Factory Farming in America

Month: April, 2014

The New York Time’s Coverage of Factory Farming

The New York Times has published sixteen articles on factory farming from late 2011 to early 2014. There was one article published in 2011 (on December 1, 2011), five articles published in 2012, and seven articles published in 2013. In 2014, there have been 3 articles published on the issue thus far.

In 2012, three of the five articles on factory farming in the New York Times were published in the first half of April, and four of the five articles were op-eds. Out of all sixteen articles, half of them imply crisis. Nicholas Kristof, a well-known op-ed columnist, wrote four of the sixteen articles. Three of the four articles by Kristof have questions for titles to engage his audience.

 The single article published on factory farming in 2011 was titled Dutch Seek Space for a Growing Appetite for Pork, and did not pertain to the United States. The article describes the development and early stages of factory farming in the Netherlands.

A Chicken Without Guilt was the first op-ed on factory farming published by the New York Times in 2012. The article compares factory farmed meat products to meat substitutes and imparts that advances in food technology help to produce more appetizing “fake” meats.

A second op-ed, Arsenic in our Chicken?, was written by Nicholas Kristof . The article focuses on a pair of studies by Johns Hopkins University scientists that suggest that poultry on factory farms are routinely fed caffeine, active ingredients of Tylenol and Benadryl, banned antibiotics and even arsenic. Although the specific health effects of such trace elements remain unknown, these studies raise serious questions about the long-term costs of factory farming.

Is an Egg for Breakfast Worth This?, also written by Nicholas Kristoff , reveals that modern egg farms are rife with abuse, disease, and bad sanitation. The article expresses strong support for new federal standards that will provide more and cleaner space for chickens.

photo courtesy of National Geographic

The last article from 2012 I will mention is Farm Use of Antibiotics Defies Scrutiny by Sabrina Tavernise. According to the article, scientists say there is a troubling lack of hard data on the relationship between routine antibiotic used in animals and antibiotic-resistant infections. Tavernise says farm animals consume 80% of the antibiotics sold in the United States. However, producers of meat and poultry are not required to report how they use the drugs.

Although there were seven articles published in the New York Times on factory farming in 2013, I will only be touching on two that imply crisis and two that don’t. The first article published in 2013 was Taping of Farm Cruelty is Becoming the Crime (emphasis on the word “the”). State legislatures across the country have proposed or enacted legislation making it illegal to secretly videotape animal cruelty at livestock farms. According to new ag-gag bills, animal cruelty isn’t the crime. Videotaping it is. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), these new laws represent an attempt to hide animal cruelty on factory farms in order to keep Americans in the dark about where there food is coming from.

The next article from 2013 I would like to point out is Tracing Germs Through the Aisles. According to this article, the scientific community broadly agrees that overuse of antibiotics on animals in factory farms is a major culprit for causing growing resistance to drugs.

photo courtesy of National Geographic

I briefly mention the article Rescued Hens Fly Cross-Country, No Flapping Required, to Fine New Lives, because it has the most positive title of all the articles published in the New York Times related to factory farming. The article says that 1,200 California farm hens, past their prime egg-laying years, were saved from being euthanized and flown on a chartered plane to Elmira, NY.

I also want to highlight the op-ed article Are Chicks Brighter Than Babies? because I wrote about the cognitive abilities of farm animals in a previous post. The interesting title of this op-ed, written by Nicholas Kristof, intrigues his audience and encourages people to read the article. Research shows that chickens possess more intelligence than many people previously assumed. Kristof believes that creatures of such intelligence should not be condemned to live in conditions that exist in factory farms.

There have only been three articles published by the New York Times on factory farming in 2014 thus far. The first, Chipotle Blurs Lines With a Satirical Series about Industrial Farming, was published in January. The article, which I mentioned in a previous post, covers Chipotle’s release of a four-part comedy miniseries called “Farmed and Dangerous” that satirizes factory farming.

In February, the New York Times published an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof that deplores the treatment of pigs at many factory farms, especially Iron Maiden Farms in Kentucky, where secret video footage taken by an employee reveals brutal conditions in which animals are kept. Kristof holds that cheap pork is not worth animal cruelty, overuse of antibiotics, and environmental pollution.

photo courtesy of Center for Food Safety

The most recent article in the New York Times on factory farming, The Unhealthy Meat Market, was also written by Nicholas Kristof and published on March 12, 2014. The title of this article surprised me because it isn’t a question like the rest of the titles of Kristof’s work. The Op-Ed examines detrimental effects of modern meat production practiced by Tyson Foods on both animal and human health, and the economy.


Factory Farming and Pollution

In November of 2011, Oprah Magazine published an article written by Kathy Dobie titled One Woman Takes a Brave Stand Against Factory Farming. The article focuses on waste on factory farms and how it makes its way into waterways, pollutes the air with toxic fumes, and has a negative impact on people and the environment.

photo courtesy of the Sleuth Journal

The title of the article and the article itself are pretty positive. The portion of the title that reads “Against Factory Farming” presents a clear position on the issue. At one point in the article, factory farms are even referred to as “the enemy.”

photo courtesy of Oprah Magazine

The article in its entirety is similar to a story, which interests people and makes them want to read it. However, there are too many unimportant details in the story that make the article extremely long. The length of the article may discourage people from even beginning to read it.

The article is about an ordinary woman – a farmer from a small town – who readers can relate to. On the other hand, Lynn Henning’s dedicates so much of her life to fighting against factory farms and has even helped start an organization and won a prestigious award; these three factors may alienate readers who believe there’s no way they could make that much of a difference.

In the article, the author quotes Henning:

“You’re not being told the truth about where your food comes from. This is affecting people across the country and [around] the world and it’s huge because this is our food supply, [our land, our water, and our air].”

The author included these statements in her article to invite her audience to question the situation and seek more information on the subject, as well as to reveal what a serious issue factory farming is. According to the author, there are 12 concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) within a ten-mile radius of Lynn’s home. These CAFOs house about 20,000 cows and 10,000 pigs between them, “which produce more waste than the city of Chicago. All within [a] small, rural area.” This information emphasizes the severity of the problem.

Halfway through the article, the author describes driving past a house where “waste is spread right up to a backyard with a swing set and a slide.” She also mentions that an elderly couple living across from a CAFO called Lynn to tell her they were contemplating suicide.

“Their well was contaminated, they couldn’t go outside, couldn’t open their windows. They had to wear face-masks. Their children wouldn’t visit because the stench was so bad, and they couldn’t sell their house because no one else wanted to live there.” According to Lynn, “they felt they were worth more dead.”

The author included these accounts with the intention of triggering an emotional response. She wants readers to feel sympathy for the residents of this small town in Michigan.

Overall, I have found that the goal of this particular article is to inspire readers to tale a stand against factory farming and do the best they can to help the situation.