Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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October 26, 2005 -- Number 40, Volume 5

Corrections: Farmed Animal Watch last week (#5-39) included the statement "fish and other invertebrates" when it should have simply read "fish and invertebrates." Fish are distinct from cephalopods and other invertebrates. The same article referred to two "recent" studies, when in fact one of the studies was conducted in 1991. Thanks to a FAW reader for pointing these out.

This week we are pleased to provide in full Chapter 1 of WorldWatch Institute's "Happier Meals: Rethinking the Global Meat Industry." The paper includes a detailed analysis of the animal welfare, environmental, and public health consequences of factory farming, and provides a robust critique of modern-day concentrated animal farming. The WorldWatch Institute is a US-based think tank that conducts research and analysis of global environmental, social, and economic trends. Our thanks to the institute for their permission to provide the chapter in full. For more on this issue or to order a copy of the full paper, visit the following a link:

"Happier Meals: Rethinking the Global Meat Industry," WorldWatch Institute, Copyright 2005

 Happier Meals: The Jungle, Revisited (Chapter 1)

Since the avian flu outbreak began in southeast Asia in late 2003, public health officials, farmers, veterinarians, government officials, and the media have referred to the disease as a "natural disaster," implying that it was impossible to prevent. But this highly virulent form of avian flu did not just happen. Instead, avian flu, mad cow disease, and other emerging diseases that can spread from animals to humans are symptoms of a larger change taking place in agriculture. Industrial animal production, or factory farming, is like a wave rippling across the world, swallowing up small farms and indigenous animal breeds and concentrating meat production in the hands of a few large companies.

The factory-farm method of raising and slaughtering animals has almost completely taken over Europe and North America. But in much of the developing world, including Brazil, Malaysia, the Philippines, Poland, and Thailand, the tide is just reaching the shore. Everywhere it hits, it is creating ecological and public health disasters, from emerging animal diseases, to air and water pollution, to the loss of livestock genetic resources.

Livestock are an essential part of human existence. They cover a third of the planet's total surface area and use more than two-thirds of its agricultural land, inhabiting nearly every country. [1*] The number of four-footed livestock on Earth at any given moment has increased 38 percent since 1961, from 3.1 billion to more than 4.3 billion. India and China boast the largest populations: India's cattle herd exceeds 185 million head, nearly 14 percent of the global total, and China is home to half the world's more than 950 million pigs. The global fowl population, meanwhile, has quadrupled since 1961, from 4.2 billion to 17.8 billion birds. [2*]

Nearly 2 billion people worldwide rely on livestock to support part or all of their daily needs. [3] More than 600 million people are considered small livestock producers, raising goats, cows, cattle, hens, and other animals. [4] And some 200 million people depend on grazing livestock as their only possible source of livelihood. [5] Livestock now supply 30 percent of total human needs for food and agricultural production, converting low-quality biomass, such as corn stalks and other crop residues, into high-quality milk and meat. [6] In the tropics, some 250 million livestock provide draught power as well, helping farmers work 60 percent of the arable land. [7] And livestock fertilize the soil: in developing countries, their manure accounts for about 70 percent of fertility inputs. [8]

Livestock are indispensable for income generation and nutrition in the developing world. They act as living banks, allowing farmers to use them as investments for the future or for quick cash in times of need. Livestock are also an obvious supply of food, providing eggs, milk, meat, blood, and other sources of protein to people all over the world. But the advent of factory farms is breaking the cycle between small farmers, their animals, and the environment.

As livestock numbers grow, our relationship with these animals and their meat is changing. Most of us don't know-or choose not to know-how meat is made because intensive production systems allow us the luxury of not thinking about the implications of factory farming. But meat production has come a long way since the origins of animal domestication. In a very short period, raising livestock has morphed into an industrial endeavor that bears little relation to the landscape or to the natural tendencies of the animals.

Meat once occupied a very different dietary place in the world. A cuisine based on grains and vegetable protein, such as beans, was not some "fringe" diet, but the way most people ate from day to day for much of human history. Beef, pork, chicken, and even eggs were considered luxuries, eaten on special occasions or to enhance the flavor of other foods. Recipes in cookbooks dating from the 1800s and well into the 20th century focus on stretching a small amount of meat over many meals. Instead of having bacon for breakfast, a hamburger for lunch, and steak for dinner, people reserved meat for Sundays or to celebrate holidays. But today, we produce and eat more meat than ever before.

Worldwide, an estimated 258 million tons of meat was produced in 2004, up 2 percent from 2003. [9*] (See Figure 1.) Global meat production has increased more than five-fold since 1950 and more than doubled since the 1970s. [10] Pork accounts for most of this production, followed by chicken and beef. [11] (See Figure 2, page 10.)

Meat consumption is rising fastest not in the United States or Europe, but in the developing world, where the average person now consumes nearly 30 kilograms a year. [12] (In industrialized countries, people eat about 80 kilograms of meat a year.) (See Figure 3.) From the early 1970s to the mid-1990s, meat consumption in developing countries grew by 70 million tons, almost triple the rise in industrial countries. [13]

Why the big jump in meat consumption? Christopher Delgado of the Washington, D.C.-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) attributes this increase in part to rapid population growth and urbanization, coupled with higher incomes in developing countries. These factors created a "Livestock Revolution" starting in the 1970s, similar to the Green Revolution in cereal production of the 1960s, says Delgado. [14] He notes that traditionally, whenever people have a little extra money to spend on food, they buy more meat. This "nutrition transition," as nutritionists call it, fuels greater demand for chicken, beef, eggs, cheese, and other animal products. [15] In East and Southeast Asia, for example, where income grew 4-8 percent per year between the early 1980s and 1998, population grew 2-3 percent per year, and urbanization grew 4-6 percent per year, meat consumption also increased 4-8 percent per year. [16]

And meat consumption is expected to only rise. IFPRI estimates that by 2020, people in developing countries will consume more than 36 kilograms of meat per person, twice as much as in the 1980s. [17] In China, people will consume 73 kilograms a year, a 55 percent increase over 1993, and in Southeast Asia, people are expected to eat 38 percent more meat. Even in Africa, demand for meat in the northern and sub-Saharan regions is expected to nearly double, from 2.4 million tons in 2004 to 5.2 million tons in 2020. People in industrial countries, however, will still consume the most meat-nearly 90 kilograms a year by 2020, the equivalent of a side of beef, 50 chickens, and 1 pig. [18]

As the demand for meat and other animal products increases worldwide, the methods of production are changing. Factory farming is now the fastest growing means of animal production. Although definitions vary by state and by country, factory farms, or confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are operations that crowd hundreds of thousands of cows, pigs, chickens, or turkeys together, with little or no access to natural light and fresh air and little opportunity to perform their natural behaviors.* These facilities can produce millions of animals each year. Industrial systems today generate 74 percent of the world's poultry products, 50 percent of all pork, 43 percent of beef, and 68 percent of eggs. [19] Industrial countries dominate production, but it is in developing nations where livestock producers are rapidly expanding and intensifying their production systems. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Asia has the fastest developing livestock sector, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean. [20]

The history of industrial meat production began in the early 20th century, when livestock raised on the open ranges of the American West were herded or transported to slaughterhouses and packing mills back east. Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, written a century ago when the United States lacked many food safety, environmental, or labor regulations, described in appalling detail the slaughterhouses in Chicago and was a shocking exposť of meat production and the conditions inflicted on both animals and people. [21] Workers were treated much like the animals themselves, forced to labor long hours for very little pay, under dangerous circumstances and with no job security.

The Jungle also predicted the rising influence and power of the meat industry. Today, just four producers control 81 percent of the U.S. beef market. [22] The same is true for chicken and hogs: Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's Pride, and two other companies, for instance, now control 56 percent of the U.S. broiler (meat chicken) industry. [23] Tyson Foods, which touts itself as "the largest provider of protein products on the planet," is the world's biggest meat and poultry company, with more than $26 billion in annual sales and operations in Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela. [24*] Smithfield Foods, the largest hog producer and pork processor in the world and the fifth-largest beef packer, boasts more than $10 billion in annual sales. [25] More than $1 billion of this is earned internationally from operations in Canada, China, Mexico, and several European countries. [26]

One of the first indications that livestock farming was changing came in the early 1920s, when Mrs. Cecile Steele, a resident of the Delmarva region of eastern Maryland, mistakenly received a shipment of 500 chicks, instead of the 50 she had ordered to boost the small flock of laying hens she kept for extra income. Rather than returning the chicks, Mrs. Steele decided to capitalize on her error by building a small shed for the birds and raising them indoors-not for their eggs, which she might not have been able to sell, but for their meat. (At that time, chicken meat was not an industry as such but a byproduct of egg-laying flocks.) After her chickens reached two pounds (approx. 1 kilogram), Mrs. Steele sold them for $0.62 a pound, a nice profit during the Depression era and a far better income than she earned from her egg business. News of her success spread quickly, and soon farmers all over Delmarva were imitating Mrs. Steele, positioning the region as the center of U.S. broiler production until just after World War II. [27]

Raising chickens in large numbers meant they could no longer be fed table scraps, and because they were kept indoors, they couldn't hunt and peck for insects. So researchers began developing specialized feeds for broilers. But they encountered a problem: chickens raised indoors didn't get enough sunlight to metabolize calcium properly, leading to rickets and other health concerns. Scientists quickly discovered, however, that putting vitamin D and cod-liver oil into the feed made it possible to raise the birds indoors, in sheds, all year long. [28] They also realized that adding antibiotics to feed caused birds to gain weight more quickly. [29] Eventually, producers had the ability to completely control the chicken's environment, from lighting and temperature to the amount of food.

Farmers everywhere could now raise their chickens indoors, but it took an entrepreneurial truck driver from Arkansas to further challenge the way the birds were produced. In 1936, John Tyson did something no one had tried before: he picked up a load of 500 chickens and drove them 1,000 kilometers north to Chicago, bypassing the local slaughterhouses. That decision, writes Stuart Laidlaw in Secret Ingredients: The Brave New World of Industrial Farming, transformed the poultry, pork, and beef industries in not just the United States, but the world. [30]

Tyson proved that chickens could be transported long distances "if the price was right" and broke the tight bond between local farmers and slaughterhouses. He also proved, according to Laidlaw, that slaughterhouses didn't have to buy the birds closest to them to get the cheapest price. [31] Tyson didn't stop at transporting chickens either. By buying up feed plants, starting hatcheries, contracting with producers, and building processing plants, he eventually created a system of vertical integration whereby Tyson Foods owns each of its millions of chickens from before they hatch to the day they're slaughtered. These technological changes made it easier to standardize chicken production and propelled the shift toward factory farming.

Tyson wasn't the only one interested in boosting chicken production. During World War II, nationwide rationing of red meat led to increased consumer demand for chicken in the United States. To fulfill the promise of "a chicken in every pot," retailers became interested in using genetics to improve poultry production, specifically breeding birds for their meat qualities. Breeders began to develop new strains of chicken that could produce a meaty, large-breasted carcass at low feed cost-in other words, a chicken that could eat less and weigh more. [32] Before 1946, it took an average of 112 days to produce a 1.7-kilogram broiler, with inputs of 13.3-22 kilograms of feed for every kilogram of weight gained. [33] Today, broilers eat less than half the feed and reach 2 kilograms in about one-third the time. [34]

But the picture isn't pretty. Factory-farmed laying hens look very different from the ones Cecile Steele and other farmers' wives raised in the 1920s. They are crammed together in small wire cages where they can't stand upright, spread their wings, or perform any of their natural behaviors. The life of a broiler isn't much happier, packed with thousands of other birds in a long shed with little leg or wing room. [35] (See Sidebar 1, page 16.)

Starting in the early 1960s, pigs and cows, too, began being raised on factory farms. Like the poultry industry, the pig industry is now almost completely vertically integrated in the United States. Artificially inseminated sows (female pigs) are kept in gestation crates that prevent them from turning around or performing most of their natural behaviors. Dairy cows, meanwhile, live their short lives in either indoor stalls or drylots, outdoor enclosures that can hold thousands of animals, typically with little or no grass, bedding, or protection from the weather. In addition to their feed, they receive injections of recombinant growth hormone (rBGH), a genetically engineered hormone that forces them to produce more milk. [36] Ironically, as livestock production increases in the U.S., the number of individual farms raising these animals is on the decline. In 1950, there were approximately 2 million pig farms nationwide, producing nearly 80 million pigs. Today, there are only 73,600 operations, raising more than 100 million pigs per year. [37] Government subsidies and cheap prices for corn have pushed much of this concentration, giving large-scale livestock farmers an advantage over their smaller-sized counterparts.

The influence of these companies on agriculture doesn't stop at the U.S. border, either. If The Jungle were written today, it would not be set in the American Midwest. As environmental and labor regulations in the European Union and the United States become stronger and more prohibitive, large agribusinesses are moving their animal production operations overseas, primarily to countries with less stringent enforcement. From China and Brazil to India and the former Soviet Union, meat is now a globalized product, controlled by a handful of multinational companies.

But the problems Sinclair pointed to a century ago, including hazardous working conditions, unsanitary processing methods, and environmental contamination, still exist. Many have worsened. The billions of tons of manure that pollute our water and air are effectively creating mini "agricultural Chernobyls," with the potential for even more widespread destruction. Meanwhile, the economic landscape of confined animal operations subjugates workers, local communities, and independent farmers.

 Chapter 1: Endnotes and References

1. Cees de Haan, Henning Steinfeld, and Harvey Blackburn, "Livestock and the Environment: Finding a Balance," a report of a study coordinated by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United States Agency for International Development, and the World Bank (Brussels: European Commission Directorate-General for Development, 1997), p. 8.

2. FAO, FAOSTAT Statistical Database, at, updated 20 December 2004.

3. European Commission, U.K. Department for International Development, and IUCN-The World Conservation Union, "Livestock and Biodiversity," Biodiversity Brief 10 (Brussels and Gland, Switzerland: Biodiversity in Development Project, undated), p. 1; Simon Anderson, "Animal Genetic Resources and Livelihoods," Ecological Economics, Special Issue on Animal Genetic Resources, July 2003, pp. 331-39.

4. FAO, "The Globalizing Livestock Sector: Impact of Changing Markets," Item 6 of the Provisional Agenda, 19th Session of the Committee on Agriculture, Rome, 12-16 April 2005, at

5. de Haan et al., op. cit. note 1.

6. European Commission et al., op. cit. note 3.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Figure 1 from FAO, op. cit. note 2.

10. FAO, op. cit. note 2.

11. Figure 2 from FAO, op. cit. note 2.

12. Data and Figure 3 from FAO, op. cit. note 2.

13. Christopher L. Delgado and Claire A. Narrod, "Impact of Changing Market Forces and Policies on Structural Change in the Livestock Industries of Selected Fast-Growing Developing Countries, Final Research Report of Phase I-Project on Livestock Industrialization, Trade, and Social-Health-Environment Impacts in Developing Countries" (Rome: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and FAO, 28 June 2002).

14. Christopher Delgado et al., "Livestock to 2020: The Next Food Revolution," Food, Agriculture, and the Environment Discussion Paper 28 (Washington, DC: IFPRI, FAO, and International Livestock Research Institute, May 1999).

15. Christopher Delgado, IFPRI, e-mails to author, March 2005.

16. Delgado and Narrod, op. cit. note 13.

17. Christopher Delgado, Mark Rosegrant, and Nikolas Wada, "Meating and Milking Global Demand: Stakes for Small-Scale Farmers in Developing Countries," in A.G. Brown, ed., The Livestock Revolution: A Pathway from Poverty? A record of a conference conducted by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Crawford Fund at Parliament House, Canberra, 13 August 2003 (Parkville, Victoria, Australia: The ATSE Crawford Fund, 2003).

18. Christopher L. Delgado, Claude B. Courbois, and Mark W. Rosegrant, "Global Food Demand and the Contribution of Livestock As We Enter the New Millennium," MSSD Discussion Paper No. 21 (Washington, DC: IFPRI, February 1998), p. 6.

19. de Haan et al., op. cit. note 1, p. 53.

20. FAO, "Meat and Meat Products," FAO Food Outlook No. 4, October 2002, p. 11.

21. Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (New York: Doubleday, Page, & Company, 1906).

22. Mary Hendrickson and William Heffernan, "Concentration of Agricultural Markets" (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Columbia, Department of Rural Sociology, February 2005).

23. Ibid.

24. Quote from Tyson Foods, Inc., "Company Information," at, viewed 27 July 2005; Tyson Foods, Inc., 2004 Annual Report, available at

25. Smithfield Foods, "Acquisitions at a Glance," at, viewed 27 July 2005.

26. Public Citizen, "Smithfield Foods: A Corporate Profile: The Story Behind the World's Biggest Pork Producer" (Washington, DC: June 2004).

27. David A. Hennessy, John A. Miranowski, and Bruce A. Babcock, "Genetic Information in Agricultural Productivity in Product Development," Staff General Research Papers No. 10340 (Ames, IA: Iowa State University Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, April 2003); $0.62 from John Steele Gordon, "The Chicken Story," American Heritage, September 1996, pp. 52-67.

28. Ibid.

29. F.T. Jones and S.C. Ricke, "Observations on the History of the Development of Antimicrobials and their Use in Poultry Feeds," Poultry Science, vol. 82 (2003), pp. 613-17; David Wallinga, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, e-mail to author, July 2005.

30. Stuart Laidlaw, Secret Ingredients: The Brave New World of Industrial Farming (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, Ltd., 2003).

31. Ibid.

32. Hennessy et al., op. cit. note 27; Gordon, op. cit. note 27.

33. Estimate of 13 kilograms from Hennessy et al., op. cit. note 27; 22 kilograms from National Research Council, The Use of Drugs in Food Animals, Benefits and Risks (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999), p. 29.

34. Mack O. North, Commercial Chicken Production Manual, 3rd ed. (Westport, CT: AVI Publishing Company, Inc., undated), p. 3.

35. Sidebar 1 based on the following sources: Ian Duncan, "Welfare Problems of Poultry," in G.J. Benson and B.E. Rollin, eds., The Well-Being of Farm Animals (Ames, IA: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), pp. 307-23; Laidlaw, op. cit. note 30, pp. 31, 52; United Egg Producers, Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg Laying Flocks, 2003 Edition, p. 13; J. Mench and J. Swanson, "Developing Science-Based Animal Welfare Guidelines," paper presented at Poultry Symposium and Egg Processing Workshop, 2000, available at; United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Statistics Service, "Chickens and Eggs: 2004 Summary" (Washington, DC: February 2005), at; Anthony Browne, "Ten Weeks to Live," The Observer, 10 March 2002; Gary Thornton and Terrence O'Keefe, "Housing and Equipment Survey," WATT Poultry USA, June 2001, pp. 38-47; feed amount from Richard Reynnells, National Program Leader, Animal Production Systems, USDA, e-mail to author, 26 September 2003, and from North, op. cit. note 34, p. 374; Consumers Union, "Presence of Anti-microbial Resistant Pathogens in Retail Poultry Products: A Report by CI Members in Australia and the United States," presented by Consumers International to the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods, 4-7 March 2003; John Webster, Animal Welfare: A Cool Eye Towards Eden (Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing, 1995), p. 128; "In Praise of Family Poultry," Agriculture 21 (FAO), March 2002.

36. For more information on how animals are raised on factory farms, see USDA, Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service, at; Grace Factory Farm Project, at; Humane Society of the United States, at; and Animal Welfare Institute, at

37. USDA, "Volume 1 Chapter 1: U.S. National Level Data," 2002 Census of Agriculture, available at

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Compiled and edited by Hedy Litke and Che Green, Farmed Animal Watch is a free weekly electronic news digest of information concerning farmed animal issues gleaned from an array of academic, industry, advocacy and mainstream media sources.