As my faithful readers know, I carry on a lot about CAFOs, which industrial agriculture calls “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.” These horrific disease-ridden blights on the earth will eventually produce some microbe deadly to humans, and there will be a backlash against them. In the meantime, as y’all know, I frequently encourage folks to beat the rush, and buy your meat from humane sustainable farms now.
But until the day of reckoning arrives, CAFOs will likely continue to increase in size and correspondingly increase the pollutants and unnatural, unhealty food that they generate. Unless we radically change our eating habits, and our unwillingness to pay a fair price for natural food, they will continue to expand as the demand for their products grows.
The U.S population is predicted to rise by 12%, to over 341 million people, by 2020. And those folks will need to be fed. In fact, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that global food demand will double by 2050.
As demand for food increases, especially cheap food, and as small family farms continue to be driven out of business by industrial agriculture, the concentration of food production in fewer and fewer operations, housing more and more animals, will increase.
In the not-too-distant past, most American families kept a few pigs and chickens, and, if they were lucky , a milk cow. And of course, they had gardens. But those days are over.
Today 64% of the hogs in America are produced by a mere 191 operations. The number of milk processing plants have gone from 8,195 in 1950, to just 327 in 2007. A study by Cornell University predicts that by 2020 85% of all the milk consumed in the U.S. will be produced on “farms” with more than 500 cows.
The dangers of this kind of concentration will eventually collide with the market demand for it. Maybe someday we will begin to return to the natural sustainable agricultural practices that we humans have practiced for thousands of years.
One of the reasons I keep doing these blog entries is my sincere belief, even if naive, that through education and information we can change the world. Literally dozens of times I’ve been in conversations with very intelligent otherwise well-informed folks, and discovered that they are clueless about the food production and delivery industry in this country. Even folks who dutifully purchase “organic” food for their families often have no idea whatsoever how or where that food is produced, or what the “organic” designation means and doesn’t mean. I’m only too happy to enlighten them of course, and I’m confident that a lot of good decisions have subsequently been made because I did.
In our culture folks often prefer to remain ignorant of how their food is produced. Just this weekend I was talking with a woman who was horrified when she learned that we kill our own pigs and chickens for food. “Are you a vegetarian?,” I asked. She replied, “No, but I could never eat an animal that I’d seen alive.” That attitude is common in our society, and is of course a license to industrial food to do whatever they want to the animals they raise. If the consumer won’t look at the animals alive, and prefers to believe they came into existence in shrink wrap in a supermarket, then agribusiness has free reign to abuse the animals and adulterate their carcasses.
But what happens when someone does take a look?
Californians recently enacted Propositon 2, which bans the use of battery cages in egg production facilities. Why? Largely because of graphic video footage of confined layers (and support from the California Veterinary Medical Association). When the public saw what goes on in those hen hells, it passed the proposition by a whopping 63.5%.
Now I don’t advocate passing laws to ban battery cages. But I do advocate refusing to buy eggs laid by hens in those CAFOs. All these industries care about is profit. If no one buys their eggs, they’ll change their practices.
Here is an video made by someone undercover in an egg production CAFO. When we buy supermarket eggs, this is the business practice that we endorse. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd_pCS9N5Vg. Warning: the video is disturbing and not for the faint of heart.