The Omnivore’s Dilemma QotD

From The Ethics of Eating Animals, p. 333

The industrialization–and brutalization–of animals in America is a relatively new, evitable, and local phenomenon: No other country raises and slaughters its food animals quite as intensively or as brutally as we do. No other people in history has lived at quite so great a remove from the animals they eat. Were the walls of our meat industry to become transparent, literally or even figuratively, we would not long continue to raise, kill, and eat animals the way we do. Tail docking and sow crates and beak clipping would disappear overnight, and the days of slaughtering four hundred head of cattle an hour would promptly come to an end–for who could stand the sight? Yes, meat would get more expensive. We’d probably eat a lot less of it, too, but maybe when we did eat animals we’d eat them with the consciousness, ceremony, and respect they deserve.

Terminology: does CAFO = factory farm?

Do the definitions of “CAFO” and “factory farm” differ?

According to, BloggerNews, and others, a factory farm is an AFO (animal feeding operation), and the largest, as determined by EPA guidelines, are CAFOs (concentrated or confined animal feeding organizations). But many sites, such as Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, use “CAFO” and “factory farm” interchangeably.

The Wisconsin Sierra Club site lists the baseline numbers of animals for a facility to be considered a large CAFO. It’s pretty horrifying.

Surprise Ally: The Paleo Diet

What? How can a diet that encourages eating large quantities of meat be considered a friend to the anti-factory farming movement?

The Paleo Diet preaches the consumption of pasture raised, humanely treated meat and eggs. The emphasis is on the fact that these foods are more wholesome, and therefore better for humans than factory farmed meats and eggs, but the side effect of supporting humane farms is a welcome one.

Animals raised on pasture and slaughtered humanely produce healthier food: more vitamins, a better fat profile and fatty acid ratios, no unnecessary antibiotics, and less stress hormones.

In short: eat only happy, healthy animals (or products from those animals) and you will be a happy, healthy human! Remember: you are what what you eat eats!


Industrial agriculture is killing our fisheries

Nitrogen and phosphorus from industrial farming and chicken factories is washing into the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico and over-fertilizing algae. The enormous algae blooms take over fish habitats and consume all the oxygen, making hypoxic zones where no aquatic life can survive.

Your Chicken Nuggets Are Killing Your Crab Cakes

The primary source of the chemicals is industrial corn farms in the Midwest, and factory chicken farms in the Mid-Atlantic.

Industrial corn farms over-apply fertilizers to their fields. The crops cannot absorb the entire amount, and rains carry the residual chemical from the corn farms into the Mississippi, which deposits them in the Gulf of Mexico, where they feed the algae bloom.

The chicken factories on the Delmarva Peninsula produce a huge amount of nitrogen- and phosphorus-rich manure, too much of which is washed into the Chesapeake Bay.

I think the title of the linked article sums it up nicely. If you, like me, enjoy Maryland crab cakes or Louisiana shrimp gumbo, stop eating factory-farmed chicken and processed corn-containing products!


Interactive map of factory farming investigations

This is a very cool tool from Animal Visuals:

Factory Farm Investigations Mapped

The map was created to bring attention to the laws preventing filming inside factory farms, by showing the pattern of abuses within factory farms across the country. It’s a great tool for learning about specific investigations, and for demonstrating how widespread the problem of animal abuse on factory farms in the U.S. really is.

Happy Friday, egg factory hens!

United Egg Producers and the Humane Society, working together?

From the New York Times:

Egg Producers and Humane Society Urging Federal Standard on Hen Cages

The groups said they would ask Congress to pass a law enacting the new standards, which they said would be the first federal law addressing the treatment of farm animals and would pre-empt efforts in several states to set their own standards.

The proposed federal standards would include cages that give hens up to 144 square inches of space each, compared with the 67 square inches that most hens have today. They would also include so-called habitat enrichments, like perches, scratching areas and nesting areas, that allow the birds to express natural behavior.

The two groups met in the middle: HSUS was pushing for a complete ban on cages, and United Egg Producers has been trying to boost its image after secretly-taped footage showing sub-par farm conditions went public, and last year’s egg-related salmonella outbreaks. Also, now that individual states are passing differing hen welfare laws, it’s becoming more appealing to egg producers to have a single federal law to follow.

Note that this is just an agreement to work together to try to get a federal hen protection law created; and if the law is enacted, its timeline for full adoption is a whopping 18 years. There are still possible roadblocks: buy-in from UEP members is required; other livestock groups may fight the law to protect their own industries from regulation; and even if the law makes it to Congress, it may not pass. But the first step in changing a situation is awareness that the situation needs to change, and by partnering with HSUS, the UEP has admitted that it is aware that its chickens should be treated more humanely. And hopefully the commotion around this effort will increase consumer awareness of the plight of other factory farm animals, in addition to laying hens. Sure, they are baby steps, but at least they are steps forward!

Scrambling the egg debate

How can we not write about an article that uses the words “scramble” and “egg” in the title?

Animal rights groups disagree, scramble to define ‘humane’ in egg debate

Oregon just passed a law requiring laying hens to be moved out of battery cages and into colony cages, with perches, scratching pads, and nesting boxes, by 2026. Some animal rights groups argue that the law should have eliminated cages completely, but proponents of colony cages claim that hens prefer to live with a smaller group where they know each other and have a pecking order.


Factory Fish Farms


Big Time Factory Fish Farming Coming to U.S. Shores

The good news:

Trader Joe’s, pushed hard by Greenpeace and others, says that by the end of 2012 it will offer only sustainable fish in its 365 stores. Previously the company has eliminated heavily overfished Chilean Sea Bass, Orange Roughy, and Red Snapper from its refrigerators.

The bad news: The government is on the verge of expanding off-shore fish farming to support consumers’ increased demand, and reduce American reliance on imported fish. Greater numbers of fish farms means more pollution–the article says the pollution from fish waste, uneaten food, antibiotics, parasites, and other byproducts will be equal to sewage generated by 17 million people. If genetically-modified farmed fish escape and breed with wild fish, it can weaken the native stock. Carnivorous fish require smaller wild fish as food, so feeding greater numbers of farmed fish depletes the supply of wild feeder fish. Expanding farming into the oil-saturated Gulf of Mexico has unknown health repercussions for consumers. The negatives are numerous when fish farming is careless, and it’s important for the government to enforce sustainable practices… which can be said for all types of farming!

It’s hard to be a responsible fish consumer these days. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a helpful site — and smartphone apps! — to help shoppers choose sustainably-caught fish that are low in toxins. Here are what they consider the best choices, as of last fall:

  • Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
  • Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.)
  • Oysters (farmed)
  • Pacific Sardines (wild-caught)
  • Rainbow Trout (farmed)
  • Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska)
  • Arctic Char (farmed)
  • Barramundi (farmed, from the U.S.)
  • Dungeness Crab (wild-caught, from California, Oregon or Washington)
  • Longfin Squid (wild-caught, from the U.S. Atlantic)
  • Mussels (farmed)

Sustainable Sushi has another list to help sushi eaters navigate a menu.

So, please ask where your fish came from and how it was caught, and avoid the 4 fish on Sustainable Sushi’s “4 Fish We Just Shouldn’t Eat” list: Bluefin tuna, Orange roughy, Shark, and Chilean sea bass.

Humans need to eat less meat

Mark Bittman writes in the New York Times’ Opinionator column today:

In limited quantities, meat is just fine, especially sustainably raised meat (and wild game), locally and ethically produced dairy and eggs, the remaining wild or decently cultivated fish.

No matter where we live, if we focused on those — none of which are in abundant supply, which is exactly the point — and used them to augment the kind of diet we’re made to eat, one based on plants as a staple, with these other things as treats, we’d all be better off. We can’t afford to wait to evolve.

Interesting, quick read about the global trend towards eating more and more factory-farmed meat and non-local produce: