Life on the Farm: Words of Wisdom by Will Harris

will smiling

An article posted in the American Grassfed Association newsletter, that I thought you all may enjoy…

“At this time I feel compelled to talk about the market that we are operating in.  We are in uncharted territory with regard to the prices that our livestock is bringing.  I think that we all need to give some consideration to how we got to this point.  Here’s my take on this:…

Congratulations to all of us.  Today we are producing livestock in the most profitable period of time in anyone’s recollection.  This is great, and we are grateful…but it ain’t always going to be this way.

We must not lose sight of the fact that our current economic success is the result of the nation’s diminished supply of animal protein (primarily beef).  This diminished supply is a result of ruminant herd liquidation, which came about due to many years of unprofitable calf, lamb, and kid production.That is to say that our current year’s profits in the livestock business were bought and paid for by our prior year’s losses.  Mine and yours.

This cyclical supply & demand, profit & loss, is a function of the commodity beef business.  There is no protection from this cycle for producers who raise calves for ultimate sale to multi-national protein companies.  It is a way of life (and death).

AGA members have opted to exit this system.  We endeavor to raise our animals for sale to more sophisticated consumers.  These are consumers who have studied our nation’s meat and poultry production systems.  Many of these more informed consumers have made lifestyle changes regarding what they eat.  These consumers choose to pay a little more to buy meat and poultry that allows them to be raised in a manner that is more sustainable, humane and fair.

AGA members who have exited the commodity system pay a high price to get out.  Production, processing, and marketing meat and poultry from a non-commodity system is much more difficult, riskier and more expensive for the producer.  Producers can easily add value to their products and not be able to extract this added value from the marketplace.  It ain’t easy.  In fact, it is damned hard.  In fact, it is the hardest damned thing that I have ever done in my life.

AGA members who have exited this system face hardship from many fronts:  National livestock organizations vehemently oppose mandatory country-of-origin labeling that helps prevent the importation of “grassfed” beef without the knowledge of consumers.  Multi-national protein companies brilliantly word smith, green wash, and trick label their products to hopelessly confuse consumers.  Government bureaucracies heavy handedly impose regulations that are not applicable to small operations.  This list goes on and on…

These difficulties are part of what makes me proud to be part of the American Grassfed Association.  This grassroots (no pun intended) organization is one of the few places where like-minded producers can unite in an effort to understand the forces that stand in the way of our journey to gain a sustainable, humane, and fair livestock production system.”

Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management, Rural Community, Staff Spotlight | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Life on the Farm: Words of Wisdom by Will Harris

  1. Pat patrick

    Great article. It takes a lot of hard work to make a living farming. Common sense is almost extinct. I’m glad that this farm family found a way to survive.

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