Thanks to the industrializers of American agriculture, we finally know why the chicken crossed the road: to run away from the factory farm!
These meat and egg factories are encased in thousands of sprawling, low-slung, metal buildings that now litter much of our nation's rural landscapes. Rarely seen by consumers, much less entered by them, the prisonlike factories are called "confined animal feeding operations" – and they are as far from pastoral as that name suggests. Typically, a factory operation has many thousands of chickens, cows, hogs, turkeys, or other animals jammed together in tiny cages and crates that permit little movement beyond eating and defecating. An Ohio egg factory, for example, was found to have 4 million birds "living" six to a cage. The cages were no bigger than an open newspaper, giving each one a space of roughly 8 inches by 8 inches. For life.
This isn't a farm, it's an animal concentration camp! And unbeknownst to the vast majority of consumers, 97% of the eggs we buy come from such factories. Even less known is the nasty fact that those cages are not only crammed with hens, but also with salmonella and other pathogens. Indeed, while corporate agribusiness rationalizes its assembly-line treatment of animals on the grounds that it produces cheap eggs and meat, that "low-price" is only achieved by passing on to the public the high health costs of food poisonings, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, cancers, and contaminated water created by this factory model.
Factory food production is so gross that, 1) the president's cancer panel urges consumers to avoid it altogether by buying organic food, and 2) the industry itself is trying to make it a crime to take pictures or make videos of their confined feeding operations. Out of sight, out of mind – right?
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