One huge negative is the emergence of large industrialized livestock confinement facilities that produce eggs, chicken, pork, and beef. Because these facilities confine livestock in unnaturally over-stocked and overcrowded conditions the animals are unnaturally susceptible to the spread of diseases. To compensate for overcrowded housing the livestock are often routinely fed antibiotics. The economic pressure to quickly bring pork, chicken and beef to market encourages the managers of these facilities to administer hormones and other medications to their livestock that will cause them to grow more quickly. They are also fed unnatural diets high in concentrates, including GMO soy and corn that have been sprayed with herbicides.
The USDA and Land Grant Colleges in the U.S. have, by official policy, been encouraging the consolidation, industrialization and dehumanization of agriculture in the U.S. for generations. The goal is to increase efficiencies and reduce costs to make food cheap for consumers. Along the way they have put millions of community-based family farms out of business, ruined local rural economies, caused once viable farmland to be abandoned, and institutionalized unhealthy and cruel livestock and land management practices.
My point is this: These industrial livestock confinement facilities are not farms and the people who operate them are not farmers.These facilities are factories that produce eggs and meat on an industrial scale. The animals in these facilities are production units and have little or no opportunity to experience anything close to a natural life. Rather than enhancing the quality of life in the surrounding communities these facilities are often guilty of polluting and degrading the environment.
A true farm involves stewardship of land and livestock, a partnership between the farmer and his or her land and livestock. It is not an exploitive relationship. Farms also add to the economies and quality of life of the surrounding communities. Obviously, as with any business, there are good farmers and there are not-so-good farmers but that is a matter of style and personality. In contrast, the many negative management practices found on industrial scale livestock confinement facilities are critical to the success of those operations. It is institutionalized exploitation of land and animals - the exact opposite of farming.
When we allow industrialized agriculture to be called "factory farms" we give those operations cover behind the good name of farming and allow the public to be deceived. We also confuse true farmers who may think that because these facilities are called farms they must rise to their defense in order to protect their own way of life. In reality, industrial agriculture flooding the market with cheap food is the biggest threat to true farming, healthy food and farmers.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.