What would happen if the United States banned factory farming?

Memories often crystallize around food. Family rendered immobile by Sunday afternoon mac and cheese; warm pecan pie topped with melting ice cream on a crispy night; burgers hanging in buns from a tailgate before the big game; pulled pork dropping from steaming carnitas devoured in a bustling market; parents gathered around a sparkling turkey on the Thanksgiving table.

Meat, dairy, and eggs—in fact, the whole gamut of animal foods—are woven into the fabric of American life and have been for as long as most can remember. But what’s on our plates will change dramatically when industrial agriculture is taken off the table, a once unthinkable scenario that could soon become reality.

A 2017 survey of US attitudes toward animal husbandry showed that almost half of American adults support banning intensive or “industrial” agriculture, a figure that would surely become a majority if the scale and horror of the industry were fully understood. While it’s tempting to imagine factory farming as an aberration, something far removed from cozy images of green fields filled with happy cows, the bare fact is that much of the food at the heart of our treasured memories, traditions and daily lives are born from intensive farming. Agriculture. Although pasture-raised animals are more visible, spreading through nearly 35 percent of the total land area of ​​the contiguous United States, 99 percent of all farm animals in the United States are held in approximately 250,000 industrial farms Across the country. Already of an almost unfathomable scale, these operations are only increasing in number and scale.

Number of New factory farms (often referred to as concentrated animal feed operations or CAFOs) in the United States grew from 18,000 to 20,000 between 2011 and 2017. Also, their size has increased along with their number. Included between 2012 and 2017, the number of animals on factory farms increased by 190 million, with an increase in the average number of all animal categories except beef cattle. And that growth doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

The pervasive expansion of factory farming is a clear indicator of how products from intensively raised animals dominate our plates, especially in developed countries like the United States (and increasingly in developing countries). fast growing like China and Brazil). The richer the country, the more animals he consumes. In 2014, the global average meat consumption per person was 95 pounds. In the United States, the figure was 220 pounds. From 2020the figure is 264 pounds per person.

Apart from the direct and brutal impact on the billions of animals processed for food in the United States, factory farming practices are well known to have devastating effects on the environment as good as Human health and well-being. Factory farming destroyed rural communitiestargets immigrantsand disproportionately affects poor and minority communities. In the facilities themselves, workers in the United States are three times more likely to sustain a serious injury than average, making meat processing plants one of the The most dangerous industries in the United States

While factory farms are seemingly unavoidable, the conversation about shutting them down is gaining momentum. As the overwhelming scale and evils of animal agriculture become more widely known, a once-unthinkable ban on factory farming enters the realm of possibility. In addition, the emergence of the novel coronavirus pandemic has Underline the serious public health risk associated with factory farms and the pandemic fueled supply chain disruptions which has resulted in many animal processing plants closing or operating at reduced capacity.

There is a political appetite to end factory farms. In 2020, Senator Elizabeth Warren announcement she would co-sponsor Cory Booker’s bill to phase out large-scale factory farming by 2040. The Farm System Reform Act would ban new large factory farms from going into business and force others to stop their expansions before shutting down operations entirely within two decades. In late 2021, the San Francisco Legislature passed a resolution support a moratorium on the construction and expansion of animal feed operations. On the other side of the Atlantic, a legal attempt to get the UK government to phase out factory animal farming is underway.

Changing consumer preferences also have an impact. Thousands of Americans dairies closed as milk consumption plummeted. Indeed, the collapse of dairy and beef farming has also been predicted happen as early as 2030 by RethinkX, an independent think tank that analyzes the speed and scale of disruption to propel the demise of these industries.

There are growing examples of people formerly inside the US animal agriculture industry changing course. New York Dairy Elmhurst abandoned cow’s milk after 90 years and switched to plant-based milk production in 2017. Former cattle and dairy farmer Harold Brown changed not because of demand or the impact of the pandemic, but because of a change of heart. Now a vegan activist and founder of farm typeBrown has developed an online resource that invites people to explore the interrelationships of food, environment and animals. Howard Lyman is a fourth-generation cattle rancher who converted a small organic dairy farm into a massive industrial farming operation before suffering a health crisis that prompted him to go vegan, a turning point that saw him turn his ranch into a sanctuary wildlife.

What complicates the case for ending factory farming is that the need to reduce the demand for animal products is a dominant scientific point of view. Additionally, we know that plant-based diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle including pregnancy, breastfeeding, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and athletes. Only a significant reduction in the consumption of meat and dairy products will allow us to offer a sustainable food system adapted to a future in which we are already trying to mitigate the worst effects of a climate crisis well underway.

As the end of factory farming and the mass adoption of plant-based diets loom, proponents of animal agriculture continue to offer “solutions” that do little more than replace a form of animal exploitation. by another. The idea that hunting, for example, is the answer to life beyond factory farming is a fantasy. In the United States there are not enough wild animals to feed everyone, and the demand would far outstrip the supply. The increase in the number of pasture-raised animals is untenable too much. Pasture-based livestock has much lower yields, in part because this type of animal production takes up much more space than factory farms and would require much more land clearing, and demand would again exceed supply. Eating different animals doesn’t help either, as it’s been proven that abstaining from eating one type of animal while switching to another would reduce demand in one area while increasing or maintaining it overall.

The move towards a predominantly or entirely plant-based diet is the only viable alternative solution to the multitude of problems caused by animal husbandry and the inevitable outcome of the demise of factory farming. With the abandonment of the use of animals, individual consumption would approach science Planetary Health Plan. This suggests massive reductions in meat consumption in Western countries and radical changes in sugar and oil consumption around the world and would result in 84% less red meat and six times more beans and lentils. on American plates.

Consumers around the world are already adopting a wide range of plant-based foods. With more options than ever to replace staples and new products constantly emerging, meat (and other animal products on your plate) can become cultured or “clean” meat. The same time, milk from stem cells will take its place alongside the explosion of the market for herbal meat and dairy substitutes.

A national shift to plant-based agriculture would dramatically change what’s on our plates. Less (or no) animal products, with many more vegetables, legumes, grains and an ever-growing range of plant-based meat, dairy and egg alternatives.

While most people may at first be unable to imagine a world without fried eggs, dairy ice cream and turkey roasts, a post-factory agricultural future would not be devoid of edible pleasures. It is possible for us not only to survive, but also to thrive without factory farming, reaping the benefits for animals, consumers, workers and ecosystems.

Perhaps in 2030 we will see families immobilized by cashew mac and cheese; crispy nights filled with warm pecan pies topped with fudgy oatmeal ice cream; Beyond Burgers jostling for space with vegan beers on a tailgate that lifts as the game looms; cultured pulled pork falling from the steaming carnitas of the market stalls. The family always gathers around a sparkling turkey on Thanksgiving, of course, this one made out of plants and indistinguishable from the “real thing” to anyone (including the grandparents).

As the transition to plant-based agriculture made by former ranchers like Harold Brown and Howard Lyman shows, people who lived off industrial agriculture are making sweeping and inspiring shifts away from harmful practices to better align with their values. and consumer demand. If individuals more deeply invested in animal agriculture than most of us can bring such change to their daily reality, there is hope for individuals to act in step with political change, making our precious memories all the richer, with what is on our plates proof that we have relegated the horrors of factory farming to history.

About Keneth T. Graves

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