Factory farming is the answer corporations found when the question was about turning animal agriculture into an industrial operation.
It’s easy for farmers and food companies to say that factory farming is necessary to feed growing populations but that simply isn’t true.
The reason they say that and most people believe it is actually quite obvious if you stop to think about it.
As large corporations, typically multi-billion dollar multinationals buy up the competition, they’re able to set the prices wherever they want. And because they are able to contract the dwindling number of farms to produce animal products their way, they have complete control.
Industrial animal agriculture as we know it makes it nearly impossible for small family farms to compete. In order to compete with the large factory farms, they would need to bring their prices well below what it takes them to run their small operations. Because of that, they need to charge more. They might be able to get a small group of dedicated local customers that are loyal and keep coming back but the masses will go where it’s cheap.
And, unfortunately, factory farms produce cheap end products.
How are they able to do this?
By treating farm animals the same as workers treat equipment or machinery in a factory, farmers are able to raise and produce animals at extraordinary rates. Doing so makes it final product, clothing or food in most cases, significantly cheaper for the consumer.
And while that might be good for business and the few people at the top who stand to profit greatly, factory farming is bad for everything else.
Factory farming is bad for the animals. It’s bad for the environment. And it’s also bad for human health. We’ll cover some factory farming facts in regards to all that shortly.
Before discussing some shocking factory farming facts, let’s first talk about factory farming in general.
What is Animal Agriculture?
Animal agriculture, or factory farming as it’s commonly known, is the mass industrialization of the breeding, raising, and slaughter of animals for human consumption.
The advent of industrial animal agriculture has made it possible for food corporations to turn farms into efficient factories, by doing so, disregarding the fact that they are dealing with sentient beings and forcing them to endure a lifetime of suffering and cruelty.
Factory farming, from a business perspective, is a brilliant way to maximize profits by dramatically increasing the supply while at the same time bringing down production costs.
And if factory farming was dealing with the production of cotton T-shirts or toys then it wouldn’t be as objectionable as it is. But the fact of the matter is that factory farming breeds animals into existence for the sole purpose of slaughter.
And to make matters worse, because the whole point of the factory-farm goal of efficiency is to produce as many animals as possible while maximizing profits, the animals suffer the most from it.
Tens of billions of land animals per year are born into the factory farm system and raised in horrid conditions. They are fed unnatural diets full of antibiotics and have no room to move about freely.
Beyond this, they have zero chance of ever knowing what it is like to live a normal life and most don’t ever see the light of day.
All of this so people can consume food they don’t need to survive.
How Animal Agriculture is Cruel to Animals
There are countless factory farming facts out there that will make even the biggest meat eater hang their head in shame.
And while cognitive dissonance is a major player when it comes to the justifications meat eaters use to eat animals while at the same time claiming to love animals, there are some factory farming statistics that will scare just about anyone.
Let’s start with chickens as they are the most slaughtered land animal in the world.
Factory Farmed Chickens
Poultry farming results in the death of tens of billions of broiler chickens every single year. And egg farming is responsible for the suffering of billions of more layer hens that are stuck in a cycle of cruelty.
Chickens are grown on factory farms at rates well beyond what nature ever intended for them. In fact, chickens are grown three times the normal rate of that in nature causing countless health and physical problems.
Factory farmed chickens have difficulty walking and holding up their own body weight. Studies show that their rapidly growing bodies stress their skeletons, cause health problems, and leave them deformed.
Factory Farmed Cows
The dairy and beef industries also treat their cows as pegs in the machine and not living creatures.
While many people are tricked into believing that cows need to be milked and we are simply helping with that process, the truth about the dairy industry is much more sinister.
In fact, you can argue that cows on beef farms have it even better than dairy cows as their suffering comes to an end much faster.
Cows raised for beef are slaughtered as babies. Most people don’t know that. A cow’s lifespan if she had the chance to live a normal life would be between 20-25 years. A cow that is raised for beef is slaughtered between the ages of 2-3 years old and a dairy cow is typically slaughtered at about 5 years old as she is no longer able to produce the high levels of milk that she shouldn’t be producing in the first place.
Factory Farmed Pigs
Pigs are highly intelligent animals that are well aware of their surroundings and their relationships between family, friends, and humans.
It is believed that pigs are more intelligent than dogs and on the same level of intelligence as a three-year-old child.
Many factory farmed pigs will never see the light of day or feel the earth beneath their feet. Pigs can spend their entire existence in concrete pens that make spinning in a circle an impossible feat.
Female pigs have it even worse. They are forced to breed continuously while going back and forth between gestational crates and farrowing crates. These pigs are sentenced to years of forced pregnancies and having their babies taken from them while being trapped on their sides in unfathomable conditions.
What Percent of Animals Come from Factory Farms?
In the US alone, over 95% of all animals raised to feed humans come from factory farms.
Breaking that down, approximately 8.5 billion chickens are bred into existence and slaughtered to feed Americans every single year. That’s about 26 chickens per year for each and every American.
And if you really want to feel awful, 700 million of those chickens are killed just for the Super Bowl. Americans eat approximately 1.35 billion chicken wings during Super Bowl weekend.
When it comes to cows, the number of cows raised for beef on factory farms is continuously going up. From 2002 to 2015, that number of cows went up by 5%.
The numbers for dairy cows is even scarier. Between 1997 and 2012, the number of dairy cows in the US doubled. What makes that number so outrageous is that there is a surplus of 1.39 billion pounds of cheese in the US alone right now. Dairy farmers are producing milk at record numbers despite the fact that Americans are drinking less and less milk. In fact, the total sales in milk in 2018 dropped by an astonishing $1.1 billion.
The numbers are so alarming that the milk industry is fighting plant-based milk producers so they can’t use the word ‘milk’ in their names. As the popularity of alternatives like oat milk and soy milk soar, the industry is taking a hit and is scared of what they’re seeing.
If this trend continues, we can hope to see the number of cows being raised on dairy farms to go down. Combine that with the surge in popularity of products like Beyond Burgers and Impossible Burgers and it’s hard to not get excited about the potential hit that factory farming will take.
Many people who aren’t familiar with factory farms might wonder why this is a good thing. Let’s get into that now.
Is Animal Agriculture Bad?
Factory farming isn’t only bad for the animals, it’s bad for the environment and human health as well.
While the marketing behind the meat industry might suggest otherwise, the fact of the matter is that factory farming is cruel on many levels. Industries behind beef, dairy, eggs, and pork fight to show you a different image. They show happy cows on labels and promote the idea of humane meat, something that doesn’t actually exist. They also talk about free range, cage free, and dozens of other terms that make you think you’re buying ethical products when the reality is the opposite.
Factory Farming and Animal Cruelty
Animals that are bred into existence on factory farms are never allowed the chance to live a normal life. From the moment they are born, they are living in conditions that are unnatural in every sense of the word.
The animals are fed diets that they would never consume in nature. They live in overcrowded conditions that make mobility near impossible and the chance for diseases and illnesses to spread quickly among the animals.
Factory farmers claim to care about their animals but what they truly care about are their profits. That is why the animals are treated as products and not sentient beings. The farmers can argue that they do things to protect their animals but what they are actually doing is protecting their margins.
If they care about animals, they wouldn’t breed them into existence for imminent slaughter in the first place.
How Does Animal Agriculture Affect the Environment?
Study after study after study makes it clear that factory farming is a major contributor to accelerated climate change. The studies keep coming out and the only people fighting back and claiming that they are incorrect are the industries behind the factory farms.
As mentioned before, animals on factory farms don’t consume food that they are designed by nature to consume. Cows are meant to consume grass. And while the picture of a cow on a green pasture on your milk box might show you that the truth is far from that misleading image. On factory farms, animals are fed diets consisting of soy, corn, and grains.
Growing soy, corn, and grains for billions of animals demand a lot of land and water.
One study found that 36% of the calories being produced by the world’s crops are used to feed animals on factory farms. What makes that number so shocking and infuriating is that only 12% of those calories ultimately contribute to the human diet through the animal products people consume.
Is Animal Agriculture the Leading Cause of Deforestation?
The land use alone for factory farming and the deforestation that goes along with it paints a grim picture.
The land needed to be able to raise billions of animals is huge. But what is truly shocking and something most people don’t consider is the amount of land that is needed to grow the crops that feed the animals on factory farms. Livestock, both feeding and raising the animals, is one of the leading causes of deforestation around the world and responsible for the destruction of 75% of the Amazon in Brazil.
All of this land could be used to produce more than enough soy, corn, grains, legumes, and vegetables for the entire population. Instead, the land is wasted to feed livestock and there are still billions of people that are food insecure every single day. But the food industry has some of the richest executives around. Larry Pope, the CEO of Smithfield Foods, for example, makes tens of millions of dollars per year.
Why is Animal Agriculture Bad for Human Health?
Factory farming isn’t just bad for animals and the environment. It’s bad for humans as well.
This doesn’t just mean the countless factory farm workers that are overworked and underpaid.
Animal agriculture employees about 700,000 people. These workers are exposed to countless health hazards on the job. From injuries sustained from machinery and the incessant inhalation of toxic fumes that come from cleaning chemicals, endotoxins, viruses, feces, animal dander and skin cells, animal feed, and other tiny toxins floating in the air they breathe.
But beyond the damage to the health of people working directly on the farms and the slaughterhouses, the health of the general population suffers because of factory farming.
For example, because so many animals are raised on factory farms, the price of the meat goes down. The supply is great enough to meet the demand and prices stay low. Because of that, a lot of the meat that comes from these farms become processed meats. There is a link between having a higher risk of certain cancers with the consumption of processed meats.
Many people in rural communities surrounding factory farms suffer greatly from their proximity to these operations.
The same toxins that fill the air and harm the farmers spread across communities while increasing the residents’ risk of respiratory problems.
And this is just from the air they breathe. This doesn’t take into account polluted water from manure runoff and chemicals used on factory farms. It is the perfect toxic storm of dangerous factors that impact human health, usually in poor rural areas where residents don’t have the resources to fight back. And many of those community members are typically working on those farms as well, making it even more difficult for them to do anything about it.
Ending Animal Agriculture
Ending animal agriculture isn’t something that will happen overnight. In fact, it will likely take generations before we are able to get rid of it altogether.
With that said, a lot of progress has been made in recent years to show the general meat-eating population that there are many meat alternatives out there that don’t taste anything like the bland veggie burgers from back in the day. In fact, the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger are both exploding in popularity.
Products like these show meat eaters that it is possible to stop eating animal products without making drastic changes. Vegan junk food exists and more options are hitting shelves each day.
Clean meat will lead the way when it comes to ending animal agriculture altogether. In the book, The End of Animal Farming, Jacy Reese outlines how the advent of new technologies backed by Silicon Valley minds and investors can help put a stop to animal farming by providing meat eaters with the exact same experience they are used to at the dinner table without having to consume slaughtered animals to do it.
It’s an exciting time for people that want to end animal agriculture. Change is happening quickly and the more people are accepting these new products and ideas than most vegans would have expected just a few years ago.
Animal agriculture is a disgrace.
There really is no way to sugarcoat it. Humans don’t need to consume animals in order to be healthy and survive. And we certainly don’t need to treat animals like machinery or commodities.
Industrial animal agriculture is responsible for the suffering and slaughter of trillions of animals each and every year around the globe.
It is responsible for the degradation of the environment and the acceleration of climate change.
Beyond that, animal agriculture is terrible for human health.
While people will always need to eat, it’s time we realize that there are other ways to go about it. The current way is not sustainable and it’s the furthest thing from ethical.
The industrial animal agriculture system that is in place today needs to end and it needs to end sooner rather than later. Otherwise, it will eventually be too late.