I think we need to start by taking a step back and identifying what defines a “factory farm.” It’s a term that is often used to paint an false picture of farming. Everyone has a different understanding of that slang term and we prefer not to use it because there is no agreed on definition and quite simply, our farms are not factories. Farms in Alberta are places were animals are cared for, treated when they are sick, that feed the world, and the livelihood for thousands of Canadians.
Some associate “factory farms” with large operations, but that’s not true. Many of our larger farms are run by a husband and wife with the support of their children. Farms are businesses and some choose to manage them differently. Some incorporate and some don’t. Some come up with fancy business names, some don’t. Some need outside hired help, some don’t. Some focus on genetics and showing their animals, some don’t. But anyway to look at it, family is the core of the dairy business in Alberta.
In Alberta, all of our farms are family owned. Most of our farms are often passed down many generations to their sons and daughters. Agriculture is different in every part of the world, but we are very proud of the people behind your milk here in Alberta. Here is a little comparison between Canadian and American dairy farms.
Most importantly, there are no levels of dairy farming that would differentiate between a family farm or a “factory farm” in Canada.
All dairy farmers must follow the same rules. Period.
It doesn’t matter if they are a 30 cow dairy or a 400 cow dairy, there are standards that they all must follow. For example, we have standards on milk quality. Through proAction (formally our Canadian Quality Milk program), farmers must meet the milk quality rules or their milk does not get picked up. There are also rules on animal care, which you can read about in our Dairy Code of Practice, in which was created with veterinarians, industry and the SPCA. There also laws that govern animal care, some federal, some provincial.
We encourage you to attend Alberta Open Farm Days, Breakfast on the Dairy farm next year to get a firsthand look dairy farms and meet the families behind the milk. You can also check out a dairy farm from the comfort of our couch. I think you’ll notice that they have the same strong values and ethics as you do.