A 5-Year-Old’s Reaction To Factory Farming

November 12, 2016 at 8:27 pm

Having a formerly vegan, health fanatic for a mother, my daughter’s meat, dairy and eggs have come almost entirely from local, humanely-raised, grass-fed or pasture-based animals, with one exception…

She loves a local ice cream shop called The Hop. When we first moved to Asheville, North Carolina – a progressive “foodie” town – we took her to a trendy ice cream shop a few blocks from our house. Because the ice cream was advertised as “local,” we wishfully hoped it came from a small, humane dairy. But after searching on The Hop’s website, we couldn’t find the name of the farm or farms that provided their milk.

Every time my daughter has asked to go to The Hop over the last couple of years, I’ve tried to explain why I’d rather take her to get grass-fed or organic ice cream from Whole Foods or, better yet, make her homemade ice cream from the raw, grass-fed milk we buy each week from a local farmer. Because The Hop didn’t advertise the milk as organic or grass-fed, or list the name of the farm, it was very likely that the milk came from a factory farm, where cows aren’t treated nicely, I’d tell her.

But it never meant anything to her. All she understood was that the ice cream there was sweeter and therefore “better” than the healthy stuff.

So, to get my point across, I recently asked if she’d like to see a video about how cows are treated on factory farms. I told her it might be pretty scary and upsetting, but she insisted she wanted to see it, so I showed her a shorter version of this:

She was horrified, confused and almost in tears. She wanted to know why the police didn’t take the farmers to jail. She decided to make a video about it since “the police don’t care.”

Later, we emailed The Hop asking for the name of their “local” farm and finally got confirmation of what we feared – Mayfield Dairy in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Mayfield is owned by Dean Foods, which controls nearly half of the nation’s fluid milk supply. Dean Foods, as with other dairy and meat processors, buys out what were formerly small, family farms and converts them into industrial farms. All the while, unwitting consumers still trust the local “Mayfield” name brand that 100 years ago represented a decent product.

Moral of the story¬† – know your farmer. When you’re buying local, make sure it’s really local, and more importantly, make sure “local” really means something. It doesn’t do much good if you’re buying from a local factory farm.

Meat and dairy labeled “organic” is a step in the right direction, but the labels “pasture-raised” or “grass-fed” say more about the quality of the animals’ lives. Whole Foods’ Animal Welfare rating system is also helpful.

The best case scenario (for those not willing or able to go vegan, hunt, or raise their own) is purchasing meat, dairy and eggs only from local “pasture-centered” farms, where we can actually verify animals are eating grass and bugs in the sunshine and not subjected to horrific body modifications, over-crowding and abuse.

We are what we eat – let’s not make it tortured animals.