The luxury of choosing how we like our food to be produced

In North America a lot of people are wanting agriculture to take a step back to its past.

The idea of organic farming, with a reliance on more tillage, greater crop rotations, and of course no chemical applications, is much like the farming of the pre-1960s. The further back you go, the more truly organic the average farm would have been.

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On the livestock side of things, a segment of consumers wants to know their food comes from farms utilizing systems akin to an earlier time in agriculture.

The concepts of laying hens free-ranging through the yard in search of bugs to eat, and pigs rooting in the mud to cool on a hot day, is seen as the better way to raise the stock than large scale, modern barns.

One can argue about which is truly better in terms of the welfare of the animal, but that is a debate for another day.

What is of interest in this case is how we in North America, along with a few other areas of the world, have the luxury of questioning how our food is produced. We have that luxury because most of us have the disposable income necessary to have food on the table. And we have grocery stores just down the street with shelves filled with food.

That is not the case in many places in the world.

Many people, in many countries, live on a few hundred dollars; Malawi, Burundi, the Central African Republic and Liberia, among the poorest with Gross National Income (GNI) per Capita under $400. Imagine keeping food on the table with such a miniscule income.

And there is also the issue of producing the food.

It is interesting to note China, a country where the population grows, is still a country where farmers have had small flocks of chickens. But the country is working on moving away from small flocks to large scale operations, with a plan to produce millions of hens to lay a billion eggs a day. The numbers are staggering, but the Chinese population in 2016 was somewhere around 1.4 billion so the daily food requirements are equally massive.

The likelihood of free-run hens accomplishing a goal of one billion eggs a day would be a stretch at best.

That is not to suggest animal welfare is not important, nor is it suggesting controls of chemical use on crops are not important, but there does need to be balance.

Feeding the world is the first step, and technology, and farm advancements are a large part of what makes that possible.