From Farms to Factories


A factory farm for chickens in Florida. Photo: USDA
A factory farm for chickens in Florida. Photo: USDA

Did you ever wonder how the chicken in your sandwich got to your plate? In the early 20th century, it usually would have been from farms where chickens roamed freely and ate feed thrown by farmers. But with the discovery of vitamins A and D that could be given directly to animals, and antibiotics that could prevent animal diseases, large numbers of animals started to be raised indoors in cramped holding areas, resulting in the rise of factory farms.

Factory farms operate like businesses and try to maximize the number of livestock they raise. They have become more numerous in the past two decades. These farms generally mass produce milk, eggs and meat for humans. Supporters of factory farms say that the system uses less land and is now more efficient.

But according to advocates like the Food Empowerment Project, the trend of factory farms has resulted in abuse of animals and unfair treatment of factory farm workers who are exposed to harmful chemicals that cause health problems. The Natural Resources Defense Council has released research that shows pollution from farms threatens humans, fish and ecosystems.

Some Facts About Factory Farms:

  • Factory farms in the U.S. produce 100 times more waste than humans in the U.S. The animal waste threatens to seep into groundwater.
  • Animal waste contains disease-causing bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and fecal coliform. More than 40 diseases can be transmitted to humans through manure.
  • Ten factory farms together produce more than 90% of poultry in the U.S..
  • 80 percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are used to speed the growth of livestock in factory farms and are added to animal feed.

Source: National Resources Defense Council

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