Belstra President: Prop 12 Shortsighted on Animal Welfare and Employee Welfare

Prop 12 has again come to the forefront as the House version of the Farm Bill that passed through the House Ag Committee and awaits a vote from the full House includes a fix for California’s legislative overreach.

Malcolm DeKryger is president and co-owner of Belstra in DeMotte, Indiana. Belstra is an independent livestock feed manufacturer and owns and manages six sow farms that will produce over 550,000 pigs this year. They have opted to not comply with Prop 12 regulations.

“We are professionals in our field. My master’s degree from Purdue is in animal sciences, and so this is what I’ve lived. This is what I practice. This is my wheelhouse. My staff and I understand very well how animals, particularly pigs, thrive. Not survive- but thrive.”

DeKryger says they’ve studied Prop 12 and the regulations they have in place to sell fresh meats into California. In his professional opinion, they are shortsighted in two key areas.

“One is animal care and animal welfare. They may think that this is better for an animal, but the way that they have set this up, in terms of their statutes and regulations, there’s a lot of opportunity for injuries to animals and then mortality. I think that that’s very sad.”

The other area that DeKryger says is being completely ignored and is equally sad is safety for employees.

“I think that we have to be very, very mindful of these large animals, these 450 to 500 pound sows, that are going through their natural estrus cycles and natural behaviors, and then putting people in the middle of that mix, trying to get them to get animals to someplace when they’re going through an estrus or when they’re getting them into a breeding stall for a couple of hours. There are just so many different things that can go wrong.”

DeKryger is so confident in the care taken of his pigs, he invites everyone to come see. One of those six sow farms that Belstra owns and manages is the Pig Adventure at Fair Oaks Farms where visitors can tour and see exactly what happens on the farm. He and I spoke recently during one of those tours.

“The working floor is identical to all of our other sow farms. The upper level is kind of a museum and a skybox to look out across everything within our production system. I think most people are pretty fascinated by how much they can really see. We do put it on display and we do have it full of windows. You know, one of the students today said, ‘Hey, can we take pictures?’ I said, ‘Well, absolutely. That’s why I paid for all these windows to be in this upper box here. Take as many videos and pictures as you want.’”

DeKryger says they’re frequently audited by animal welfare professors at Purdue and others, always coming away with remarkable scores.

He’s hopeful the Farm Bill addresses Prop 12. Hear my full interview with DeKryger below.