 to about 1,000 in 2019. In the 60’s, the federal government introduced strict regulations making it nearly impossible for small businesses to afford on-farm operations and pushing us towards an industrialized nation. Today, LITERALLY only a handful of on-farm USDA processing facilities exist. That’s less than one per state on average. As a result, most small farmers are forced to rely on large facilities, schedule slot times months in advance, pay onerous fees and drive as far as 300 miles to the nearest location. Not only do the long drives impact the farmers’ time and increase their carbon footprint, it is disastrous for the animals who come stressed and fearful as they are transported. And that’s what it was like before COVID.
The pandemic has glaringly exposed this system’s flaws. In a rush of demand and a shortage of labor and space, small farms become an afterthought for the large facilities who prioritize the bigger players. This is how industrial agriculture wins, we lose our access to quality meats and small farms get squeezed.
Worse yet, large processing plants are breeding grounds for the virus. As they become unsafe or understaffed due to COVID, it’s apparent this consolidation has made us more vulnerable to shortages. COVID has exacerbated the fault created by decades of huge corporations monopolizing the market.
On-Farm Processing Is An Answer
Cascun Farm (NY), Locust Point Farm (MD) and (most recently!) Stryker Farm (PA) are a few of the only small farm-and-processor combinations in our local region. This means they ensure the same care is given to processing and packaging their animals as it is to raising them.
Nolan from Stryker put it simply: “Farmers that have the ability need to be able to process their own meat on their farms.” The PRIME Act, resurrected by both sides of the Congressional aisle after being killed in 2015, starts the conversation; but it still falls short. Our legislators need to take a good look at how small farmers, processors and consumers continue to be affected. Without taking action, we risk losing more small farmers who are an integral part of our food shed. It took Nolan close to 5 years and many thousands of dollars to be able to process his own meat for wholesale. The system is fragile; and the need for a more direct relationship to our food has never been more apparent.
Our Vision For the Future: A more personal and direct food supply chain.
As with everything we do, we want to be radically transparent with our customers. Whether you are enjoying meat through us, your local butcher or at a restaurant, always KNOW YOUR FOOD.
Thanks for your continued support!
Thank you so much for this very informative and clear distillation of the problem and solution. And thanks for everything you are doing!
I appreciate the effort and hard work small farmers endure, and usually shop at the farmers market (before the pandemic obviously) for meats, dairy products and such.
I will continue to support them as I trust they will provide healthier options for all my meals.
How can we help?
September 16, 2020
very grateful for your email a few days ago, and this more in depth article. i’ve recently re-committed to more conscious meat consumption and am grateful that by being a member of this community i am easily able to purchase what i need.