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By Staff | Nov 20, 2015

Pen gestation and antibiotic free both have a cost in animal welfare and cost of production.

These politically correct production models result in higher sow and pig deaths and fewer pigs produced in these operations.

That means higher cost of production overall. They are politically correct even if they are inferior animal husbandry.

A friend , John, has a 3,000-head sow operation, under contract with an integrator that I will call Betty.

Betty and John agreed to double the size of his sow herd in a major expansion. Betty told John that the new sow farm would use pen gestation instead of stalls like the other barns.

John said no. Betty again told John that the new operation would use sow gestation pens instead of crates and John again answered no, explaining that gestation pens have higher sow death losses and produce fewer pigs than using gestation crates.

Betty told John a third time that the new operation had to use sow pen gestation to accommodate the politically correct supply chain requirement to certify that pork comes from hog operations that did not use gestation crates opting for pen gestation.

John said, “Well, okay,” but then Betty was going to have to pay for the higher cost of production that results from using gestation pens where more sows die and sows produce fewer pigs.

Sow crates protect the sows from fighting that result from use of pens holding several sows.

Betty said, “No.” Betty expected John to absorb the higher cost. John said that was not going to happen. If they were going to use a system that was not humane and harms production just so the foodies can feel better in their ignorance, John was not going to pay for it.

Betty and John negotiated and eventually came to an agreement that the new sow operation would use pen gestation to appease the foodies, but the contract would be modified so that Betty would pay the higher costs.

There is irony in that foodies would rather tolerate injured sows, sow deaths, aborted litters and higher costs of production than use gestation stalls that protect the sows.

The greatest irony is that animal welfare groups are on the side of the worst injury to livestock. The higher costs that Betty finally agreed to pay John will be passed on up the food supply chain until they eventually reach consumers who have been given a false narrative as to the use of gestation stalls versus pen gestation.

Chipotles, Panera and other foodie brands have led the movement defining livestock husbandry methods that are politically correct.

As these brands became successful, the traditional restaurant chains such as McDonalds have responded to the competition to be politically correct by demanding that suppliers adopt cage free, pen gestation and antibiotic-free methods of production.

Like Betty, the restaurant supply chains resist accepting responsibility for the higher costs using market clout to force those costs on producers in order for access to their markets.

It is like the king telling serfs that they have to raise his livestock in a manner that raises costs, but he will pay them no more for it. Eventually those costs work their way to the consumer.

When these foodie production systems are first mentioned to consumers they are misrepresented and the cost impact understated if acknowledged at all. The result will be that animals will be harmed, cost of livestock production will increase, no positive impact of quality will result and consumers will be made dumber and poorer as a result.

Chipotle customers who were sickened by E. coli are understandably angry. They are happy to be alive. Chipotles is a three-time loser this year with E. coli outbreaks in their restaurant chain.

Yet, consumers today are more apt to accept what Chipotle claims are preferable animal husbandry standards to what veterinarians or lifelong multi-generational livestock farmers and ranchers have learned is best for their animals and for the cost of production.

Suddenly, we have these new smart kids on the block that have done little more than visit a farm who are experts on the practices that are preferable.

As they control the supply chain determining which is the acceptable method of production, those that actually do know what the proper animal husbandry is, are told they must accept what has been determined politically correct instead.

The other members of the supply chain, the Cargills, Smithfield, Tyson, Betty and others readily concede to the political correctness even though they know in their heart that it is a false narrative, going with the flow rather than attempting to channel the stream where it should flow.

So John is going to double his sow herd, more sows will be injured and killed with more pigs lost, costs will be higher, which will be compensated for in the revised contract so that the integrator can access the supply chains of closed politically correct food systems so that foodies can pay more for value that doesn’t exist.

The political correctness is not fixed, but perpetual. The foodies have to find new things that will differentiate them in the market place to support their brands.

Once producers are cage free, use sow pens and are antibiotic free these brands will have to think of something else to demand from producers that they can add to their checklist of requirements to stay in compliance with political correctness.

That is why John’s new sow barn will be built for pen gestation.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report.

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