A Georgia farmer awarded for his sustainable livestock production practices says his definition of good animal welfare is different from “acceptable” animal welfare in conventional production. Will Harris of White Oak Pastures tells Brownfield that – to him – good animal welfare means to create an environment in which animals can express instinctive behaviors. Harris says, “You know, cows were born to roam and graze, pigs were born to root and wallow, chickens were born to scratch and peck.”
His transition from conventional farming began about 14 years ago – and Harris says there were lots of ups and downs. Giving up hormone implants and antibiotics, he says, was not terribly painful but giving up chemical fertilizers and pesticides in his pastures was VERY painful. However, Harris adds, it was worth it, “It’s certainly not a high-return venture. It’s not a get rich quick deal but it IS profitable. Cash flow positive. And, I’m secure enough in it that I did bring back two of my children (Jodi and Jenni) and their families.”
Harris raises multiple species of animals – hogs, sheep, goats and poultry – which are pasture fed and, in turn, feed his pastures. With help from Temple Grandin, Harris built a specially-designed humane slaughter facility on his farm. He’s one of four people given a Growing Green Award by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) this year.
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