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  • Writer's pictureCliff McConville

Calf Concentration Camps

Calf Raising Facility at Minnesota Mega Dairy

Calf Raising Facility (Mama Cow) at All Grass Farms

The images of animal abuse coming out of the Fair Oaks Farm undercover video were extremely disturbing. Many of our customers asked about my thoughts this past week after seeing these poor calves kicked, punched, dragged, and neglected while suffering from injuries and illness. Unfortunately, this type of treatment of young calves is all too common on today's modern "Mega Dairies" which are popping up all over the country. Fair Oaks Farms has at least 35,000 dairy cows, with each cow producing a calf once per year they are likely birthing about 3,000 calves per month. Housing, feeding, and caring for all those thousands of calves requires an army of mostly immigrant workers, poorly trained and paid. Each of those calves is viewed as a disposable unit of future production, not a living, breathing creature of God deserving of care and respect.

How have our proud dairy farming traditions of the Midwest disintegrated into such a sad situation for both animals and their caretakers? It all starts with the extremely low prices for milk. I can remember going to the store as a pre-teen kid and buying milk for $1.99 per gallon. Some 40+ years later I can still go to the store and buy a gallon of conventional milk for $1.99 (not that I ever buy milk!). Over the last 40-50 years conventional milk prices for farmers have hardly budged, while prices for land, feed, fuel, equipment, and labor have probably increased by at least 500%. This pricing situation has driven thousands of small dairy farms out of business, to be replaced by these mega farms that survive on extreme efficiencies of massive scale. They can produce milk very cheaply, but what is the true cost of these operations? Can we quantify the cost of massive amounts of manure that pollutes the groundwater, rivers, and oceans? Can we quantify the cost of misery those cows, calves, and workers are subject to? What about the depleted and degraded soils that are mined relentlessly to produce cheap corn and soybeans that are the primary feedsource for those massive dairy cow herds? Or the chronic health problems resulting from consumption of the nutrient-deficient milk produced by these mega farms. And what about the loss of small towns and local businesses that supported the 800-1000 family scale dairy farms that Fair Oaks Farm displaced?

If we want to reverse our nation's disasterous foray into industrial farming, we must support family scale farms that care for the land, animals, environment, community, and the quality of the product they are producing. Buy organic milk from local farms or dairies that purchase from family scale farms. Visit the Cornucopia Institutes website and read their Organic Dairy scorecard to source from responsible dairies at

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