Two Northern Indiana farmers took the unusual step of opening up their large livestock operations for inspection by local community leaders and legislators. Billed as the “Bacon and Egg Tour,” pork producer Mark York and egg producer Dan Krouse took a group of about 30 local leaders on an all-access tour of their Wabash County operations.
Mark York said it is time to show the community that farmers have nothing to hide. “Many people, when they the biosecurity signs that say keep out, they think we are hiding something. Farmers have nothing to hide,” he stated. “We are doing the same thing our fathers and grandfathers did: feeding, watering, and taking care of animals. We are just doing it on a larger scale.”
Dan Krouse, with Midwest Poultry, a 7th generation, family/owned operation told HAT that helping officials understand what happens on a large livestock farm is necessary in order to maintain community and government support, “We need a social license to operate, so helping these people understand what we do helps everyone.” Krouse gave the group full access to the modern egg facility, showing caged and cage-free houses as well as complete access to the egg processing facility which processes over 2 million eggs per day.
York said the goal of the tour was to help local leaders understand what an important part of the local economy agriculture is, “We are creating jobs. We are generating demand for No. 2 yellow corn, and converting it into a higher protein, whether it is eggs or bacon.” He added that between the corn and the finished product there is a lot of local economic activity. He estimated that there were 25 jobs created in the community for each hog he raises to market weight.
Midwest Poultry is the 9th largest egg producer in the nation and is one of the reasons Indiana is now the second largest, egg-producing state in the country. The Wabash County operation employs about 400 people.
Krouse said he was able to stress to those on the tour that, in agriculture, being big is not bad, “When you are selling to a grocery chain like Kroger or Wal-Mart, they only want to work with producers who can supply large quantities. That is why we have to operate at such a large scale.” Krouse was able to demonstrate on the tour that, despite the large scale and impressive automation systems used, the animals were well treated and healthy and that product safety was a high priority. Both men engaged in an open and frank dialogue with local leaders answering questions and presenting facts about odor, manure management, and water use.
Both men feel event changed minds and opened the eyes of local officials. They hope other producers will take similar steps in their communities to help the public understand what really happens on a modern livestock farm.