Factory Farming

Livestock which has been raised for human consumption or industrial needs is known as a factory farm. Factory farming relies on efficiency, profit and output at the animal’s expense. Most times, the animals are put into closed spaces with no chance of mobility. Factory farms are also known as concentrated animal feeding operations or industrial farm animal production. These farms rely on limited resources to produce meat, eggs and other products. Although it is considered an unethical process, there are no laws against factory farming. In some cases, factory farms find it easier to pay a penalty instead of shutting down their operation. Factory farming accounts for ninety nine percent of all meat and dairy products sold in supermarkets across the United States. Factory farming is a systematic process and uses the help of modern technology and depends on the global trade market. Since the animals are confined in one small space, it is important to account for the spread of diseases and their prevention. This is why antibiotics and pesticides are liberally used on the animals. An Animal Feeding Operation differs from a factory farm in the aspect of time. In an AFO, the animal is denied food for a period of forty five days whereas in a factory farm the time could be much more. In a factory farm, the animals are kept in a semi ventilated area where the food is brought to them rather than the animal being given the freedom to graze. Many animal welfare organizations speak out against factory farming.


Factory Farming Practices

In the United States, thousands of cows, pigs and chickens are raised for human consumption. Most of them thrive in states like Iowa and the Midwest. Many factory farming practices are unhygienic for the animals as well as humans. This is due to the ammonia and dust which gathers from the various processes employed on the factory farms. Unclean air can mean less ventilation for the animals that can contract a number of dangerous diseases. Other gases like Carbon Dioxide contribute to the ill health of the livestock and result in substandard meat and egg quality. The cells where the livestock is kept is usually dimly lit during the day and brightly lit at night. This ensures that the animal displays the wanted behavior and is raised faster for slaughter. Unnatural lighting tends to mellow the livestock down. Selective breeding is another process employed in factory farms wherein two animals of the same species are mated and raised because of their useful properties. The offspring produced is mated with another one to produce more offspring. Cross breeding is similar to selective breeding but in this case, the animals may not be of the same species. A major hazard of selective breeding is unnatural growth and pain for the animal. It may grow disproportionately and suffer many ailments along the way and even die. In other cases, even when the animals are healthy, they are given unnecessary medication like antibiotics and growth inducing hormones to ensure that should there be an epidemic, it will not spread and the output of meat will not be affected. A lot of the animals are denied care including voluntary death. This means that factory farms decrease the life expectancy of the livestock on it. Many male animals are castrated and surgical procedures are practiced on the animal to prevent them from performing any other functions than required.

Advantages of Factory Farming

Ina factory farm, the two things which are guaranteed are output and productivity. With the advent of technology, it is easier to produce more meat at lower costs. Machine maintenance costs are negligible compared to the profits which are made later. From the customer’s view, he gets a cheaper priced product. Since the material is easy to get, there is no shortage of resources and with many breeding methods employed, there is not likely to be either. However, one must be careful not to produce too much livestock since it will result in inferior meat quality which might not appeal to the consumer. Another advantage of factory farming from the socio economical aspect is that it gives job opportunities to many people who need jobs. Farms need a lot of manual labor which means people will be needed to execute daily functions on the farm. This provides them with means to survive and support themselves in the growing economy. There are many jobs available on factory farms such as breeding, machine handling, meat processing, and canning among others. All of them are low skill, high demand jobs which allow even uneducated people to work. Sometimes people are also trained in order to carry out the specific tasks required of them in order to work on the farm. Meat is consumed on almost a daily basis in many countries. Most of this meat comes from a factory farm. These farms provide the raw materials for the processed or fresh meat which is later sold in supermarkets and stores. The output from a factory farm is far greater than any other processing plant. It prevents food shortage. One may not think that factory farming is a part of community service, but it does help in bringing people closer together. It helps in the improvement of roads, hospitals and other amenities required for transport and production purposes.

Disadvantages of Factory Farming

Animal cruelty is a major disadvantage in factory farms. Many animal welfare organizations have spoken out against factory farms, which in turn has affected the production of meat in some countries. The animals are denied basic rights like veterinarian care and deprived of being in their natural habitats which can lead to a shortened life span. Many people look down on factory farming and deem it unethical. Although true to a certain extent, it is a means of providing food for people. Some of the meat can turn out to be inferior quality because the animals suffer from diseases. This can spread to other animals and result in low productivity on the farm. In addition to animal cruelty there is a huge risk to human health. Consuming excess organic meat can lead to a spread in human epidemics. The human and animal immune system differs greatly. For example a horse may be immune to chickenpox but a human is not. Similarly when meat is consumed from a certain animal, there is a chance that if an epidemic has spread and that animal has contracted the disease, it will spread across the human body. In addition to animal cruelty and potential human health hazards, the pollution produced by a factory farm is another reason why organic farming is not extremely popular. It contributes to global warming and the smog is a great disadvantage as well. Carbon monoxide fumes are formed which is dangerous for not only humans but the animals as well. Finally, the meat is not natural meat. In a factory farm, many chemicals and antibiotics are administered to the animal to prevent diseases and to fatten them up. Therefore consuming organic meat on a regular basis can be extremely unhealthy.

Factory Farming Equipment

Many concentrated animal feeding operation facilities use fertilizer and other natural resources. For this, natural gas is used in liberal quantities. Natural gas is a fossil fuel made of burning dead plants and animals. Natural gas comes in the form of chemical energy and cannot be reused. Many factory farms use natural gas out of the animals that perish on the farm. It is used to fuel the machinery such as processors and the other factory equipment. Natural gas is also used to make fertilizer for the farm in addition to natural fertilizers like cow dung. Most of the feed on factory farms is fertilized and chemically treated so that the growth spurt in the animals being fed is faster. Crop irrigation is another aspect in which machinery is required. In order to reach a high level of productivity, the crops need to grow much faster than their regular rate. To do so, they are genetically modified. The water is also used as drinking water for the animals on the farm. Electricity and petrol are other supplements used for tractors and vehicles on the farm. Tractors and other vehicles provide the transport of various animals to and from the farm and the meat to the processing factories. They also help in transporting the large amount of feed. For them to be able to work efficiently large amounts of diesel and fuel are needed. The meat processing is one of the most important functions of a factory farm. Conveyor belts and other machines help make the raw meat consumable by purifying it to a certain extent. Certain precautions need to be taken while handling the equipment on a factory farm otherwise it can result in many work related accidents.

Types of Animals on Factory Farms

Generally it is chickens and cattle which are raised for animal feeding operations. Till the 1960s it was believed that the main product given by chickens were eggs, and meat was just a byproduct for the same. A lot of the time chickens found their own food and were not force fed. Poultry farming only started in the early 1970s when it became popular to serve whole chickens on the table for special occasions. The chicken was delivered dead and plucked with internal organs intact. Chickens on a poultry farm are either spring chickens or slewing hens. Spring chickens are those which have the potential to lay eggs and provide meat and slewing hens only provide meat since their time for laying eggs has passed. The average amount of eggs laid is about three hundred eggs per chicken per year. The hens are generally killed after the second round of egg laying. Old hens have little or no commercial value. Cattle is raised for products like meat, dairy and leather. Sometimes they are used to pull carts and equipment around the farm. In many animal feeding farms cattle go through processes like ear tagging, hoof care, dehorning and other medical operations to make them less dangerous. They are often grazed on a pasture and milked on a daily basis. They are trained and broken in to display desired behavior. Once the cattle reach their desired weight, they are taken to the processing plant and prepared for slaughter. The specialized feed consists of genetically modified corn and has chemicals and antibiotics. Selective breeding also helps in the reduction of spread of any disease contracted by the cattle.

Animal Cruelty in Factory Farming

Most misconceptions of animal farming include those of barnyards and peaceful open fields. However, in an intensive animal feeding operation, the animals are confined to closed spaces which are generally darkened. They are not given the opportunity to breed naturally and live in their natural habitats. Broiler chickens are those with big breasts. Oftentimes these chickens cannot support their own weight and end up falling or breaking their legs. Debeaking starvation is common among chicken feeding operations and they inhale ammonia on a daily basis. Common diseases include osteoporosis, blindness, heart attacks and cancer. Layer hens have it much worse than any other animals. There is a conveyor belt which transports newborn chickens to another part of the factory. Males and females are segregated. The males are killed right away by decapitation, live grounding or slaughtering whereas females are debeaked and kept in confined spaces. They are kept in battery cages which are made of barbed wire or extremely uncomfortable wire which cuts their skins and causes diseases like tetanus. Approximately one in five die of stress and disease whereas the others are ground up and used as feed for the other animals on the farm. Turkeys, like chickens, are also debeaked and kept in confined spaces. Turkeys are often unable to reproduce naturally and their breasts are enlarged due to feeding operations which means their bodies cannot support their weight. The turkeys are also placed on a conveyor belt and sorted. Some may fall off and die. Cattle fall into the category of dairy cows, dairy calves and veal calves. Many times they are castrated, dehorned and waddled. Waddling is a process by which large chunks of hide are removed in order for the farmers to be able to identify their cattle. Most of these surgical procedures are done without anesthesia. Cows tend to suffer from respiratory disease, eye diseases and cancer as well. For dairy cows and calves, the milking equipment used cuts them and can also result in death; they are made to produce up to ten times as much milk as they would normally produce. Most times after the calf is born, it is separated from its mother and the milk intended to feed the calf is used for pasteurizing milk. Veal calves are slaughtered young and never see the light of day.


Animal farming is a cruel way of producing meat and many animal welfare organizations have spoken out against it and created campaigns to stop the widespread operations of animal feeding farms. It is seen as a means of generating revenue at the animal’s expense. Many times it is cattle and chickens which are raised for meat and other products but they can also include pig, turkeys, and fish. Most animals on feeding farms have short lives. The main agenda of factory farming is output and efficiency. Many times, factory farms require large amounts of investment where the return on it is uncertain. Farmers may work on animal feeding farms on a contractual basis. Oftentimes animals are maltreated on the farm. In the case of chickens, debeaking and castration is common. With cows, they are also castrated, dehorned and milked for their product with little regard for their comfort. Much of the feed given to the animals is genetically modified and many surgical procedures are done without anesthesia. In brief, animal farming is unethical in terms of animal treatment. However, on the flipside, it is a cheap and efficient way or producing meat for local and international consumption. The debate on animal farming has been a long ongoing one and will continue to be so.


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