Bloggers, restaurant chefs, writers and consumers visited St. Louis area farms to gain an understanding of how food is produced.
For Danyelle Little, a professional career and lifestyle blogger, it was her first trip to any livestock farm. "I have been to vegetable farms," she said. "But no, nothing ever like this."
The St. Louis mother of two young children shared that she is careful what she feeds her children. "I like to know where food comes from. For me, I just see it at the grocery store."
The farm tour, sponsored by Missouri Farmers Care, took attendees to a pork and grain farm and a beef farm. There were also able to hear from a Missouri dairy farm during a luncheon.
Individual attention for sows
Rick Rehmeier opened the doors of his farrowing house for a look at hog production. Rehmeier produces 4 million pounds of pork per year at his hog and grain farm near the small town of Augusta. His sows give birth in crates, which he explained is beneficial for not only the baby pigs providing them space away from their mothers, but also the sow. "We are able to give her individualized attention," he says. "There is no fighting for feed. And sows need feed to produce milk."
His operation does not include automated feeders, so Rehmeier provides just the right amount of feed to produce the all milk requirements for the pigs. "At least twice a day, someone is in here checking on our sows and pigs. I like that interaction."
Near the town of Pacific, Bill McLaren also takes time to feed his beef cattle. However, on this day, it is apples. Cows and calves took the sweet treat straight from McLaren's hands. He is the fourth generation to operate a beef farm in Franklin County, running a 26-head cow herd.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
He explained that over the years raising cattle has changed. McLaren uses a low-stress handling facility to check his cows. Low-stress cattle handling refers to a method whereby a rancher can move cattle by applying pressure with just his eye and body movement. Cattle move based on the amount of pressure the rancher puts on by either moving toward or away from the animal.
Keeping stress to a minimum
The cattle must be able to see McLaren. Attendees were asked not to move about, as he tries to keep the area free of sharp, loud noises. And he is patient. He does not rush the animal into the chute, but rather waits for the animal to move.
"It is important that we keep stress to a minimum," McLaren explained. "It benefits the cows and myself and my wife." He wants the experience in a chute, whether for vaccinations or pregnancy checks, to be stress-free. "I own my cattle from conception to consumption. We care about our animals at every stage. We care about how we treat them."
The day was enlightening for Little. Since she is always looking for healthy nutritious products to serve her family, and share with her blog readers, the tour provided a deeper understanding of the meat and dairy industries. "I didn't know what to expect," she said. "Nothing I saw will cause me to not purchase a product." That is good news for Rehmeier, who hosts a number of farm tours each year.
"Sometimes it is difficult to open up your farm for a tour," he explained. "But the urban population needs to understand agriculture. It is very important that we get the message out to people that we produce a good, safe, nutritious product in an environmentally friendly manner."