Alternatives to factory farming

Over the last decade or so the livestock sector has split into two streams--the industrialized commodity stream, which is export-based and characterized by its corporate-controlled centralized production, processing, and distribution systems that produce high volumes with low profit margins at a large scale, and the socially responsible food stream which is small scale and dispersed, with linkages among independent producers and processors focusing on local and regional markets, producing high quality food for consumers seeking to support farmers who produce healthy, environmentally friendly meat using humane methods.

The alternatives to factory farming require community-based grassroots support in order to survive and thrive. Often the alternatives are set up formally as co-operatives, but others are consciously inter-dependent, recognizing that producers and consumers need one another. While the industrial food system talks about “value chains” and vertical integration, socially responsible food production, processing, and distribution are circles of interdependence that nourish community.

Communities that recognize the connections between good food, viable local farms, community health, and local economic development have created Food Charters to spell out principles that guide food policy in their locales. These charters build broad social support by educating public officials and encouraging them to become actively involved in creating local food systems.

The Local Food Movement is growing rapidly in Canada. The twin problems of climate change and peak oil are big motivators for producers and consumers to work together to provide all the ingredients of a balanced diet within a short distance of home. An added bonus from valuing local food is that it can lead to a new appreciation for regional cuisine and the creation of vibrant new food and farming cultures in communities across the country.