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US Farming: Two Views
Erica Barnett, 7 Aug 07
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The Factory Farm Map, a project of Food and Water Watch, is an interactive map showing the distribution of industrial-scale farms across the United States. In addition to breaking down the number of factory farms by state, the map further distinguishes between cattle farms, pig farms, egg farms, and fryer chicken farms--and allows you to overlay multiple categories. You can even zoom in on each state to see where the factory farms in that state are located, and find out more information about the history of factory in that state. Zoom in on Iowa, for example, and you'll learn that the number of pigs raised in the state increased from 13 million in 1987 to 15.5 million in 2002, but the number of farms declined precipitously, by 26,465. Click on Wyoming, and you'll learn that the state banned factory farms in 1997 after citizens complained about odors, flies, and water pollution. You can also find out the number of different types of animals being farmed by every state in the US, the ranking of all 50 states by how much they pollute, and the ranking of each state by how many factory farms it contains. (Iowa has the most, with 3,876; seven states, including Maine, New Mexico, and Alaska, have none.)

The site defines as "factory farms" those that meet the US Environmental Protection Agency's definition of a "confined animal feeding operation" (CAFO)--in general, these are farms that hold 500 or more cows, 1,000 or more hogs, or 500,000 or more broiler or 100,000 or more layer hens.

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These are, obviously, huge operations, with correspondingly huge environmental consequences; the potential harm to humans from polluted water, contaminated air, and a food supply pumped full of hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs has been well-documented. However, just as a wealth of information about climate change has led to widespread public awareness of and concern about the problem of global warming, so, too will more information about how, why, and, importantly, where factory farming exists raise awareness of factory farming as an issue that everyone should be concerned about.

The alternative, of course, is sustainable farming--farming with methods that do not harm the environment, animals, or farmers, and that support local communities. To promote sustainable farming (and show that eating sustainably is becoming an option nearly everywhere in the US), the folks at Sustainable Table are traveling around the US. Their goal: To demonstrate that "sustainable food from small, family farms is more common than we all realize." They'll be seeking out and blogging about sustainable farms and restaurants across the country, starting in West Hollywood and ending up at Farm Aid in New York on September 9. In an ideal world, I'd love to see Sustainable Table and Food and Water Watch create a joint map, focusing not just on the bad news of factory farms, but on the good news of widely available sustainable meat, dairy, and produce. (So get on that, would you, guys?) Many of their road-trip events will be open to the public; check out their very comprehensive schedule here.

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Comments

Of course, it's almost always even more eco-friendly to eat a vegan diet than to eat a "sustainably-grown" omnivorous diet. The other benefit to a vegan diet is that it shows genuine respect for nonhuman animals' lives and interests.


Posted by: Jason Ketola on 7 Aug 07

Of course, it's almost always even more eco-friendly to eat a vegan diet than to eat a "sustainably-grown" omnivorous diet. The other benefit to a vegan diet is that it shows genuine respect for nonhuman animals' lives and interests.


Posted by: Jason Ketola on 7 Aug 07

Of course, it's almost always even more eco-friendly to eat a vegan diet than to eat a "sustainably-grown" omnivorous diet. The other benefit to a vegan diet is that it shows genuine respect for nonhuman animals' lives and interests.


Posted by: Jason Ketola on 7 Aug 07

Of course, most of that "nonhuman life" would disappear as soon as we all switched over to veganism because there would be no reason to preserve lines of animals maintained exclusively for food (including the already endangered heirloom breeds). That and we'd all suffer from B12 deficiencies and artificial vitamin producers would take over the role of biggest polluters.


Posted by: Robinson on 7 Aug 07

Let's not compare apples to oranges here - it's possible to be vegan and unsustainable. All of this has to be weighed very carefully against the world we live in right now.


Posted by: Meep on 8 Aug 07

Growing of plant crops by commercial agribusiness can be every bit as environmentally destructive as animal husbandry. And husbandry can be done sustainably. The choice to be or not to be vegan has nothing to do with the issues in this study.


Posted by: Marc Goodman on 9 Aug 07

another nail... if you are going to extend your moral sphere to non-human animals - not in terms of their suffering, but in terms of their 'lives and interests'- why do you exclude plants? Also alive, also interested in remaining so. The only difference I see is that plants can't, *so far as we know*, suffer. If sustainable husbandry includes freedom from suffering, then they're square.


Posted by: Justus on 12 Aug 07

Yay vegan! Go vegan! The human body is biologically suited for a vegetarian diet. Milk is for babies and cow milk is for cow babies. In the scheme of life on earth, humans serve/rule best as vegan custodians. The human body is a vegetarian animal, not a carnivorous one or even an omnivor (both). As a species humans need to return to a vegan diet, safely reduce overpopulation, and go solar/wind hydrogen all the way.


Posted by: Sullivan on 13 Aug 07



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