Anne Burkholder
Anne Burkholder

Feedlots and other livestock operations of a certain size are called CAFOs – confined animal feeding operations. Some in the industry shy away from calling their operation a CAFO in conversation because somehow it has an “industrial” connotation.

Not Anne Burkholder.

Burkholder, owner of Will Feed, Inc., Cozad, Neb., is proud of the cattle she produces at her feedlot and embraces the term CAFO as she explains its meaning to consumers who read her Feed Yard Foodie blog. Burkholder’s August 2 post, “I’m Not a Factory Farm,” explains to readers what a CAFO is and that Burkholder is in no way, shape or form a “factory”. Her blog says, “My CAFO houses cattle who are cared for by people. There is no mechanized ‘factory’ that accomplishes this.”

I asked Burkholder why she chose to liberally use the word CAFO in this week’s blog. Burkholder, who was busy attending the NCBA summer conference in Orlando, e-mailed me some very thoughtful comments back. “I think that we as beef producers need to be proud and stand behind who we are,” she says.

“I am proud to care for cattle and raise beef. I am proud to own and manage a CAFO.  ‘Putting a face’ on CAFOs and ‘factory farms’ helps to define them in honest and accurate terms. It is easy to hate a negative image, but much harder to hate a person. We can't hide from the terms because someone else has defined them in a pejorative way, but we can redefine them honestly and with the transparency that the consumer is asking for.”

Burkholder’s blogs are filled with photos from the feedyard that show consumers everything from cattle pens, how feed is delivered and the people who care for the cattle every day.

A wife and mother of three, Burkholder understands the modern consumer’s wants, needs and concerns about the food they put on their families’ tables. In her blog she uses pop culture examples to make her point with other mothers. “The term ‘factory farm’ has been defined by some media and special interest groups in a terribly pejorative sense,” she explains. “I used a Harry Potter example in my post because I thought that was something that everyone could visually picture--then I could juxtapose that image with the true image of my feed yard. I really struggled as I wrote this post because it is such a difficult topic to talk about.

“I am so proud of what I do,” Burkholder continues. “I truly believe that I live an admirable life caring for cattle. I am devoted to quality cattle care and quality beef production. I want the consumer to know how much I care, and to realize that a term like ‘factory farming’ is a sensational term that has little in common with the way that I care for cattle and raise beef.”

Burkholder says this is a very difficult topic to talk about. “Emotional issues are hard to write about, and I have been personally attacked on this topic and that makes it even more difficult. I tell my kids that ‘the right thing is not always the easy thing to do’, and I took that to heart when I wrote it.”

Burkholder’s article finishes with these sentiments:
I am an American.  
I am a wife.

I am a mother.
I am a cattle caregiver.
I work at a CAFO.
I laugh, I cry, I love, I live, I care with every fiber of my being.
I hope that you think of me when you go the grocery store and look at the beef in the meat-case because it is people like me that care for cattle and raise beef.

I am not a factory.

Read Burkholder’s Feed Yard Foodie blog here.