Wendy Johnson and Johnny Rafkin own Jóia Food Farm near Charles City in northeast Iowa,…
Regarding the May 13th Bloomberg article “There’s Plenty of Meat in America—For Those Who Can Afford It” by Lydia Mulvany, Deena Shanker and Kim Chipman:
The article opens with, “While many regular American grocers are running out of meat, specialty food producers have plentiful supplies — for those who can afford it.” This does not sit well with an organization that certifies and supports independent farmers. Independent producers are one of the solutions to the country’s problem of meat shortages. They are farming every single day to provide meat, dairy and eggs, and many of them have found ways to continue to get food to customers during the pandemic as their markets have shifted or completely dissolved underfoot. The article frames a solution to the problem, investing in local farmers, as a negative. In actuality, independent farmers are and have been trying to complete in a system stacked against them for decades. They are struggling to maintain a profit while producing a high-quality, lower volume product. They are doing all of this while continuing to provide food for people.
The drive to maximize agricultural productivity over the last 60 years has created an abundance of so-called “cheap” food, especially meat. While price tags for industrially produced meat appear low, food produced in industrial systems never fully reflects the true cost. The true cost and toll that industrial production takes on farming families, animal welfare, the environment, health and rural communities is astronomically high. Most food production is heavily subsidized, not only by governments and systems, but mainly by externalizing true costs such as labor, water pollution, soil degradation and air pollution. If these costs were added back into this “cheap” food, the playing field would be level–the main change would be that corporations might not make as much profit.
The pandemic has exposed holes and disparities in the food system, and empty grocery store shelves are a daily reminder. Those holes have been there, as we covered in a recent article for the journal, Agriculture and Human Values. Now, instead of making farmers the target and part of the problem, it’s time to finally recognize that they already are providing part of the solution.