I am a freshman at Santa Clara University and I am concluding my last week in a two-part Critical Thinking and Writing class. We spent the better part of the past two quarters discussing the issues that exist in our modern-day food system. Many of us had had previous knowledge of the abuse that goes on in the industry today, but this class had us focus on smaller topics and more deeply understand them, rather than looking at the topic of factory farms as a whole.
Before taking this Critical Thinking and Writing course, I had knew some things about the abuse that goes on in the food industry. I had see films like Food Inc. and King Corn which did a good job of introducing the problems with our food system, but I never really felt engaged or wanting to make a change—just more aware of what was going on. This class, with it’s emphasis around food, self, and culture, taught me a lot more about these problems, what efforts are being made to stop them, and how I can help. This class has also helped me raise questions, which helps form strong ideas and opinions.
Does the food industry care about the customer? One would hope that they do, but developments over the past couple of decades may say otherwise. In America, there is a long history of farming being a respected way to live your life, but it could be argued that modern day ‘farming’ is in a completely different category. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines a farm as ‘A tract of land, usually with a house or barn, on which crops and livestock are raised for livelihood’. This seems like an accurate definition of a humble rural farm, but farming is moving farther and farther away from this. The majority of big name food producers nowadays have stopped caring about the consumer, and are more focused on efficiency and profit.
This chicken house is an example of how efficient ‘farms’ have become. Chickens are possibly the mistreated animals on the face of the earth. Their living conditions have been reduced to overcrowded feed houses or laying eggs in compact cages until they are killed. Most of these birds will never see sunlight or ever step on grass in their short lives. This has become the industry standard to produce chicken meat. These methods are also used in the production of other products like milk, beef, and pork.
Cows on these farms are systematically abused their entire lives. Whether they are dairy or beef cows, they are abused with cattle prods, bad living conditions, and occasional beatings from workers. The model of the cattle industry has come to the point where they put so much physical strain on the cows until they can’t produce any more, and then they are killed for meat. You would think that with the focus on profit, these companies would make sure their product is high quality, but for the most part, it isn’t.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer was a book that we looked at a lot in class and it did a great job depicting what goes into our food. According to his research, much of the food we eat is contaminated and unsanitary. For example, a study on beef found that over 20% of samples were contaminated with salmonella bacteria and E. coli. After processing, poultry has been found to have a 30-35% chance of having salmonella bacteria. What causes this? Animal feces. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approves levels of feces and mold in animal products because they are supposedly natural but leading meat producers allow more and more feces and contaminates in their food because it’s easier that way. Without having to worry about keeping their meat clean, top-tier distributors like Tyson, Cargill, and JBS USA can feign attempts at cleanliness and focus more productivity. The result is a product that is contaminated and susceptible to disease, and the companies are completely fine to ship this product out to consumers, as their health is not important to them. They don’t know who eats the food, or what happens to them, all they know is that people are continuing to buy their product, so they continue to produce it the same way.
In the past, farmers were more localized and connected with their consumers. They knew where their food was going and because of that, they had a reason to take pride in their work. Now, modern farmers hide their work in large windowless buildings because of the inhumane way their animals are treated. The disconnect between them and their consumers leads to a lack of pride/care for their work leads to a lower quality product that can be dangerous to consumers health.
“Factory Farms.” Vegan Outreach. Vegan Outreach, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown and, 2009. Print.
Land, Graham. “MORE ON HOW INDUSTRIAL LIVESTOCK FARMING AND FOOD PRODUCTION ARE DESTROYING THE ENVIRONMENT.”Greenfudgeorg More on How Industrial Livestock Farming and Food Production Are Destroying the Environment Comments. Green Fudge, 23 July 2010. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.