The CAFO Reader by Daniel Imhoff

51Rw4lNZHBL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Nonfiction — print. Watershed Media, 2010. 486 pgs. Purchased.

Subtitled “The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories”, this book is a collection of essays on the production of beef, pork, chicken, dairy, eggs, and fish in the United States. Essayists include Michael Pollan, Windell Berry, and Eric Schlosser.

CAFO stands for “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” and this reader provides some of the most horrific information and data about the mass production of meat in the United States. The picturesque label depicting happy cows frolicking in pasture is a stark contrast to the reality of cows standing knee deep in manure feed corn — not grass — none stop.

The more enlightening parts for me were the discussion of pigs being raised in CAFOs. There are several frank discussions about the protection of CAFOs actually infringes upon the American peoples’ rights to free speech. For example,  it’s illegal to photograph a CAFO in Montana and illegal to “disparage” them in thirteen states. Remember when Oprah was sued by Texas Cattlemen?

Even more interesting is the fact that the The states of Iowa and North Carolina each administer more antibiotics for livestock production than the entire human population of the US uses for medical purposes. This fact drives concerns about antibiotic resistance resistance both in animals and in humans much in the same way increased pesticide and herbicide usage has created pesticide resistance in insects and weeds.

There are more problems with CAFOs discussed in the book: groundwater pollution, overflowing waste lagoons, and labor issues to name a few. I’ll let you read the book and learn more about these issues for yourself.

Some essays were repetitive of others and some were better written than others. But I still learned quite a bit about meat production in the United States and was very glad to find a book that does not disparage eating meat. Most of the authors explicitly support the raising of animals for food as long as it is done in a more natural, humane fashion and I can definitely get behind that.

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