Texas Agriculture...Organic vs. Indusrial Agriculture

By Mike Barnett

Which came first…the chicken or the free-range egg?

And does it matter?

A recent survey from Information Resources Inc (IRI), which tracks checkout scanner transactions from 34,000 grocery and other retail stores in the United States, shows that 92 percent of eggs purchased by consumers in 2009 were from cage operations, 2 percent were from cage-free operations and 1 percent were from free-range/organic operations. The remaining 5 percent of eggs were other specialty eggs. Percentages were unchanged from 2008.

Does this prove the superiority of cage eggs over cage-free? No. Does this mean that cage-free and free-range eggs are not viable markets—only some pipe dreams of food purists? No. Does it mean different strokes for different folks? Yes.

There have been great debates within and outside agriculture circles about the health aspects of organic versus “industrial” agriculture, free range versus cage eggs, grass-fed versus grain-fed beef…the list goes on and on.

I’m here to tell you that it really doesn’t matter. There’s plenty of marketing opportunities out there for everyone. There’s a small core of consumers who want and are willing to pay for free range eggs. I say kudos to the growers who produce them. Some people think organic is the only way to go. There are many farmers out there willing to supply that need. A grass-fed steak graces the plates of a growing number of people willing to pay the extra price. That’s great.

The problem is when one segment of the industry bashes another to promote their particular interest.

The thing about agriculture is there’s opportunity for anyone who is willing to sweat, take chances and dig the dirt from under their nails. We need to quit the to and fro that one way’s better than the other and the bad mouthing of any one segment of the industry from another because they are different.

It’s a big world. There many hungry people out there. There’s great opportunity to feed the masses. There’s a lot of opportunity to focus on niche markets.

Figure out what’s right for you. And let’s get to it.

We’re all in this together.

Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
Follow Mike on Twitter and Facebook.

5 Responses to “Organic vs. industrial, cage eggs vs. free-range: We’re all in this together”

  1. Bravo! Your post is so refreshing. And so true. Thanks for being a voice of moderation (and cooperation). The entire industry could be in a much better place if we’d all take a moment to breathe it in.

  2. jd barnettm says:

    Good editorial, Michael. As a consumer I’m constantly faced with the kind of decisions you set forth above. I suspect I’m like most consumers; I’ll pay a little more for a better tasting egg or steak, but I’m not going to take out a loan to do it. I’m often baffled by what I hear from both sides of the argument. I like having the choice without a lot of rhetoric attached. Thank you for your thoughts on the matter.

  3. I know farmers need to make money and they deserve commendation for feeding us. The trouble is that large corporations now grow the food as an industry.
    Why not stop using methods of raising beef with no flavor, using centuries-old and reliable ways of raising livestock? The cost of attrition in feedlots, along with the expense of hormones, processed corn, and disposing of huge
    quantities of manure doesn’t make sense to me. Money can still be made, and perhaps the beef will cost more–but do people really need to eat steaks hat
    weigh over a pound?

  4. Do you realize what agriculture means?
    In Latin it means tilling the fields, but unless you want to call
    a 100 acres of concrete a field, you can’t call feedlotting agriculture.

  5. I suspect Henry’s primary goal was getting his link published. We usually don’t allow this, but some thought went into this, so I’ll post it.

    Henry – there’s virtually no root word, latin or otherwise, that means the same thing it did in original usage. Agriculture has grown to mean many things, not the least of which is feeding an exploding world population. Of course, allowing agriculture to develop new technologies is precisly wat an extremist elite want to prevent it from doing.

    As for "beef with no flavor" – if you really mean that, Message me for a list of really good steakhouses. There, or in my back yard, I believe I can prove you wrong with a great cut of grain fed beef. BTW, my favorite cut is a six ounce filet. Quite enough for me. It’s now "how much," it’s how it’s grown out – yes, in the feedlot – and how it’s prepared.

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