The Year in Review: 2023

This year's top stories in farming, climate and food.

12 stopwatches for each month. Text reads

Analysis Month in a Minute

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In 2023, factory farming and animal policy made the news more than ever before. In December, the UN’s climate conference had an entire day dedicated to food and agriculture for the first time. Rewinding to October, the USDA announced new organic farming standards, including stronger animal welfare provisions.

One major theme of 2023 was investigations. Multiple undercover investigators used spy cams to film how factory farms really operate, and media outlets took notice. Here’s some of the best coverage:

Wired published an in-depth look at DxE’s operation manual, while National Geographic published an explainer on open rescue.

A Tyson employee was recorded admitting that “free-range” chickens never see the outdoors.

In the UK, a welfare certified group’s staff were caught on camera kicking and throwing hens.

Investigators on a pig farm caught footage of workers feeding a mixture of diseased intestines and feces to adult breeding pigs — a standard practice in the industry.

Here’s the month-to-month breakdown:


In a move foreshadowing one of the year’s main themes, Hawai’ian state officials temporarily shut down an octopus farm in January for operating without permits. Meanwhile, in landlocked Utah scientists warned that the Great Salt Lake is expected to dry up in five years, due to the unsustainable use of water to grow hay and alfalfa for farmed animal feed. And: in a trend that will surely continue, Veganuary 2023 broke records with more than 700,000 participants.

To read more of the top stories from January 2023, click here.


During February, a report on working conditions alleged that meat producers ignore unions and fail to provide enough sick benefits to reduce the risk of injury and illness. Meanwhile, 95 percent of the fish on a Canadian Arctic char farm died when “extreme cold” knocked out power and a generator that kept oxygen pumping through their tanks. Plus, Census Bureau data showed that climate-fueled natural disasters displaced 3.4 million U.S. residents in 2022.

Check out more stories from February.


Research released in March found that the production of food alone — particularly meat, dairy and rice — could jeopardize the international climate goal of limiting warming to 1°C. Two activists were acquitted for taking chickens worth $16 total from a farm in California. And, avian flu caused the cost of eggs to spike, hitting $4.25 per dozen.

For more March stories, read this.


In April, the slaughter of Cedar the goat by Shasta County Fair Officials — despite the pleas of the child who raised him — sparked outcry as the story went viral. Vermont dairy workers demanded better working conditions, as 40 percent are paid below minimum wage and 28 percent work 7-hour shifts without a break. The food safety considerations of cultivated meat and conventional meat are the same, claimed the World Health Organization in a report released this month.

To read more factory farm and animal policy coverage from April, click here.


The now-infamous Aubrey Plaza “wood milk” commercial premiered in May, immediately sparking backlash. Journalists probed Tyson’s USDA-backed, “climate-friendly” Brazen Beef trying to figure out what about it was better for the environment, but they came up empty handed. Plus: new in-egg sexing technology could end the slaughter of billions of chicks.

Click here to see how journalists covered food system news in May.


In June, a report from the World Bank revealed that agriculture, fisheries and fossil fuels get $7 trillion in subsidies every year — money that could be spent fighting climate change instead of fueling it. Cargill increased its focus on plant-based meat due to projects that demand for protein will rise by 70 percent over the next 30 years. And, an investigation revealed over 800 million Amazon trees were cut down for beef production in just six years.

Check out other top stories on factory farming and animal policy from June.


An analysis warns that the Gulf Stream could collapse as soon as 2050 if we don’t cut carbon emissions — potentially disrupting rains billions rely on for food. Also in July, extreme heat ravaged the country wreaking havoc for farmers and livestock alike. Plus: Tyson dropped its ‘no antibiotics ever’ label, resuming its use of ionophores — drugs not considered medically important to humans.

Click here for more stories from July.


In August, Tokitae — the orca some called Lolita — died after five decades in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium. As avian flu continued to spread Finland announced that they were culling 50,000 mink and foxes impacted by the virus. Plus, the CDC identified a new strain of E. coli tied to foodborne illnesses in the past few years.

For more coverage from August, click here.


A child makes September headlines when their arm is mangled at a meat processing plant leading to investigations of Perdue and Tyson. As once-vibrant fisheries become desolate, large-scale fishers turn toward new waters and bring their illegal gear with them. Plus, British academics called on universities to adopt plant-based menus.

Read more September animal policy and farming news by clicking here.


In October scientists revealed that they had successfully used CRISPR gene-editing to make chickens more resistant to avian flu. Top FAO officials alleged that they faced years of sabotage from within the organization for trying to shed light on the massive emissions attributable to livestock. And, British chefs turn against farmed salmon due to welfare and sustainability concerns.

Read more news on factory farms from October by clicking here.


Bird flu was identified among wild birds in the Antarctic in November while Singapore turned to cultivated meat as a means to produce more food domestically. In an attempt to produce livestock feed more sustainably, some companies are turning to insect factories.

Want to read more coverage from November? Click here.


In the final month of the year, cattle industry associations in Colorado sued the state and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to prevent the reintroduction of gray wolves. Research suggested that many people are less likely to choose food products without meat and dairy if they’re labeled as “vegan” or “plant-based.” Plus: federal investigators determined that the deaths of six poultry workers from a gas leak was “completely preventable.”

Read more December coverage of factory farms and policy by clicking here.

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