In a Your View published in Monday’s Free Press, Rick Nelson spoke up for Christensen Farms, typical of area large-scale pork producers, and a recent statement by an unnamed “mega-store” in response to a furor created by the release of a video of conditions at the Christensen farm.
The store tried to calm a sticky situation by stating that they currently offer a limited quantity of cage-free pork in selected markets and they understand the concerns of consumers and intend to increase the quantity of pork offered to their customers raised using humane methods.
Nelson stated the chain had bent to the will of minority “political” groups, which are fact, an amalgam of advocacy groups for humane animal treatment and consumers asking for a return to small-batch, more naturally-raised foods.
Decision-makers at Walmart, although frequently denounced for questionable business practices themselves, aren’t fools. They stock what the consumer asks for at the greatest possible profit. High-end grocers and restaurants began more than a decade ago to offer single-breed meats, often labeled for the producing farm and have found the consumer is willing to spend extra, often considerably more, for a pork chop that they believe has better texture and flavor.
Poultry and beef producers have responded to consumer demands, with most grocers now offering a range of free-range/natural/grass fed products. Hog farmers, as we move into the 21st century, need to focus on increasing consumer interest in the provenance of food on their plate, no longer exclusively price driven and often requiring assurances about the quality of life of the animals that end up on that plate.