Last Saturday September 8 brought the long-awaited panel discussion “Animal Production in a Sustainable & Humane Food System” to Emory’s food literacy center. A prestigious group of panelists from all over the country came together to discuss the problems with and solutions to industrial farm animal production.
Panelist included Dan Imhoff (anti-CAFO author & advocate, co-founder of Watershed Media), Patty Lovera (Food & Water Watch), Bob Perry (professor at University of Kentucky), and Leah Garces (co-founder of GPP & USA director for Compassion in World Farming), A diverse mix of public health professionals, local food producers, concerned food citizens and many more attended the event.
The moderator, Joel Kimmons, challenged the panelists to present the one dimension of industrial animal production they viewed as the worst of the worst. The take-home message boiled down to the fact that animals are now considered a production unit, in which they no longer can live out the natural behaviors encoded in their genetics. Science has been taken out of context to create a mythical system of high efficiency. The existing food system has left a long list of those who lose (farmers, consumers, animals, etc.) with a very short list of winners (the few major meat packers).
Luckily, there are fantastic alternatives to this system that promote high animal welfare and environmental stewardship. After a morning of learning the challenges and unfortunate realities of the industrial system, three other panelists (Will Harris, White Oak Pastures; Charlotte Swancy, Riverview Farms; George Frangos, Farm Burger) who are leading the way with humane and sustainable alternatives joined the conversation. As food citizens fight for a better system, the hope lies in our ability to drive the market by purchasing meat from small, local farmers and demanding humane and sustainable options on the shelves of our neighborhood grocery store. Although broader policy reforms will ultimately need to occur, we must remember that each one of us has the power and opportunity to not only vote for political change but with our forks, three times a day, 365 days a year.