For farmers, animal and food safety is job 1

For farmers, animal and food safety is job 1
People who've never been on a farm want to understand what steps farmers take to ensure food safety, now more than ever.

The stakes are high for farmers who have been affected by the misidentified 'swine flu'--the human Influenza A virus which contains a single gene from hog and avian flu viruses.

So, what steps does an Iowa farmer take to ensure the safety of his animals and your food? Here, a glimpse inside the life and bio-security measures of two Iowa farmers: Mike VerSteeg a hog farmer from northwest Iowa and Kyle Holthaus, a farmer with a very diverse operation in northeast Iowa.

By Mike Ver Steeg

As a family hog farmer, I work long hours every day to produce a healthy food product for consumers all over the world. When a visitor drives on to our farm, they will notice a sign that reads “Do not enter, Disease Control Area.” To ensure the highest health possible for our pigs, all employees on our family farm are required to wear coveralls and foot coverings when entering our barns. When pigs are removed from a barn, the barn is thoroughly washed and disinfected before new pigs are put back into the barn. Screens are put over all openings to keep birds and rodents from entering the barns. 

As farmers we know we have a responsibility to provide a clean, healthy environment for our pigs. We also have a responsibility to be a good steward to the land and water that God has entrusted to us. We take those responsibilities very seriously. We use the most modern technology, combined with animal husbandry skills that have been passed down through the generations. 

As a farmer, who has my own family to provide for, I am deeply disturbed how groups like HSUS are trying to use the current H1N1 flu outbreak to further their political agenda to eliminate animal agriculture in the U.S. Don’t believe them. Trust in the care and commitment of farmers who’ve spent generations putting safe food on their family’s table—and yours.

Mike farms with wife Sarah in northwest Iowa. You can also catch up with him on Twitter. His username is @foodprovider.

By Kyle Holthaus

]My family and I have a very diverse farm that includes vegetables, laying hens, sheep, and hogs. As you might imagine there’s a lot of work to be done on our farm, and biosecurity is our first and most important job. It’s what allows us to keep our animals, our workers, and our customers safe.

Our pigs are vaccinated to prevent disease and sick pigs are treated immediately. The barns they live in are locked to prevent unauthorized visitors and that helps limit the exposure our hogs have to diseases. When we do allow visitors in our barns, they must wear replaceable plastic boots and coveralls. And when semi-drivers come to the barns they can only enter in the areas where livestock is loaded onto trucks. But biosecurity isn’t just important when we have visitors. We change our boots and clothes before and after chores to make sure we’re not tracking anything into the barns.

Of course, when we’re dealing with vegetables and eggs, everything is washed and sanitized before packing. We also make sure that anyone who’s handling the food has washed hands and clean clothes. And we make sure our chickens’ nest boxes are kept clean.

Keeping everything clean and safe is what keeps us in business and, even more importantly, it’s what keeps our families and neighbors safe. Farming requires a lot of attention to detail. Not everyone can do it, but everyone benefits when it’s done right."

Holthaus and his wife Mari farm in northeast Iowa.