Foell explained that many consumers may not be aware that production methods are closely tied to environmental factors, and some methods are providing benefits that others do not. No-till, Foell says, has allowed her family to use less fuel and "keep the soil where it needs to be."
"Whether you choose organic, conventional (non-GMO), or whether you use biotechnology-enhanced – as a farmer, we don't say one is better than the other. It's what will feed the world," Foell says.
Spronk adds that it's efficiency that will feed the world – something he has placed focus on in his operation.
"From 1959 to 2009, the number of hogs marketed has increased 29%, yet the breeding herd that we used to produce those is down 39%. That's a good thing," Spronk says.
Higher carcass weights and feed efficiency demonstrate that fewer resources are now used to produce meat. Water use has also been reduced by 41%, Spronk says.
The way he raises his animals – through the use of gestation stalls – has come under fire from activists and now some consumers. Spronk says, however, it's not just a "space" issue. He's concerned about his animals' safety.
"We need to be very open and honest with everyone about the good and the bad of both [crate housing and group housing]. I think the way it's being portrayed is that it's just a one-way street and that they just need to be in group housing."
Spronk says what's often forgotten is that farmers have evolved their housing to respond to environmental issues and herd safety issues. When he graduated with an animal science degree in 1981 and joined his father in the family hog operation, the decision was made to transition to individual housing.