[New York Times - opinion]
THE industrial production of animal products is nasty business. From
mad cow, E. coli and salmonella to soil erosion, manure runoff and
pink slime, factory farming is the epitome of a broken food system.
There have been various responses to these horrors, including some
recent attempts to improve the industrial system, like the
announcement this week that farmers will have to seek prescriptions
for sick animals instead of regularly feeding antibiotics to all
stock. My personal reaction has been to avoid animal products
completely. But most people upset by factory farming have turned
instead to meat, dairy and eggs from nonindustrial sources. Indeed,
the last decade has seen an exciting surge in grass-fed, free-range,
cage-free and pastured options. These alternatives typically come from
small organic farms, which practice more humane methods of production.
They appeal to consumers not only because they reject the industrial
model, but because they appear to be more in tune with natural
Opponents of industrialized agriculture have been declaring for over a
decade that how humans produce animal products is one of the most
important environmental questions we face. We need a bolder
declaration. After all, it’s not how we produce animal products that
ultimately matters. It’s whether we produce them at all.
James E. McWilliams is the author of “Just Food: Where Locavores Get
It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly.”
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