We often say, "It’s a free country!" as a comeback when someone does something a little different. That saying could apply to different tastes in food as much as anything else.

Most of us eat meat, but many are vegetarians. Some choose organic food. Some simply shop for the best price. There are plenty of options, thanks to our productive farmers and ranchers.

I’d like consumers to know they can be comfortable with their food choices, whether they eat meat, eggs and dairy products or not. On my poultry farm, the chickens are protected from bad weather, diseases and predators. We keep the animals comfortable, day and night. We manage their diet so they get all the nutrition they need.

It’s the same on farms and ranches across the country. In fact, most of us have heard stories about a farmer sitting up all night with a sick cow, or a farm family skipping their own dinner because the animals need to be cared for first.

It’s in our best interest to take good care of our animals. Also, most of us are in this business because we love animals. As a former dairyman, I feel most at home when I’m around cows.

Animal ag producers are always working to do things better, and we are open to a constructive dialogue about the practices we use.

We produce more meat than we used to with less environmental impact per pound, conserving resources and keeping prices down so more consumers can afford the protein their families need. We’re using antibiotics responsibly. Just as our children get the medicine they need to stay healthy, so do our animals. We are proud of what we do and how we do it, but every farmer I know wants to keep improving.

So consumers should eat what they like — it’s a free country!

Whether it’s a chicken sandwich or a veggie burger, it all comes from a farm or ranch where we strive to grow the very best for your family and ours. And we farmers and ranchers need to tell our stories about how we provide the best care for our animals.

If you’re looking for resources to highlight the good job animal agriculture is doing, take a look at the www.fooddialogues.com website from the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance.

Let’s show consumers that we share their goal of a safe, abundant and, yes, humane, food supply.

Duvall is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.