Farming Standards and Animal Welfare
What can possibly be gained by not having better minimum standards for our food production?
If it were mandated that all chicken and pig farmers had to meet a slightly higher minimum standard for food production, by say 10 years time, would this have any negative effect, significant enough not to improve our food standards?
No, if all farmers are bound by the same rules, then there is no competitive advantage for any invidual farmer. If an association of NZ farmers and consumers had a grievance against imported foods, then MAF could ban those imports based on not meeting our minimal food safety standards. Irrespective of free trade, we have a right to implement basic standards for our food production.
The only negative effect would be a minor increase in the price of chicken. Lets say that the price of chicken goes up 50c to $1 per whole chicken across the board or maybe 10 cents per peice at KFC. But then we could then know that all chicken we ate had been grown under decent conditions, be it from KFC, from a deli, in frozen portions, on a pizza or in a roll from the bakery.
Are we as a country so poor, so third world, that we cannot afford better quality growing conditions for our animals than in 3rd world countries? Are we so unconcerned about our own health, that we would eat lesser quality food, or import food from countries that do not have good quality growing conditions for the food we eat. Do we really want to eat chickens and pigs that have eaten other animal waste and defecated over each others food, that they digest, then we digest.
This isn't just a question about animal rights or morality, this is a topic that the general population should take on. I'm no vegetarian. I enjoy eating meat and chicken. I want to eat it knowing that I don't have to be so selective to ensure that I am eating well prepared food. I can't ask for free range chicken at KFC, nor in most supermarket delis, i can't buy frozen free range chicken portions, and I can't ask Dominos to put free range chicken on my pizza. I can't buy mayonaise made with free range eggs. I can't buy cakes made with free range eggs.
The only motivation to keep standards on food production low is the price on the supermarket shelves. The majority of profit on a chicken is enjoyed by the supermarket, and the processing companies. In a competitive environment, the demand will always be for the farmer at the bottom of the line, to supply cheaper and cheaper product.
The best way we as consumers can improve the quality of our food it to regulate for the better conditions. The argument that by offering a selection of options, then the consumer chooses is invalid. The supermarkets merely identify the niche market, and ensure a percentage of supply, continuing to make bigger profits on those line items. That's why free range chicken options cost 50% - 100% more.. If we regulate, then we will improve the product across the board, and prices would only increase perhaps 10% max.
Lets regulate the food industry so that we achieve a quality where consumers would be happy to see inside the sheds where their food grows. Nothing more, nothing less.
Posted: Tuesday 23 February 2010