Agri-business News Factory Farming versus Sustainable Farming

Published on September 8th, 2013 | by Mary Gerush

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You Should Care About Factory Farming — Here’s Why

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Factory Farming versus Sustainable Farming

Most of the meat you eat comes from factory farms. But what does that really mean?

Google it and you’ll see factory farming defined as “a system of rearing livestock using intensive methods, by which poultry, pigs, or cattle are confined indoors under strictly controlled conditions.” Dig just a little deeper, however, and you find some unappetizing truthsMost of the meat you eat comes from animals that were raised in horrifying conditions by large corporations seeking to maximize profits at the expense of animal welfare, the environment, and your health.

If you care that 5,000 people in the U.S. die from foodborne illness every year; if it matters that 35,000 miles of rivers were polluted by hog, chicken, and cattle waste in the 90′s; if the 69,000 children that suffered from pesticide-related poisoning or exposure in 2002 mean somethingyou should care about factory farming.

Peruse this infographic with more of the whys. Then read on to see what you can do given this new knowledge.

Factory Farming versus Sustainable Farming

“Enough with the scare tactics. What can I do?

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Ghandi

Buy your meat, eggs, and produce from known sources (preferably local) that use sustainable production approaches. Farmers markets have grown in number and are now so simple to find with a few simple search engines.

Educate your local businesses. Let your favorite supermarket know you care about where your food comes from, and find another store if they don’t. Patronize restaurants that support local, sustainable food production.

Support organizations dedicated to improving the situation. Food and Water Watch, Slow Food, and Farm Sanctuary are a few of my favorites. You can volunteer, donate, or simply share their messages. Spread the word.

Are these factory farming stats surprising? What will you do differently now that you know more?

Infographic Credit: A-Z Solutions


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About the Author

An accomplished environmental and food author, you can find Mary Gerush on !



28 Responses to You Should Care About Factory Farming — Here’s Why

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  12. Susan mason says:

    Just like vegans I am morally and ethically opposed to factory farming. However, I believe that optimal human health through meeting all our nutritional needs, is also a vital and important concern. The only kind of research and studies that have any true validity when it comes to optimal human nutritional requirements, are multi-generational studies, such as those conducted by Weston Price, when he visited several tribes in different parts of the world who had been eating a certain way for the entirety of their existence. Their health was phenomenal on every level. He took tons of pictures to document his findings. He paid return visits to all of these tribes, after they had been exposed to the western diet and adopted it. The difference in their health before and after, was like night and day. He took tons of pictures to document his findings on the return visits as well. While none of these tribes had exactly the same traditional diet as any of the other tribes, but all the diets had a few things in common. All the diets were quite high in fat content, and none of them were vegetarian or vegan.

    • Tanya Sitton says:

      So, you do realize you’re saying ‘I am discounting all evidence that I don’t agree with, because it fails to match my preconceptions’…?

      You can surely ‘believe’ whatever you like — people believe some really really diverse things! But to me that doesn’t look like an evidence-based world view, rather like one seeking to justify the conclusions you’ve already decided to reach.

      Human society has done many things over the years, including all sorts of violence — sometimes for necessity, sometimes for pleasure. That doesn’t mean anything other than that they did whatever, for need or for pleasure. The neat thing about modern civilization — well, one of them — is that I don’t NEED to sacrifice humans to any mythological beings to avoid being labeled a heretic; I don’t need to physically battle members of other tribes to obtain access to food; and I don’t need to kill and eat animals in order to be happy and healthy and well.

      Regarding that last bit, anyone who tells you differently (in contradiction of every bit of peer reviewed data available to consider on human nutrition) is selling something — and (like any story that justifies behavior we wish to engage in) for a lot of folks it’s an easy sell.

      Just out of curiosity… do you only take medication that’s been tested for safety over (the arbitrarily chosen) 5 generations? or drive cars safety tested over 5 generations? or any other anything based on that criteria, in defiance of all other observable data?

      I don’t think I’m'a buy into that world view, thanks; but of course that won’t stop other folks from ‘believing in it.’ (shrug!) Such is humanity.

      I’m glad we can at least agree that factory-style farming is a hideous aberration from everything even remotely acceptable, and must end. Which was the original point here, if memory serves. ;-)

  13. Pingback: You Should Care About Factory Farming — Here’s Why

  14. Heather says:

    I loved the article, but actually want to respond to the comments. I know many people who adhere to various dietary paths; vegetarian, vegan, paleo, raw etc – finding the path that optimizes their best health. I don’t think you can say that no one should eat meat. One size definitely does not fit all and I’ve known many people who got very sick by eliminating meat from their diet (just as I know people whose health improved significantly once they stopped eating meat). Everyone is created differently and has different needs, I don’t believe there is one right path that fits all.

    • Tanya Sitton says:

      Hm. Ok, but you have to qualify that with some big emotional qualifiers — no human being is an obligate carnivore, so… idk, to me it looks like that argument lends itself to the ‘excuse’ category, more than the ‘reason’ category. If I don’t need it, physiologically — and I don’t, since I’m not a cat or a shark or an obligate meat-eater of any sort — saying ‘I need it’ seems a whole lot like ‘I want it.’ Which, when I look closely at it, isn’t the same thing at all — not at all at all. ‘Everyone has different needs’ only carries you so far, within the sphere of human physiology. If you want to make the argument that some people have an emotional ‘need’ (/want!) to eat animals, I guess that’s an argument — not a particularly good one, imo, but there it is. BUT if you want to claim that some specific human beings are obligate carnivores while others are not, well, I don’t think that’s a position that would be easy to support with peer-reviewed nutrition research data.

      • Heather says:

        I’m certainly not a nutritionist or any sort of expert in the field by ANY means, but just sharing observations of people I have known personally that do not physically thrive on a strictly vegan diet. Not an emotional thing, a physical reaction. And vice versa, I’ve also known people who see immense health benefits by eliminating meat from their diets. I think people’s bodies react to and process things differently and one size definitely doesn’t fit all

        • Tanya Sitton says:

          Humans are definitely diverse; no question about it. But according to everything we know about human physiology and nutrition, there’s no nutritional need that can only be met with animal products. So… that’s all I’m saying. That’s the consensus of the American Dietetic Association, the Canadian Dietetic Association, and such radical vegan activists as the health insurance company Kaiser Permanente (who recently publicly encouraged its docs to recommend a vegan diet to patients, based on meta-analysis of nutrition research). If it doesn’t ‘fit’ someone, it’s not ’cause they need meat: humans aren’t obligate carnivores, and I think asserting otherwise in order to sort of rationalize comfortable/ familiar habits deserves some critical consideration.

          Humans are diverse, but not in that nutritional way.

          It’s certainly possible to eat vegan and not meat your needs, just like it’s possible to eat omni-style and not meet your needs; vegan food isn’t a magic bullet to cure all ills. But there’s no evidence the ‘fit’ you describe is physiological, rather than subjective/ personal/ emotional.

  15. Bea Elliott says:

    Hi Tanya – Yes I’m familiar with Ms. Joy’s work! In fact, I’ve attended a few of her presentations. She’s got a captivating message and delivers it with grace and dignity. I totally agree with her observations. It is clear that it’s the total package contained within the hierarchical structure that is at the root of our woes.

    I agree with your stance that the enemy of your enemy is friend… I get that. But often they are likewise, the enemy as well. Perhaps because the way people adopt new habits vary with as the many choices available is the exact reason why there are advocates with many levels of messaging as well. (?) Because I don’t want to see or ever permit nonhumans to be reduced to property status, for me in my philosophy, I have to challenge the “happy meat” notions whenever I can. All I’m doing is offering a reminder that if being “humane” or “kind” is at the core of their actions… Then there’s still much to consider if they continue eating animals.

    I suppose it is a baby step… But I think so much more of us than to settle for that! Being vegan isn’t that difficult and shouldn’t be presented as the “last resort” but rather a minimum standard if one truly wishes to proceed in an ethical manner. Because this is what I believe as truth, I can’t help but stay consistent with that ideal. To do otherwise would be to betray my own values and that wouldn’t be good for anyone either. Perhaps it’s very necessary to have all voices in the mix as you say…

    I’ll certainly listen to your podcast the first chance I get. I appreciate your take on the solutions. Just wondering though – Have you ever been to the Humane Myth site? http://humanemyth.org/

    • Tanya Sitton says:

      Yeah… agree and like. :) I am glad you are saying all this, and think it needs saying; just also want food rev community not to lose its cohesion, when there really is a lot of common ground — I feel like a lot of bickering within the ranks has potential to (a) slow progress towards goals we all hold (ie animal factories must go), and (b) draw lines between our camps that preclude thoughtful engagement… I do feel like it’s always an ‘inspire’/ never a ‘convince,’ when we’re talking about these ideas, so I think relationships between those who are drawn to veganism & those who are drawn to those ‘humane’ myths are key to bringing about change: I see us as fundamentally wanting a lot of the same things. I’d rather say, ‘we’re on the same team, now let’s talk about why I think this and you think that’ than ‘we’re on different teams.’ Does that make sense?

      Idk, it’s late and I may not be at my most coherent… but again, I don’t disagree with the substance of any of your ideas, just thinking out loud that I do embrace vast swaths of common ground with others who don’t see things from my perspective; and factory ‘farming’ is one of those things.

      Let’s KNOCK IT THE H*** OFF, what we agree is hideous… and then keep going! Yes, we need to keep going… but: I’ll take a good start, and run with it…

      • Bea Elliott says:

        You are so right! A whole lotta common ground. Let’s agree that basically people are good and want to do the right thing… It’s natural to peer around unknown corners to figure out which direction to go. There’s a lot of credibility to your position and your method of “inspiring” further investigations people must make to gather more information – Hopefully to reach an ultimately compassionate conclusion. I understand totally that it’s a journey and no one walks in another’s shoes. And if we’re smart/lucky we find guides that gently persuade us to go further than we could on our own…

        It’s been a pleasure conversing with you Tanya. Glad you’re on the side of reason and compassion. We each just have to stay with what we do best for the mutual, winning goal. ;)

  16. Bea Elliott says:

    Hello again. First I want to apologize for the double post. There was a glitch on my first attempt and I didn’t realize it actually went through.

    Anyway thank you Tanya for addressing my concerns. I’ve gone through this debate for over 8 years now and know all the pro’s you’ve mentioned about “small farming”. But I have to take this method of “sustainable” meat as a rather elitist proposition. There’s not nearly enough land/water to feed everyone animal flesh from such systems. It would relegate the poor to a vegan/vegetarian diet anyway, thereby increasing food inequities. And let’s face another slippery slope, if one is in the mindset that eating animals is acceptable, how often will those who elect “happy meat” as a goal, also opt for “cheap/convenient meat” every time there’s a challenge? When you’re ethically opposed to the whole concept of eating animals you’re much more likely to hunt down a fruit stand if the need arises… If you’re not ethically opposed to eating animals, odds are you’ll go for the special at any old burger joint.

    Secondly since food is driven by powerful economic interests, as long as there is a social system that condones the eating of meat you will have a race to the bottom to see who can supply it the cheapest volume. Ergo we will always have “factory farms”. I think instead of continuing to spin our wheels advocating on how to do the wrong thing “the right way”, we ought to spend our energy on creating and expanding totally new systems that eliminate meat altogether.

    I always recommend that friends who have a desire to convert to a plant based diet, that they reduce/eliminate the amount of meat they eat, rather than support continued flesh consumption with “humane” alternatives. When you stop seeing nonhumans as commodities to be killed for the pleasure of human desires, the whole idea of killing “happy” animals seems that much more distasteful. Is that the goal really? Should it make us pleased or relieved to snuff out joyful lives? I’d think anyone who wanted to reduce suffering would clearly opt to end the misery that a factory farmed animal endures. At least there’s a crumb of mercy in that gesture. But killing contented animals… For such a frivolous thing as an unnecessary, less-healthy food? That’s just not a model any reasonable person could support. Sorry.

    • Tanya Sitton says:

      Oh, I agree! — except for the last part. I think reasonable people support all kinds of things for emotional reasons that they’d never support on the strength of the argument. Food choices aren’t about reason, mostly… they’re about cultural narratives, and emotion-driven stuff. So I wouldn’t really argue against anything you assert; but I’d argue that people find that truth through different paths, and that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. If they’re not ready to hear and acknowledge my arguments yet: humans are like that sometimes. Doesn’t mean we can’t agree eventually, but I don’t imagine it will come to everyone I talk to as a sudden revelation, just based on the strength of my (I think quite reasonable) arguments! So while we continue to discuss the points we disagree on, ‘small sustainable animal farming’ folks, let’s work towards what we both agree is a problem — that’s how it looks to me. Sometimes people find veganism through different paths, and I hasten no one’s journey in that direction by naming them my opponent, when we DO have common ground that can bring about decreased animal suffering.

      Have you read anything by Melanie Joy, on carnism? HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommended, re the reasons reasonable people embrace (what look like to both you and me) unreasonable beliefs, re: ‘edible’ and ‘inedible’ animals… we also (me & podcast partner, not me & Melanie Joy — WISH!) did a whole episode a while back about the root of anti-veg myths, those silly things so many otherwise-reasonable people believe (& say! sigh)… like the ones about protein, desert islands, plant pain, whatever…

      http://www.progressivekitch.com/2013/04/episode-6-anti-veg-myths-debunkery-and-social-navigation/

      …it’s an interesting topic, I think. It’s not about reason — food and sex are about emotion and culture, and the stories we tell ourselves to extract meaning from the world: that’s how it looks to me.

      I can see common ground between mine and others’ camps — we can work together on some things, and keep talking about others: that’s my approach, but I do respect yours. And, again, I don’t disagree with any of your core points, except the premise that it’s a reason-based deal.

      Thanks for the interesting convo! :)

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  18. Bea Elliott says:

    Sadly – No matter how “humanely” the animals are raised families are still split apart, babies are still stolen, mutilations still occur, these animals only live out a fraction of their lives and they all meet the same butcher’s knife in the end.

    But isn’t it wonderful that all of this is unnecessary? We can thrive on sustainable and compassionate plant based alternatives! ;)

  19. Bea Elliott says:

    Sadly… Even the most “humanely” raised animals still meet the same butcher’s knife in the end. They still are killed at a fraction of their life expectancy. Families are scattered and babies are stolen. Hardly a fulfilled or kind choice. Isn’t it wonderful that we can thrive on a totally sustainable and healthy plant based diet instead! No need to try to snuff life “nicely”… ;)

    • Tanya Sitton says:

      Hi Bea,

      Personally I agree with you — from where I live now, in my head, it’s amazing to me that I ever *didn’t* see it that way!… but for many who are just starting to think about food as an ethics issue, I think ditching factory farming is an excellent start! The sheer numbers involved, along with the expense of treating animals as living creatures vs. inanimate objects, means that even of someone ONLY avoids factory ‘farming’ but eats other animal junk, a whole lot less misery occurs in the world — meanwhile, let’s keep talking about the rest of it! ‘Cause one neat thing is how slippery that slope is: once you stipulate that nonhuman beings matter, vis a vis torture and cruelty for no better reason than human whim, it absolutely begs for further thought and exploration regarding the intrinsic violence and butchery inherent in ANY slaughterhouse or meat business.

      ‘Organic free range chicken’ was a gateway food for me, and I don’t think I’m alone within the food rev community — so I’m always glad to see people making a start by avoiding factory-farmed animal anything: I think it’s an excellent start, in tangible consequence and philosophical implication.

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts! Just followed you on Twitter; I think we see things in a similar light (I’m @ProgressKitch)… and thanks Jen for sharing this infographic! :)

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