The Meat You Eat
How corporate farming has endangered
America's food supply
by Ken Midkiff
St Martin's Griffin, 2004
Although the British government [1980s] originally denied that
BSE [bovine spongiform encephalopy] could "jump" to
humans, as of December 1, 2003, a total of 153 cases of the human
version (variant of Cruezfeldt-Jakob Disease or CJD) had been
reported in the world ...
Today ... there are only three commercial breeds of hogs, one
of broiler chickens, one of dairy cattle, one of salmon, and two
of beef. Genetic similarity makes these mono-breeds extremely
susceptible to disease. (In fact, in the large confined feeding
operations in which the animals are kept, it has become necessary
for workers and visitors to "shower in"-put on sanitized
coverings to protect the animals in the enclosed facilities from
pathogens.) Diversity is always to be desired, whether stock investments
or livestock are at issue. The more baskets we can put our eggs
in, the better off we are. Yet the livestock industries have been
moving in the opposite direction. Livestock production has not
only been concentrated in larger and larger operations, but these
facilities also are located in small areas of the country. Circle
Four, so called because it was originally developed by four agribusiness
corporations and located near Milford, Utah, raises over a million
hogs inside a few square miles. The Central Valley of California
is glutted with gigantic dairies. Greeley, Colorado, has enclosures
housing millions of beef steers in a feedlot connected to a slaughterhouse.
In the Panhandle areas of Texas and Oklahoma are giant feedlots
with millions of steers. In southwest Missouri's McDonald County,
13 million chickens are housed on any given day. The same holds
true for North Georgia, the DelMarVa area of Chesapeake Bay in
Maryland, northwest Arkansas, and northeast Oklahoma. Millions
of commercially raised Atlantic salmon are now contained in pens
in the Georgia Strait of British Columbia.
... We have placed our trust in industries
run by people who own and manage the feed mills, the fish nurseries,
the finishing houses, the laying houses, and the slaughterhouses
but who live nowhere near what they raise. Their products are
not sold locally; they are shipped hundreds or even thousands
of miles for value-added processing. While the products may eventually
end up back in the small-town supermarket or at the local McDonald's,
the journey, however long it has been, has transformed the meat,
milk, and eggs into yet more units of production.
Although modern livestock facilities are
clearly based on an industrial model, in the eyes of state and
federal agencies they fit the legal description of "farm."
This suits the owners and managers of these operations just fine,
because it allows them generous tax breaks and exemptions from
a number of environmental laws.
... The owners and CEOs of today's agribusiness
operations live in New York City, Chicago, or Dallas-Fort Worth.
Joe Luter, the CEO of Smithfield Foods, the largest producer of
pork in the world, describes his occupation as "farmer"
yet lives in a condo on Park Avenue in New York City. Members
of Congress are the major investors, These "farmers"
hire migrant workers to do the hard work of producing millions
of steers, hogs, and broilers and filling our supermarkets with
billions of cartons of eggs and milk.
This is not culture and it is not agriculture;
it is not even the business of farming. It is agribusiness. Managers
and corporate CEOs are not farmers. These executives care about
the profit margin, not about the health and safety of the meat,
milk, and eggs. American Gothic has become Gothic Horror.
Down on the Corporate Farm
... In 1997, Sanderson Farms was ranked
by the Environmental Protection Agency as the twenty-fourth-largest
polluter in the country; it released over 2 million (2,195,343
to be exact) pounds of toxic wastes to the waters of the company's
home state of Mississippi. Having fouled the home waters, the
company is now doing the same to the water in central Texas.
The chicken litter that contains this
waste is normally not sent directly into streams and rivers; rather,
it is dumped on adjacent farm fields-as fertilizer, allegedly.
However, applied to the same areas year after year, the waste
eventually builds up and runs off into small tributary streams
of the area-or directly into the Navasota. The river contains
about every conceivable pollutant: giardia, assorted pathogens,
nitrates, phosphorous, arsenic, selenium, and what are termed
suspended solids. This might make a fine-although somewhat toxicstew,
but it makes a lousy habitat for fish, and an even worse place
As one farmer put it, "Mother Nature never intended for eighty-thousand
hogs to shit in the same spot." The EPA acknowledges that
pollution from agribusiness operation poses the single largest
threat to this country's waters. Thousands of miles of streams
and rivers, and many hundreds of lakes, are contaminated with
"nutrients from livestock operations," as they put it
euphemistically. Too much shit in the same spot.
What have federal and state environmental
protection agencies done about this problem, which now exists
across America? In a word: nothing. Water-quality monitoring and
testing by state and federal officials, as well as by trained
and certified volunteers, have documented the contamination, but
very few state, and no federal, agencies are willing to take on
an industry with as much clout as agribusiness.
... laying hens endure more than any other farm animal.
Most Americans with even passing concern
have seen the photos of laying hens confined to tiny cages, heads
sticking out, their feet entwined (sometimes permanently) in the
steel mesh of the cage. A few years ago, a defunct egg-laying
operation was visited by a photographer/reporter employed by a
major newspaper. This facility, owned by a contract grower for
one of the major egg companies, had been abandoned due to financial
problems. The grower simply left, leaving 10,000 laying hens to
die of starvation and dehydration. Neighbors had complained of
an overpowering stench, and word had reached the newspaper a couple
of years later. The newspaper asked the reporter to check this
out during the course of his investigation into abuse of migrant
workers by poultry slaughterhouses. Arriving at the site, the
reporter pushed through tall weeds and squeezed through a broken
door. He was greeted by the nightmarish sight of thousands of
skeletal heads poking through rusted cages. There were thousands
more feather-covered skeletons in the cages. Appalled by this
vision of poultry hell, he dutifully took photos. When he submitted
these along with his story, his editor told him that the photos
could never be published in that newspaper. They were just too
horrible and too graphic. The reporter argued his case. The photos
revealed the reality of egg-laying operations, but they were
not published and never have been.
By its very nature, killing and cutting up farm animals is a brutish
enterprise and one that poses all sorts of sanitary challenges.
As I will later show in greater and grislier detail, the stomachs
and intestines of the animals must be removed, and these are laden
with bacteria. Should the meat become contaminated via improper
handling or exposure, those eating the meat will likewise be exposed.
Animals' guts contain various pathogens. Normally these don't
cause any problems, as long as they are not ingested by other
animals, such as humans. Although imperfect, those small slaughterhouses
sometimes created small outbreaks of disease-small because exposure
to the contaminated meat was quite limited.
No longer. When ground beef is made up
of the components of thousands of cows, the contamination, from
bacteria contained in excrement and entrails, becomes rampant.
For example, the slaughterhouse and packing plant in Greeley,
Colorado, owned at the time by ConAgra, had to recall 18.6 million
pounds of meats contaminated with E. coli (technically E. coli
H7:1057) pathogens. The company was allegedly unaware of any problems
with the meat until consumers became sickened. Instead of alerting
consumers to potential harm, the USDA chose to conduct two more
days of tests, during which time most of the contaminated meat
was consumed. Victims, especially young children, suffered from
severe gastroenteritis (including vomiting blood) and endured
permanent injuries to vital organs, such as the liver and kidneys.
A few died.
However, even in this highly publicized
recall, only a small percentage of the ground beef was actually
returned to the slaughterhouse. The Denver Post reported that
a mere 12,000 pounds had been returned, though ConAgra had asked
retailers and consumers to destroy suspect meat. The meat that
was returned to the ConAgra plant was heated to destroy the bacteria
and then resold. Much of the meat was placed in value-added products
and recycled into supermarket cases in the form of spaghetti sauce,
canned chili, and ravioli, among other items. Still, as one consumer
put it, "It may be free of bacteria, but I don't want to
Slaughterhouses no longer kill, cut up,
and package meats for local families. Rather, these operations
are massive facilities owned by the companies, such as Seaboard,
Tyson, and IBP, which own the animals that are grown on contract.
The numbers of animals killed and processed is truly astounding.
The Tyson plant in Noel, Missouri, alone processes 300,000 chickens
per day; a similar facility a few miles away and owned by Simmons
Foods also processes 300,000 chickens per day. The Premium Standard
Foods plant in the same state was designed to ,kill 7,000 hogs
per day. Seaboard has been looking for a site for a plant that
will kill 16,500 hogs per day; the current target is a tract of
land just south of Dumas, Texas. The IBP slaughterhouse in Garden
City, Kansas, disassembles 6,400 steers per day. The plant in
Greeley, Colorado, formerly owned by ConAgra also kills and processes
6,400 steers per day. Each of these facilities keeps the production
lines moving at a rate of 400 carcasses per hour and runs two
eight-hour shifts per day-the so-called graveyard third shift
is reserved for sanitation and maintenance.
... farm animals destined to end up as food are fed copious quantities
of antibiotics. Consequently, the very drugs that medical professionals
rely upon to combat food-borne illnesses are no longer effective.
The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that over 70 percent
of antibiotics manufactured in this country are fed to farm animals.
These antibiotics-the same ones that have proven so valuable in
treating humans-are given "subtherapeutically" as appetite
enhancers, not for disease.
It is hoped-there is no actual scientific
proof-that antibiotics will somehow ward off the inevitable results
of deplorable living conditions and stress and promote efficient
growth. Efficient means that the animal will gain much weight
on the smallest amount of feed. The problem is that a small daily
dose of these antibiotics creates resistant pathogens in the guts
of the animals. These pathogens-E. coli, salmonella, camphylobacter,
and others-result in human illnesses. So two realities are at
work: Meats get contaminated in vast quantities, and the antibiotics
prescribed by doctors prove ineffective against the contaminants
that cause the diseases that humans contract from eating contaminated
... use of antibiotics in nondiseased livestock-chickens, pigs,
and cows-is eight times greater than among humans.
PIGS / PORK
... the Farm Bill, a federal act that gets renewed every five
years, contains a program titled Environmental Quality Improvement
Program, which goes by its acronym of EQIP or, simply, "Equip."
This program was established to provide grants to smaller, independent
farmers for conservation projects, like buffer strips along streams.
In the 1995 Farm Bill, environmental, conservation, and sustainable
agriculture groups were successful in keeping any of the EQIP
grants from flowing to "large" animal feeding operations.
After much pressure, the secretary of agriculture decreed that
large was to be defined as 1,000 or more animal "units,"
the size for which the Clean Water Act requires wastewater discharge,
National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, permits. The
decree was a victory for sustainable agriculture groups, since
it meant that EQIP grants, which would pay out $60 million per
year by 2001, could not be given to large agribusiness corporations.
Almost all of the agribusinesses' operations have considerably
more than 1,000 animal units.
Alas, in the 2002 Farm Bill that passed
through the Congress and was signed into law by President Bush
there is no such prohibition against "large" operations
receiving EQIP funds. To the contrary, the administration argued
that in order to comply with new regulations by the EPA, large
livestock operations needed access to these funds. Having failed
to secure a prohibition, sustainable ag groups then lobbied for
a $50,000 per-operation limit. Congress debated this for quite
some time and finally imposed a total limit-of $450,000 per owner.
Finally, sustainable ag lobbyists tried to prevent EQIP grants
from going to "new or expanded CAFOs." This effort also
failed. As if to rub salt in the wounds of sustainable agriculture,
NRCS decided that 60 percent of EQIP funds should be directed
to "animal operations." Large grants are now going to
install new or expanded lagoon systems or even to build new confinement
The EPA is a regulatory body, responsible
... for administering the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act,
the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery
Act (Hazardous Waste), and all the other human health and natural
resource protective laws. The EPA is the nation's watchdog, ensuring
that industries are polluting within limits established by laws
and implementing regulations. But agriculture has been exempt
from most of these laws, which were enacted in simpler times,
when traditional farmers did minimal damage to human health or
natural resources and when it was deemed in the national interest
to promote agricultural practices. o cite but a couple of examples,
there is an exemption for "agricultural storm water,"
so that any runoff from farm fields is exempt from water pollution
laws, and there is an exemption from "fugitive dust"
emission, meaning that agricultural dust is not deemed to be an
air contaminant as defined by the Clean Air Act. There are similar
exemptions to other provisions of environmental laws. The use
of pesticides and herbicides is administered by the USDA or the
agriculture departments of the states, and these agencies are
more inclined to overlook infractions than to enforce procedures.
It is no accident, then, that Big Pig
acts as any industry but gets itself legally categorized as "agriculture."
Even a hog operation with 100,000 animals is legally considered
In addition to the legal loopholes protecting
Big Pig, the industry has powerful political connections, making
it difficult for the EPA to regulate it. Indeed, the EPA has yielded
to pressure by representatives of the National Pork Producers.
It is no longer agency policy to take any enforcement actions
against hog CAFOs. State legislators have similarly shown little
or no interest in bringing Big Pig under control.
The "pork powerhouses ... have bought into the system first
developed by john Tyson, founder of Tyson Foods. These companies
boast about "vertical integration," claiming that controlling
the entire process, from feed mill to retail product, helps maintain
quality and uniformity. There is some truth to this: The pork
chops produced by this system are uniform in size, shape, and
leanness. The meats are also bland to the point of being tasteless,
in addition to being laced with pathogens resistant to antibiotics.
Each company controls every aspect of
hog production. First of all, the companies own the feed mills
and put in all the ingredients. Each company claims those ingredients
are its secret to efficient hog production and therefore that
the feeds are "proprietary." What is known is that these
companies add various heavy metals and antibiotics as growth enhancers
and for "subtherapeutic" purposes. Second, the company
owns the breeding stock. Unfortunately for the poor sow, she never
meets the boar. The boar is manually masturbated by women, who,
hog companies assert, have the "right touch." The semen
is collected and artificially introduced into the sow. No joy
of sex in this process. Third, the company owns the sow and ultimately
the piglets. Much has been written about the gestation crates
in which the sow is imprisoned, and I will add more to it later.
Fourth, the company owns the pigs throughout the process of "finishing"
or attaining a weight of about 250 pounds for slaughter. The company
dictates to its employees or contract growers the daily management
activities in the CAFOs in which the hogs are grown to finished
size. The company determines when the hogs are to be picked up
or delivered for slaughter. The company owns the slaughterhouse
and packing plant in which the hogs are disassembled and packaged
for retail sale. And, in most instances, the company owns the
refrigerated trucks that deliver the packaged meat products to
the retail outlet.
This complete control ensures that every
piece of meat, ham, pork chop, bacon-is virtually identical to
every other piece. To attain maximum speed at the slaughterhouse
and packing plant, hogs need to be roughly the same size and confirmation.
That is why every animal is of the same breed, is fed the same
food-and at the same rate-and ideally reaches the magic size at
the same time.
A Pig's Life
What is it like inside Big Pig? The lives
of the animals resemble those of chickens, dairy cows, or steer-that
is, they are considered "units" rather than living creatures.
A piglet never gets to snuggle up to its mother but recognizes
the mother sow only by her teats. You see, the sow is encased
in a metal cage, the idea being to prevent her from rolling onto
her brood. There is nothing particularly new about this. Long
ago, hog farmers devised contraptions to keep newborn piglets
from being crushed or smothered by the sow. The difference is
that in today's sow and farrowing operations the piglets are prevented
from any motherly contact and are separated from the mother sow
at an early age.
During pregnancy, the sow is encased in
a gestation crate, intended to keep her completely immobile. This
crate, by the way, was recently banned in the state of Florida
by a ballot vote; Floridians deemed it cruel and inhumane. However,
the vote has not put an end to farrowing crates, which are used
as long as the piglets are with the sow. At one to four days of
age-depending on the hog operation's schedule-the piglets get
"processed": Their tails are docked, their ears are
notched as a form of branding, they are castrated if male, their
newborn, needle-sharp teeth are trimmed or filed, and they are
given shots to stimulate growth. At three weeks of age, they leave
the mother sow and are sent off to get fattened. The sow is immediately
artificially inseminated and begins the next cycle of gestation.
When the pigs reach fifty-five pounds
or so, they are transported to the next-to-final stop, the so-called
finishing operation. Typically, the hogs are housed in buildings
that hold anywhere between 1,100 and 2,500 animals; the average
site has six to ten such buildings. These buildings have slatted
floors through which the waste falls. A flush system carries the
waste to a gigantic cesspit. These pits, euphemistically and hopefully
called lagoons by the hog companies, are up to twenty-five feet
deep and up to eighteen acres in size. Typically, each cesspit
holds the wastes of the six to ten buildings at the site and is
roughly the size of a football field. As the cesspits reach capacity,
a fixed irrigation piping system delivers the liquefied manure
and urine to the adjacent fields, where those center-pivot or
"manure cannons" send the wastes into the fields.
The operation's goal is, always and ever,
efficiency-so that the hogs reach market size of about 250 pounds
in the least amount of time and with the least amount of feed.
Unfortunately for both the hogs and the growers, the stress generated
by such congestion and such massive feed intake results in a high
mortality rate, apparently roughly 12 percent from weaning to
finishing on an industry average, although rates as high as 15
percent are not uncommon. Smaller dead hogs don't pose any serious
disposal problems; a 200-pound carcass is another matter. Various
solutions have been provided by agricultural researchers, from
incineration, to burial, to composting, but none have worked particularly
well. This problem is compounded by ownership of the hog magically
being transferred to the contract grower upon the death of the
animal. The dead hog provides no benefits to the grower. It is
merely a liability. Sociable and gregarious by nature, hogs do
not fare well in congested conditions. Hence the need for the
appetite and growth enhancers and antibiotics.
From squeal to meal, from semen to cellophane,
the life of a pig is carefully controlled and managed by those
whose only interest is profit. The animals are transformed into
eating machines that can be converted into meat. At the end of
a rather miserable existence-hogs are also quite intelligent,
though of course intelligence has no value in this system-the
day arrives when the hog reaches market weight and gets hauled
off to the slaughterhouse and packing plant.
CHICKENS - BROILERS AND EGGS
John Tyson of Springdale, Arkansas started the move toward "vertical
integration" in the poultry industry back in the late 1950s.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s he had been struggling to make
a living, hauling the products of his and his hens' labors to
the towns of northwest Arkansas. Then he learned that more money
was to be made by delivering chickens to Kansas City and St. Louis
and eventually to Chicago and other northern cities. John began
hauling chickens from other local chicken farmers to these markets.
In the early 1950s, his son Don joined the commercial egg and
Eventually, Tyson got incorporated, and Tyson Foods, Inc., began
acquiring other poultry companies and buying out poultry producers.
By the early 1960s, the company was in control of the entire process
from feed mills, to hatcheries, to growing houses, to processing
plants, to delivery, to retail outlets. By 1970, broiler sales
had reached 72 million chickens and for the first time Tyson appeared
on the Fortune 1000 list. It was no longer hauling live chickens
to cities of the North; now it was supplying chicken parts to
the entire country.
At some point in the process of getting
big, Tyson Foods, Inc., discovered that it was cheaper to contract
with local farmers and let them raise the broilers than to do
it itself. The advantages to the company were immense. They could
let the contract growers assume all the risks and the company
would still reap the benefits. The terms of the contracts to which
Tyson submits its growers are not negotiable. Either the grower
accepts and signs the contract as is or there is no arrangement.
To a local farmer, it sounds good at first: Tyson will provide
the chicks, Tyson will provide the feeds, and Tyson will pick
up the birds when they reach market size (it only takes six or
seven weeks from chicks to broilers). The grower is guaranteed
a price for each bird that reaches a predetermined weight by the
pickup date. What most growers don't realize until after the contract
is inked is that they have just signed away their freedom. They
become, as one of them phrased it, serfs on their own land.
The bizarre situation confronting contract growers is that while
they have made the decision to stay down on the farm and Tyson
seemed to have offered a way to do that, they are no longer farmers.
Rather, they are chicken caretakers.
A Broiler Chicken's Life
On the banks of the Elk River in Noel,
Missouri, is a massive Tyson Foods, Inc., poultry slaughterhouse
and processing plant. This facility kills, packs, and ships 300,000
chickens per week. This means that 300,000 live chicks must be
delivered to growing operations each week to replace them. To
meet this demand, the entirety of McDonald County is devoted to
raising chickens. Tyson and two other poultry companies effectively
own the county. The local economy, unemployment rates, housing,
water quality, and politics revolve around the poultry industry.
Almost every aspect of county life is determined by decisions
by Tyson, Inc., Simmons Foods, and MOARK/ Land 0' Lakes Eggs.
On any given day, McDonald County is home to 13 million chickens,
plus a few hundred thousand turkeys. Those are large numbers but
by themselves have little or no meaning. For the chicken destined
to be included in tomorrow's eight-piece box, it means that life
is nasty, brutish, and very short.
The chicks are incubated at a large hatchery
and are delivered to a contract grower by the thousands. Consequently,
there is no such thing as a chick; the creatures are simply viewed
en masse. Typically, 22,000 chicks occupy one broiler house, but
this number can vary from 11,000 to 30,000, depending on the size
of the confinement building. Several hundred chicks of these thousands
are crushed or suffocated or succumb to disease. Others are severely
injured by handling during transfer to the large cardboard crates
that transport them to the growing operation. Still others are
injured upon transfer from the crates to the growing house. There
is no attempt made to care for these diseased or injured chicks;
they are considered just so much trash and are treated as such.
The dying, diseased, or dead chicks are thrown into piles, using
devices that can be operated without the need to stoop, and discarded.
The next six to seven weeks, depending
on the company's schedule, the chicks spend in the confinement
building. Every effort by the company and the grower goes toward
making every chicken reach a weight of 2.5 to 5 lbs within that
six-to-seven-week period. Aggressive chickens are debeaked to
avoid injuries and cannibalism.
If all goes relatively well for the company and the grow] around
80 percent of the chicks will make it to the prescribed weight
at the prescribed time. At this point, with what were two-ounce
balls of down now weighing 2.5 to 5 pounds each, crowding becomes
a very real problem. Twenty-two thousand chickens confined in
a small space make things very difficult for the individual chicken.
In addition to competition for food there is some cannibalism,
even when the more aggressive birds have been debeaked. There
is also an inevitable pecking order, meaning that less vigorous
chickens lose feathers and then are pecked to bloody shreds since
it is impossible for them to run or hide. Smothering becomes more
and more prevalent as the chickens reach their full size. What
was spacious for small chicks becomes overcrowded for seven-week-old
The torture comes to an end with the arrival
of the catchers, crews sent out to catch the chickens and place
them into crates. Catchers are hired by the trucking companies
and normally don't have any of the benefits associated with full-time
employment: no paid holidays, no health insurance, no vacations.
Some are undocumented immigrants, almost all are from minority
groups, and most are otherwise unemployable. These people are
not, even on the best of days, in a position to be sensitive and
caring individuals. After a few days or a few weeks on the job,
even conscientious catchers become callous and indifferent to
the suffering of individual chickens. Using wire devices that
hook onto the chickens' legs or just grabbing handfuls of chickens
by their legs, they toss and cram the birds into wooden crates
until those crates are completely packed in. Some birds get injured,
others are killed, but this doesn't matter- next stop is the processing
plant, where those not already dead will be killed.
The crates of birds are unloaded and each animal is paralyzed
or stunned electrically (either by being dipped into a charged
water bath or by insertion of an electric rod up the anus), then
two slits are made in the jugular veins of its neck to bleed out
as it is hung upside down on hooks on the line. This takes but
a minute or so. After death, the carcass is scalded, then a mechanical
whirring rubber "brush" removes the feathers, its entrails
are removed, and other unwanted parts (beaks, wing tips) are sent
to a protein plant, along with the feathers. These are rendered
down to make pet foods and, grimly, chicken feed.
After slaughtering, the birds are disassembled into component
parts, chilled, and packed into boxes for shipping. Refrigerated
trucks then haul the products to retail outlets. Tyson's trucks
carry the company's oval logo and in large letters "Feeding
You Like Family." Some contaminants from the intestinal contents
and from the feathers in the whirring rubber brush remain on the
chicken parts. Random testing of supermarket broilers and packaged
portions has shown high levels of salmonella.
From the time the chick is hatched from
an egg to the time when it bleeds to death hooked on the line,
the animal is not treated as a sentient creature. The companies
that raise and slaughter it consider it a unit of production,
one among millions. The life of a broiler chicken is not a life,
as we might define it. The chicken is a very small cog in the
The relationship between Don Tyson and Pres. Bill Clinton is a
larger-than-life example of the political influence of Big Chicken.
Mike Espy, initially secretary of agriculture, got caught in the
fallout from this relationship and was forced to resign, although
he was eventually cleared of the charges. Recently poultry growers,
through the preceding lobbying organizations, achieved a twofold
victory in Washington. Through their efforts, livestock operations,
including poultry, were exempted from the Clean Air Act, in a
proposed regulation by the EPA touted as a "safe harbor"
for agricultural facilities, and they pressured Congress into
opening up 2002 Farm Bill funding for large CAFOs. The latter
move had been rejected by Congress in 1996, and President Clinton's
second secretary Lo~ agriculture, Dan Glickman, further resisted
MOARK/Land 0' Lakes' massive egg-laying operation dominates the
landscape. Housing over 1 million laying hens, this facility embraces
all the modern integration: an on-site feed mill that grinds and
mixes the feed ingredients and the antibiotics, an egg-laying
building (more on that shortly), and a processing plant where
the eggs are washed, candled, and packaged. Its neighbors have
complained about fine particles of dust from the feed mill that
coat everything and about the stink from the blackish waste spread
on nearby fields. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources
responded and issued Notices of Violation (NOVs) of the Clean
Air Act. There have been no fines or penalties, and, subsequently,
nothing has changed.
A Laying Chicken's Life
Photos showing laying hens crammed into
tiny cages have regularly appeared in publications put out by
the Animal Welfare Institute, People for the Ethical Treatment
of Animals, and Farm Sanctuary. They depict the reality of modern
egg production, which almost defies description.
Up to ten hens are put in cages no larger
than five feet by five feet. A hen normally begins laying eggs
at twelve to sixteen weeks of age and continues laying for around
sixty weeks. Most hens are "spent" before they reach
two years of age and are sold to make chicken soup and other processed
foods in which the meat can be made tender through cooking. Some
of the toughest meat is used in pet food. (However, when the market
for these products is glutted, the spent hens may simply be killed.
What is done with the carcasses is a matter of some conjecture;
some are thought to be fed back to the living chickens or mixed
in with hog feeds. There have been experiments with composting,
with mixed success, as there is little market for the results.)
The cages are tilted slightly, so that
the eggs can roll gently down into a catch tray to be collected
by a conveyor belt that transports the eggs to the processing
plant. With less modern or older systems, the eggs are collected
manually. The cages are stacked four to six high, usually in pyramid
fashion. These are covered with a metal roof, to keep the excrement
and other wastes (broken eggs, feathers) from the cages above
from going into the lower cages. Water flows over the roofs, carrying
the wastes down into a central pit. Large chain-driven paddles
push the more solid wastes into a large holding cesspit located
at the end of each building. It is then pumped into tank trucks,
which carry it to and spread it on adjacent fields.
The hens spend their entire lives in these
tiny cages; their feet and claws sometimes become distorted from
being bent around the wires of their cage. As gruesome as this
is, those concerned about the humane treatment of farm animals
find two practices by the egg-laying companies particularly atrocious,
neither of which are used by sustainable free-range poultry operations:
debeaking and forced molting.
Debeaking means exactly what it says:
The chicken's beak is clipped, chiefly to prevent the hens from
pecking one another. While there is some debate over whether correct
debeaking causes the animal pain, there is no such debate that
debeaking well beyond the tip does. Chickens that have been subjected
to such improper debeaking become traumatized due to long-term
pain and have proven to be less productive than chickens that
either have not been debeaked or had only the beak tip removed.
Chickens are cannibalistic by nature, and while this trait seems
more or less to have been bred out of broiler chickens, such is
not the case with laying hens. It is likely that the overcrowding
system used by the industry causes stress, which leads to extreme
cannibalism. Rather than convert to a less stressful system, the
egg companies choose to debeak the chickens, adding further stress-another
Forced molting requires a bit of explanation.
Molting means a periodic losing of feathers, a natural occurrence
in all birds. With a laying hen, molting naturally occurs when
she reaches an age of about eighteen to twenty months and egg
production ceases until this process is completed-that is, the
feathers grow back, after a few months. Some flocks are sold for
slaughter at this point, and a replacement flock takes their place.
However, such replacement is costly, so the ever-resourceful university
and egg company researchers have determined that after two periods
of "controlled" or forced molts, one at fourteen months
and another at twenty-two months, and after a rest period of four
to eight weeks after each molt, egg production and quality is
much more consistent than with a "natural" molt at eighteen
to twenty months.
The forced molt involves removal of all
feeds until the chicken loses between 25 and 35 percent of her
body weight. The weight loss causes hormones to kick in and the
chicken to enter a molt. There are also unintended consequences,
however: The chicken's bones become fragile and break, and she
can die. Moreover, the eggs from chickens that have been force-molted
are far more likely to be contaminated.
... Before eggs are packaged and crated, the material sticking
to their shells must be removed. In the first quarter of 2003,
MOARK/Land 0' Lakes sold 202 million dozen eggs; that's 2.4 billion
eggs requiring a lot of washing and resulting in a lot of stuff
going down the drain. In the washing process, a few eggs get broken,
and even a few out of 2.4 billion adds up rather quickly, and
MOARK/Land 0' Lakes is just one company of many. Buckeye Egg in
Ohio, which was operating under an appeal of a closure order,
confined 15 million laying hens, each producing at least one egg
per day. The operation has since been sold.
So, other than polluting, stink, dead
hens, debeaking, forced molting, broken eggs, and contaminated
washwater to annoy the neighbors (and those downwind and downstream),
what's the problem? There is, in fact, an enormous consumer problem.
While e producers like to brag about the "incredible, edible
egg," the facts are likewise incredible: The CDC estimate
that 1 out of every 10,000 eggs is contaminated with salmonella.
Given the number of eggs sold and consumed in this country (in
2002 that number was 86.7 billion), the odds that contaminated
eggs will end up in the grocery store are quite high. And the
odds that someone will have a gastrointestinal upset or worse
from Salmonella enteriditis is likewise high. Any cracking or
breaking of the eggshell will add to the likelihood of contamination.
When 86.7 billion eggs are processed (washed, candled, packaged)
each year, if only 1 percent have cracked shells, over 8 million
eggs are subject to contamination resulting from fecal matter
coming into contact with the contents of the egg through the crack(s).
... 1.3 billion pounds of surplus milk in powdered form is stored
in temperature- and humidity-controlled caves. These caves are
actually inactive limestone quarries located throughout the country,
with most in and around Kansas City, Missouri. According to workers
at the Kansas City storage area, about 20 to 25 million pounds
of nonfat powdered dry milk arrive each week. "They keep
making it, and we keep buying it," said Steve Gill, a spokesman
for the USDA. "They" are the dairies that get paid regardless
of supply and demand and "we," of course, are all of
us taxpayers. "They" have overproduced 386 million pounds
between October of 2002 and June of 2003, and it keeps coming
in, filling up the caves.
We were in a large metal building; behind us were the enormous
tanks that contained and chilled the milk. Lined up outside the
building were gleaming tanker trucks, with hoses attached like
piglets at a sow's teats. A bank of computers ran along the opposite
wall. Among other, more mundane, functions, these computers, we
learned later from a friendly employee, were used to keep track
of each cow's production.
But it was what we found below that commanded
our attention. The milking carousel accommodates about one hundred
cows, and it turns slowly. A couple of workers ensure that the
cows are lined up properly to get on the wheel. As a cow enters
the empty stanchion, vacated by the previous cow who has been
gently bumped in the head by a tire affixed above the wheel, two
employees begin cleansing the udder. Two other workers attach
the milking suction cups, which are in turn affixed to pipes that
transport the milk to the holding and cooling tanks.
Every half hour or so, a flush system
spreads water across the floor. This water carries the cow pies
and copious volumes of urine down grated drains and through pipes
to the cesspit outside. From there, fixed irrigation lines transport
the liquefied wastes to center-pivot sprayers. The sprayers, moving
in huge slow circles, apply the wastes to the fields adjacent
to the milking and feeding center. Each cow has a computer chip
implanted in her ear. A tracking device mounted on the stanchion
relays production information to the central data bank, stored
on one of the computers in the observation area. If the cow falls
below a certain expected quota (the national average is about
260 pounds of milk per week), she is "culled" from the
milking herd, sent to a slaughterhouse, and converted into ground
beef. In 2002, over 65 percent of Idaho's slaughterhouse beef
was from culled dairy cows. Each cow is provided ) ground feeds,
a "proprietary" mixture likely consisting of [grains,
antibiotics, appetite enhancers, and other additives, and as the
carousel slowly makes its way around, and if all goes as preprogrammed,
the cow will finish the feeds and be milked-out by the time the
tire bumps her head, causing her to back off the carousel to make
room for the next cow.
And so it went. Cow after cow, around
and around, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Each cow
in this herd of 5,000 or so was milked at least twice a day. (Efforts
have been made to boost the schedule to three times per day, but
the results have been inconclusive. There is some evidence that
milking more than twice per day actually results in lowered production
- and higher labor costs.
There are those who claim, based upon much documentation, that
milk, as currently produced, presents a clear and present danger
to human health. These claims are summarized in a 1997 book, by
neuroscientist Robert Cohen, titled Milk, the Deadly Poison and
elaborated upon on practically a daily basis on a Web site (www.notmilk.com).
One of the principal targets is rBGH. Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH)
is a "natural" compound found in all dairy cows, but
the genetically altered version of this hormone has aroused the
ire of activists and more traditional dairy farmers. The r indicates
that BGH has been altered-and is short for recombinant, meaning
the compound has been combined with genes from other organisms.
In the case of rBGH, the combination is, unbelievably, with E.
The FDA, under pressure from Monsanto,
which is the developer and the patent holder of rBGH, and in response
to a scientific report compiled by scientists under contract with
Monsanto, declared in 1993 that milk produced with rBGH was essentially
"biologically indistinguishable" from milk with natural
BGH. The FDA ordered that milk produced without rBGH could not
be so labeled, and Monsanto has filed lawsuits against dairies
and dairy co-ops that have placed a notice on their milk products
that these were produced "rBGH-free."
There is little doubt that the injection
of rBGH increases the milk production of a dairy cow. There is
also little doubt that rBGH increases the likelihood of mastitis
(an infection of the udders and teats of the cow) and shortens
the productive life of the cow. Given there is a surplus of milk
in this country, the only advantage of a cow producing even more
milk is that owner of the dairy gets rewarded with greater subsidies,
and there is always a slaughterhouse market for culled cows. The
use of rBGH is detrimental to cows in large dairies but quite
beneficial to their owners.
The key word in the preceding sentence
is large: Small, traditional dairies don't use rBGH; the costs
are too high and the results mixed. These family-owned dairies
typically don't view individual cows as mere milk machines requiring
artificial means to produce as much milk as possible. Mastitis
is an ailment to be treated-not a reason to send the infected
cow to the slaughterhouse. Finally, traditional dairies tend to
be more concerned about the lifetime production of a cow, not
European countries employ what is called the Precautionary Principle:
When an activity threatens human health or the environment, precautionary
measures are taken even if cause and effect relationships have
not been fully established. This principle is applied when assessing
whether or not a newly created compound should be used. As much
attention is paid to determining the unintended consequences as
is paid to developing the compound. Unfortunately, in this country
the Precautionary Principle has been turned on its head: A compound
is to be used and released unless and until harmful effects have
been conclusively demonstrated. Under this standard, Monsanto
can continue to market rBGH and large dairies may continue to
use it unless and until studies demonstrate and prove beyond doubt
that it is harmful to human health. Monsanto is not about to perform
such studies. Neither is the National Institute of Health nor
any other public or private funding entity. And since there is
no proof rBGH presents a health threat, the CDC will collect no
data. There is not now, and likely will not be, serious scientific
inquiry into the harmful impacts, or unintended consequences,
of rBGH. Therefore, use of this genetically modified compound
In addition to rBGH, large dairies also
use antibiotics to increase production, even though a number of
peer-reviewed scientific studies have revealed that antibiotics
have no effect on milk production. While critical for treating
certain specific human diseases, antibiotics do nothing to prevent
or control the spread of such diseases. Indeed,(as I will be discussing
in much more detail later in this book) overuse of antibiotics
in livestock operations, including dairies, decreases the effectiveness
of these drugs in combating the very food-borne diseases contracted
from meats and animal products.
VEAL / MALE DAIRY CALVES
Veal-Don't Eat It
While there are a lot of questions about
the healthfulness of milk and the continuing controversies about
hormones and antibiotics, there is one thing the dairy industry
does that is beyond all doubt truly reprehensible ... Female calves
have the potential to develop into productive dairy cows, and
there is a subsidiary "replacement" industry revolving
around raising female calves, heifers, to replace culled dairy
cows. No such market exists for male calves. Semen to impregnate
cows to produce the replacements comes from a very few bulls selected
as sperm donors because of their genetic makeup, which, it is
hoped, will be passed on to their heirs. With artificial insemination
the standard industry practice, impregnating an entire herd of
cows requires a small amount of semen from an equally small number
of bulls, and hence no demand for bull calves.
The market for dairy steers is also very
limited. Angus and Hereford steers reach market weight much more
rapidly than do dairy steers, and these breeds, or some cross
such as "black white-face," animals with attributes
of both their Angus and Hereford parents, are the predominant
inhabitants of feedlots. As a result, there is very little to
be gained by raising a male dairy calf. It is simpler to just
kill male baby calves shortly after birth. Those who escape this
immediate fate are doomed to become veal. The life of a male calf
raised for veal is hardly a life at all. Veal has high value because
it is tender and pale and lacks the chewiness of steak. This tenderness
is due to a lack of muscles. The calf is contained in a tiny stall
in which any movement is all but impossible. The animal is tethered
and receives neither protein nor even iron in his feed. At the
slaughterhouse, the calf is bled out, so that no taint of red
enters the meat.
This, then, is how veal gets produced:
A [male dairy] calf is taken from his mother, placed in a small
pen, tethered so that movement is impossible, then fed a bland
no-protein diet. He becomes anemic and diseased. Then he is drained
of his blood and killed.
Thankfully, because public awareness of
this horror has led to a decline in demand and consequent reduction
in price per pound, currently around $85 per hundredweight or
85 cents per pound, and increased costs in producing veal, fewer
male calves suffer this horrible fate. ... there is ... simply
no way to produce veal without torture. If this book convinces
you of nothing else, let it convince you of this:
Don't buy veal. Don't eat veal. Don't
patronize any restaurant that has veal on its menu-and be sure
to tell them why (you are not eating there.
COWS / BEEF
"You start out on the kill floor, it kind of gets to you.
All those living animals, stunned, stuck, and skinned," explained
"Bill Buck," a slaughterhouse worker. "Then after
a few days and they just keep coming, you get to where they aren't
even living things anymore. They're just things. One after another.
They keep coming and coming and coming. On my line, we kill four
hundred an hour. If any of them puts up any kind of resistance,
this is just viewed as a frustration. Some of the guys take it
out on the animals. They hit 'em with crowbars even though these
aren't even supposed to be in the plant, they stick the stun gun
in their eyes, or they don't even bother stunning them, just hang
'em on the chain squirming and struggling.
"After a while, you don't even think
about it. You just do what you're supposed to do. But it gets
to you in ways that you don't even know about or think about.
Almost everybody on the kill floor goes down to the bar after
the shift. Some of them don't go home until they're so drunk they
can hardly stand up. Then they beat up their wife or their kids.
"They go home and treat their family
like they're on the kill floor. Or they get in fights. They go
to jail. After you've worked on the kill floor covered in blood
and gore, it's like being in combat. It gets to you." Bill
Buck stared into his empty beer bottle as if it contained answers.
What happens in a slaughterhouse is never
pretty: There is no way to make killing animals pleasant either
for the animals or for those who kill them. However, some ways
are more humane than others. And there are without question ways
to ensure that the meat products that come out of the slaughterhouses
and packing plants are safe enough to eat. It is not a coincidence
that more humane slaughter practices result in safer meat products.
It used to be that the slaughterhouse workers' jobs were completed
at the "sawing in half" part-then the sides of beef
were delivered in refrigerated trucks to butcher shops and supermarkets
for further processing. However, there are very few butcher shops
still operating in the United States and supermarkets want the
meats to arrive precut and prepackaged. So the slaughterhouse
has evolved into a disassembly plant, slicing animals into the
retail portions and packaging these for shipping and delivery.
Often what happens is that for a variety of reasons ... the animal
is not properly stunned and arrives at the station of the sticker
alive and kicking. The sticker will then attempt to cut the poor
animal's carotid artery but has to defend himself against being
kicked, butted, or bitten. This often prevents successful severing
of the artery and the shackled steer literally gets skinned alive.
More out of self-interest than humaneness, the skinners kill the
animal by means of a heavy blunt instrument. By this time, the
animal's hide has become covered with dung, some of which gets
transferred to the meat. A frightened animal-one that is being
slammed with a bolt, hung on a shackle, stabbed, and beaten-will
likely lose control of its sphincter muscles and quite literally
shit all over, emptying the contents of the digestive tract onto
the hide and the meat.
The Georgia Strait a large body of salt water, surrounded ( by
heavily timbered mountains, between the mass of Vancouver Island
and the mainland of British Columbia, While the strait occasionally
gets rough, it is nothing like the open Pacific Ocean. For this
reason, it has been fished by native peoples since time immemorial.
In the 1950s, over 5,000 commercial salmon-fishing boats plied
the glistening waters off the mostly protected coast of British
Columbia. Now the strait is "home" to gigantic salmon
pens, enclosures owned primarily by multinational corporations
that raise millions of salmon per year. As the salmon pens moved
in, the native fishing industry gradually declined until by the
late 1980s the corporations had taken Lover and the once-swarming
fishing fleet was all but gone.
... "We were told that the Atlantic
salmon in the pens would, one, never escape to compete with wild
salmon, two, never intermingle with the wild salmon, three, never
enter our rivers and streams, and four, never spawn. All this
was just flat untrue and all of these things that we were told
could 'never happen' are happening.
"Rather than protecting the wild
salmon stocks and the environment, the Federal and Provincial
Governments have devoted much time and attention to protecting
an industry that has decimated our wild stocks and has destroyed
the environment-and the local economy.
* The Atlantic salmon on the menu does
not come from anywhere near the Atlantic Ocean. It is a species
of salmon that originally came from the Atlantic but is now primarily
raised in gigantic fish pens in the Pacific Ocean. There are a
few pens in the North Atlantic of Scotland and Norway.
* The wild North Atlantic salmon is an
endangered species and afforded the protections of the Endangered
Species Act. It may not be taken for any purpose, commercial or
otherwise, and cannot be caught or served.
* The escape and survival of a few Atlantic
salmon from the Pacific pens-if 40,000 a year can be considered
"a few"-has led to crossbreeding and competition for
food with native Pacific coast salmon subspecies that may eventually
lead to the demise of native stocks.
* Rearing Atlantic salmon in these enormous
multi-tiered pens has created "dead zones" in the area
of the ocean under and around the pens as feces, excess foods,
and harmful feed additives stack up on the seafloor. Salmon pens
have also led to an infestation of "sea lice," which
prey on both introduced and native salmon stocks.
* Heavy metals and toxic compounds, including
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), are concentrated in the feeds
provided to the penned salmon and remain in the fillet on your
* To prevent the damage caused by pens,
a federal judge in Portland, Maine, essentially banned salmon
farming in Maine's offshore waters. The state of Alaska has also
banned salmon pens from its waters, in order to protect native
stocks and the Alaskan fishing industry.
This is in part the result of the multinational
corporations' takeover of the industry. In the case of salmon
farming, the industry is dominated by Norwegian and Dutch corporations.
The [salmon] pens or cages are located above water that is at
least 100 feet deep, a necessity since the pens are large. Each
pen is approximately thirty meters wide by thirty meters long
by twenty meters deep and contains up to 50,000 salmon.
... The salmon rely on food pellets for
their nutrients. These pellets constitute a concentrated diet,
designed to promote maximum and efficient growth. The exact composition
of the pellets at each operation is somewhat secret in nature
and considered a "proprietary" trade secret. However,
the Georgia Strait Alliance in a letter to the British Columbia
minister of agriculture states that the pellets are typically
composed of: "15% slaughterhouse wastes, 30% from grain crops,
and 56% from rendered fish, including significant quantities of
anchovy and jack mackerel from Peru and Chile." The pellets
are "shot" into the pens through plastic tubes. Some
companies claim to have underwater cameras that carefully monitor
the feeding to ensure that most or all of the pellets are consumed,
thereby minimizing loss of unconsumed pellets to the seafloor.
However, most companies rely on the appetites of the penned salmon
to cause them to efficiently ingest the pellets. It is to the
companies' benefit to ensure such efficiency, since feed costs
represent one-third of the costs of production. It is estimated
that overall costs now average about two dollars per pound.
Inevitably, however, some pellets are
uneaten and drift to the seabed, where they contaminate the area
and create a dead zone where no living organism can survive. Fish
pellets contain a high concentration of certain toxic substances
found naturally-at low, nonharmful levels-in almost all living
organisms. But when marine organisms (anchovies and other small
"bait fish") are "rendered" and concentrated
into feed pellets, the process also concentrates PCBs and dioxins.
The result, according to the BBC in a report on January 3, 2001,
is that the uneaten pellets fall into the sediments on the ocean
floor at toxic levels.
The ocean floor isn't the only place these
toxins settle. There has been considerable concern raised in England
and Scotland, which along with Norway lead the planet in fish
farming, that the pellets introduce cancer-causing toxic chemicals
into the flesh of the fish itself. Salmon eat the pellets, the
contaminants are stored in the fat and muscle of the fish, and
then we eat the fish, contaminants and all. According to a study
conducted by Michael Easton, a Vancouver geneticist, the farmed
salmon he tested had far higher levels of most contaminants than
wild fish. The farmed fish contained nearly ten times the toxic
load of some types of PCBs as wild salmon. Easton estimated that
based on World Health Organization standards for PCB exposure,
Canadians should not eat more than one to three meals of farmed
salmon a week.
After the salmon have been in the pens
for about two years, they are harvested. If all goes well, the
largest salmon will weigh about ten pounds and the smallest around
five pounds. The industry average is slightly less than nine pounds.
Salmon must be harvested prior to reaching sexual maturity, as
the meat becomes unpalatable at that point. Before being filleted,
the salmon are not fed for several days so that no material remains
in the digestive tract, fat is reduced, and supposedly the meat
becomes firmer. The pens are raised to concentrate the fish, which
are then collected in large baskets or removed by large "fish
pumps." The salmon are then "subdued," bled out,
gutted, and packaged in iced containers for shipping to distribution
Initially it was believed that ... escaped "Atlantic"
salmon were strangers in a strange land that would not survive
and certainly would not crossbreed with native stocks. Those beliefs
have proven to be false: Not only do some escaped salmon survive
and compete with wild stocks for food in the open ocean, but also
some have crossbred with native Pacific coast salmon. These native
stocks, as we all know so well, return, with increasing difficulty,
to the headwaters of the streams in which they were spawned. The
crossbreeding of Atlantic and native salmon produces a fish that
quite literally is confused-it does not know where it came from
and spends its sexually active time roaming the open ocean. Fertility
becomes nil in these fish, and an already-diminished supply of
native salmon is further reduced. Eventually, it is feared, succeeding
generations of native salmon will become even more infused with
genetic imprinting from Atlantic salmon, until there are no runs
up local streams.
These escapees also create another problem:
They are voracious feeders and compete with the wild stocks for
the smaller fish that make up the diet of wild salmon. While the
industry claims that only a "few" salmon escape from
the pens, these few add up to at least 40,000 Atlantic salmon
escaping from the pens per year. These salmon have no tracking
mechanisms to guide them to the streams of their birth since they
were hatched in a tank, but some have been found in inland freshwater
streams, where they compete with the native stocks for a diminishing
supply of foods and may even fertilize the eggs of native salmon.
Just as the U.S. government protects the interests of the swine,
poultry, beef, and dairy industries, the British Columbian government
acts as an advocate and a research arm for the salmon-pen industry.
This choice is, of course, an economic one-if these decisions
were based upon peer-reviewed scientific reports this government,
and the governments of the other chief salmon-pen nations of Norway,
Scotland, and Chile, would have banned the salmon farming industry
and supported more traditional means of providing salmon fillets,
such as has occurred in Alaska. But this provincial government
has typically viewed its bountiful natural resources as "open
for business" and has generally allowed various industries
to operate at will, extracting private profits from public resources.
Only after years of protests and a loud public outcry did British
Columbia impose any limits on logging the Pacific Coast rain forests,
even though the lands in question were in public ownership. A
similar outcry is necessary to protect the waters. Until recently,
opposition had not been well organized and certainly did not have
sufficient funding to influence governmental decisions. As it
stands now, according to critics, the British Columbian Ministry
of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries acts as a lapdog for the salmon
farming industry while ignoring the well-being of native peoples
To the astonishment of supermarket purchasing agents, consumers
are demanding such products. The free-range, humanely treated,
and organically grown foods are the fastest-growing agricultural
sector. Supermarkets are all about making money, and if money
can be made from selling free-range products or organic products
or locally grown products, then that is what they will offer.
Don't patronize a nearby supermarket until it starts offering
products from sustainable growers-and let the supermarket know
your reason for not buying its products. Ask supermarket managers
the tough questions:
"Where do you buy your pork, your
beef, your chicken? Are your salmon raised in pens?" 6-
"Did you know that hormones, antibiotics,
and appetite enhancers were used in growing these fish, hogs,
cows, or chickens?"
"Why didn't you buy from local growers,
who don't use this stuff? Why don't you stock wild salmon?"
Use the power of the pocketbook to convince
supermarkets that agribusiness meats are unacceptable...
... certified organic" milk means milk produced by dairy
cows that have never received any type of antibiotic ...
... the large agribusiness industries tried to amend organic certification
rules to allow some of their definitely nonorganic practices to
be certified as "organic." There was such an outcry
that the USDA had to give in and rewrite the proposed organic
standards by removing the offending sections. The secretary of
agriculture stated that there were more comments received on the
proposed organic standards than any other rule-making proposal
by the USDA. The offending sections would have allowed irradiation
of food products, application of human municipal sludge containing
all sorts of nasty things to otherwise organic crops, and using
livestock feeds that contained heavy metals and other dubious
Having failed at taking over the organic
standards, the industry, with the assistance of Rep. Nathan Deal,
R-GA, tacked an amendment onto a totally unrelated bill having
to do with Iraq and military spending that would have allowed
nonorganic poultry feeds to be substituted for organic feeds when
the latter was unavailable and the products still be certified
as "organic." Representative Deal admitted that this
was done at the request of a large poultry operation in his district.
While initially passing both the House and Senate, this measure
was repealed due to massive public protests to Congress.
Likewise, egg-laying companies such as
Rose Acre Farms are attempting to cash in on the demand for eggs
from free-range chickens. In midwestern supermarkets, Rose Acre
offers eggs from "free-roaming" chickens, but what Rose
Acre means and what the public understands are two completely
different matters. The Rose Acre chickens do not roam free on
grass and pasturelands but roam entirely within the confines of
a huge building, along with several thousand other laying hens.
In the minds of Rose Acre's public relations or marketing gurus,
free-roam means simply that the hens are not confined in cages.