Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Animal ID System May Cripple Small Farmers While Rewarding Factory Farms

The New York Times yesterday featured an op-ed by author Shannon Hayes (The Farmer and the Grill: A Guide to Grilling, Barbecuing and Spit-Roasting Grassfed Meat…and for saving the planet one bite at a time) on a proposed “National Animal Identification System.” Under this system, every animal would need to be tagged with an electronic chip, making it easier to pinpoint the source of an outbreak of disease. It’s meant to alleviate people’s fears of a mad cow outbreak.

The reality is that making such a system mandatory would end up, in effect, rewarding the factory farms that are the sources of such disease and crippling very small family farms. The equipment is prohibitively expensive, and in practice would be a logistical nightmare (not to mention dangerous—just try getting between a sow and her piglets).

Shades of Mad Sheep, anyone?

AT first glance, the plan by the federal Department of Agriculture to battle disease among farm animals is a technological marvel: we farmers tag every head of livestock in the country with ID chips and the department electronically tracks the animals’ whereabouts. If disease breaks out, the department can identify within 48 hours which animals are ill, where they are, and what other animals have been exposed.

At a time when diseases like mad cow and bird flu have made consumers worried about food safety, being able to quickly track down the cause of an outbreak seems like a good idea. Unfortunately, the plan, which is called the National Animal Identification System and is the subject of a House subcommittee hearing today, would end up rewarding the factory farms whose practices encourage disease while crippling small farms and the local food movement.

For factory farms, the costs of following the procedures for the system would be negligible. These operations already use computer technology, and under the system, swine and poultry that move through a production chain at the same time could be given a single number. On small, traditional farms like my family’s, each animal would require its own number. That means the cost of tracking 1,000 animals moving together through a factory system would be roughly equal to the expense that a small farmer would incur for tracking one animal.

These ID chips are estimated to cost $1.50 to $3 each, depending on the quantity purchased. A rudimentary machine to read the tags may be $100 to $200. It is expected that most reporting would have to be done online (requiring monthly Internet fees), then there would be the fee for the database subscription; together that would cost about $500 to $1,000 (conservatively) per year per premise. I estimate the combined cost for our farm at $10,000 annually — that’s 10 percent of our gross receipts.

Imagine the reporting nightmare we would face each May, when 100 ewes give birth to 200 lambs out on pasture, and then six weeks later, when those pastures are grazed off and the entire flock must be herded a mile up the road to a second farm that we rent.

Add to that the arrival every three weeks of 300 chicks, the three 500-pound sows that will each give birth to about 10 piglets out in the pastures twice per year (and that will attack anyone who comes near their babies more fiercely than a junkyard pit bull), then a batch of 100 baby turkeys, and the free-roaming laying hens. Additional tagging and record-keeping would be required for the geese and guinea fowl that nest somewhere behind the barn and in the hedgerows, occasionally visiting the neighbors’ farms, hatching broods of goslings and keets that run wild all summer long.

Read the whole article here.


Michael Ableman’s 15-Point Urban Food Manifesto

What if farms and food production were integrated into every aspect of urban living—from special assessments to create new farms and food businesses to teaching people how to grow fruits and vegetables so farmers can focus on staple crops.That’s the crux of Michael Ableman’s Urban Food Manifesto, which has been ten years in the making […] Read More

Q&A with Michael Ableman: How Urban Farming Can Improve Society

Street Farm is the inspirational account of residents in the notorious Low Track in Vancouver, British Columbia who joined together to create an urban farm as a means of addressing the chronic problems in their neighborhood.Street Farm is a story of recovery, of land and food, of people, and of the power of farming and nourishing […] Read More

Hop Grower’s Handbook Wins Silver for Garden Writing

We’re “hopping” for joy at Chelsea Green for authors Laura Ten Eyck and Dietrich Gehring as they’ve been honored with a Silver Medal by GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators for their book The Hop Grower’s Handbook.Laura and Deitrich won the prestigious honor in the Writing category for a technical/reference book of greater than 120 […] Read More

The Fermentation Revolution Wants You!

Michael Pollan calls him the “Johnny Appleseed of Fermentation” and he’s known far and wide as Sandorkraut. He’s also been dubbed The Prince of Pickles and a Fermentation Fetishist, but we also know him as Sandor Ellix Katz—The New York Times-bestselling and Beard Award-winning author. With the long-awaited and soon-to-be celebrated release of the updated […] Read More

Plants & Pests: Will Bonsall’s Advice on “Wee Beasties” in the Garden

“From a plant’s point of view there is little difference between a cutworm, a woodchuck, a blight spore, and, for that matter, us.”“These are all things that in one way or another prey upon it. It is an inevitable constraint of all living things: We escape one peril only to ultimately succumb to another,” so […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com