Inside a Real-Life “Factory Farm”

Jul 29, 2015

Factory farm.

I hate that term. So you can imagine how startled I was when I stepped foot into Cactus Feeders, a business that feeds 500,000 cattle at a time, and heard someone say, “We’re proud to be factory farmers.”

Gulp.

And the tour began:

It was before sunup, but the feed mill was already buzzing with activity.  It was before sunup, but the feed mill was already buzzing with activity. Inside the mill, they take corn and make it into warm flakes.  Inside the mill, they take corn and make it into warm flakes. The corn feeds into the “oven”… ...and comes out as cornflakes! Really. It looks just like the breakfast cereal.  …and comes out as cornflakes! Really. It looks just like the breakfast cereal. I even saw one of the Cactus guys eat a flake out of the test piles. How's that for quality assurance?!  I even saw one of the Cactus guys eat a flake out of the test piles. How’s that for quality assurance?! Then, the cornflakes are combined with other ingredients to make the feed, which is loaded onto trucks and delivered to the cattle. That's not dust. It's steam. The feed is warm when it gets delivered to the cattle. It's easier for them to digest it, and I would bet it tastes a whole lot better too! Then, the cornflakes are combined with other ingredients to make the feed, which is loaded onto trucks and delivered to the cattle. That’s not dust. It’s steam. The feed is warm when it gets delivered to the cattle. It’s easier for them to digest it, and I would bet it tastes a whole lot better too! Is this what you pictured when they said “factory farm”? Yeah, me neither. After the cattle are fed, the cowboys ride through the pens, looking at each animal to make sure its healthy. There are a lot of animals here, but one-on-one attention is required to make sure the cattle are healthy and happy.  After the cattle are fed, the cowboys ride through the pens, looking at each animal to make sure its healthy. There are a lot of animals here, but one-on-one attention is required to make sure the cattle are healthy and happy. If a “factory farmer” is a real thing, this guy is one. Here are two more.  Here are two more. It's not nearly as industrial and inhumane as you pictured, is it?  It’s not nearly as industrial and inhumane as you pictured, is it? Sure, it's efficient. Like all businesses, they have to turn a profit.  Sure, it’s efficient. Like all businesses, they have to turn a profit. But these “factory farmers” are real people with real families. Doesn’t that make them family farmers too? Just wondering. Every single employee of Cactus Feeders has ownership in the business. In fact, Cactus is 100% employee owned.  Every single employee of Cactus Feeders has ownership in the business. In fact, Cactus is 100% employee owned.


After the last of the pens, a Cactus employee grinds up the animals’ poop, which will be applied as fertilizer on corn. The corn is fed to the cattle. The cattle create poop. Beautiful little cycle, huh?  On another note, you wouldn’t believe how clean the cattle pens are! They are regularly cleaned by scraping away the bottom and replacing it with a new layer of clay-like dirt for the best drainage. This “factory farm” has some of the cleanest pens I’ve ever seen. At another section of the feedyard, cattle arrive and have their measurements taken to track growth while at the feedyard. They are also tagged and given any shots they might need, just like humans get immunizations before we head off to college.  At another section of the feedyard, cattle arrive and have their measurements taken to track growth while at the feedyard. They are also tagged and given any shots they might need, just like humans get immunizations before we head off to college. If an animal should get sick, it is moved to the “hospital” away from the others. Where they each receive more individualized care. A shot from the road: there are cattle as far as the eye can see.  A shot from the road: there are cattle as far as the eye can see. At the end of the day, I realized when Cactus says, “we’re proud to be factory farmers,” they’re saying they are proud to do such a good job taking care of cattle that business is good. And as we know, good businesses grow. That’s why they’re big enough to be considered a “factory farm”.  Instead of being offended by the term, they embrace it, because they have pride in the result of their hard work. And at the end of the day, they go home to their families. Because they aren’t really “factory farmers”, they’re family farmers.

  1. Phil Blahut

    July 31st, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    You honored a busines, their employees and the industry with this fine piece of artwork and truth. My hat is off to you. Please take a bow for the cattle industry and for all those who enjoy "what’s for dinner," …beef.Phil Blahut

  2. Karen

    August 1st, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Thank you so much for all you do for the ag industry! I appreciate all you are doing for us and future generations. You’re amazing!

  3. Scott Stebner

    August 2nd, 2015 at 12:16 am

    Great Job Erin.

  4. Erin Rogers

    August 4th, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Wonderful job! Thank you for sharing this story.

  5. Andy

    September 15th, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    all the steps like baking and steaming is some things i didn’t know about the corn.

  6. Katie Thornton

    May 3rd, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    I absolutely love this. I am so proud to work for such an awesome cattle feeding company. Thank you so much for sharing our story!

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