"I made what I felt was the best informed decision. I fully believe that the animal is better cared for – you get these females that can cause lacerations, can cause lameness. It's heartbreaking for me to see that," Spronk says, stressing the protection stalls can provide.
He added that discussions about sow housing and hog rearing are good ones to have with consumers, but posed a question: Who gets to ultimately decide what is the best way to treat the animal?
"To me, it's best if the consumer has the ability to decide how they want their product, but then also for the producer to be able to decide what is the best way to house that animal," Spronk says.
It's time for information exchange
For Spronk and the rest of the participants, a theme emerged: consumers, and the food service industry, need first-hand information from the farmer's mouth.
"I think the right decisions will be made as long as everyone is fully informed, and I think a lot of the issues from a farmer or rancher perspective is that the consumer and operators are only hearing one side of the story from an activist standpoint," Spronk says. "[Activists] haven't been knowledgeable about why we do what we do and for what reasons we do it."
Kramp suggests that restaurant operators consider the whole picture, and be careful about making quick supply-chain decisions based on limited information.
"Laura [Foell] said earlier she can do anything we want, we just have to understand the ramifications. To them, they just want to produce great food that people want to eat. We just want to serve it to them. We're all after the same thing, but we have to be very thoughtful about the process," Kramp notes.