Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist, has discovered something that many of us have known for years: Tyson Foods and other agribusiness giants are doing some very, very bad things involving animal husbandry and meat production:
Where does our food come from? Often the answer is Tyson Foods, America’s meat factory.
Tyson, one of the nation’s 100 biggest companies, slaughters 135,000 head of cattle a week, along with 391,000 hogs and an astonishing 41 million chickens. Nearly all Americans regularly eat Tyson meat — at home, at McDonalds, at a cafeteria, at a nursing home.
“Even if Tyson did not produce a given piece of meat, the consumer is really only picking between different versions of the same commoditized beef, chicken, and pork that is produced through a system Tyson pioneered,” says Christopher Leonard, a longtime agribusiness journalist, in his new book about Tyson called “The Meat Racket.”…
…This industrial agriculture system also has imposed enormous costs of three kinds.
First, it has been a catastrophe for animals. Chickens are bred to grow huge breasts so that as adults they topple forward and can barely breathe or stand.
“These birds are essentially bred to suffer,” says Laurie Beacham of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which argues that there’s an inherent cruelty in raising these “exploding chickens.”
Poultry Science journal has calculated that if humans grew at the same rate as modern chickens, a human by the age of two months would weigh 660 pounds.
Second, factory farming endangers our health. Robert Martin of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health notes that a farm with 10,000 hogs produces as much fecal waste as a small city with 40,000 people, but the hog operation won’t have a waste treatment plant. Indeed, the hogs in a single county in North Carolina produce half as much waste as all the people in New York City, Martin says.
Another health concern is that antibiotics are routinely fed to animals and birds to help them grow quickly in crowded, dirty conditions. This can lead to antibiotic resistant infections, which strike two million Americans annually (overuse of antibiotics on human patients is also a factor, but four-fifths of antibiotics in America go to farm animals).
Third, this industrial model has led to a hollowing out of rural America. The heartland is left with a few tycoons and a large number of people struggling at the margins…
[continues in the New York Times]
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