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Factory farming !

Factory farming is the process of raising livestock in confinement at high stocking density, where a farm operates as a business — a practice typical in industrial farming by agribusinesses . The main products of this industryare meat , milk and eggs for human consumption. However, there havebeen issues regarding whether factory farmingis sustainable and ethical.
Confinement at high stocking density is one part of a systematic effort to produce the highest output at the lowest cost by relying on economies of scale , modern machinery, biotechnology , and global trade . Confinement at high stocking density requires antibiotics and pesticides to mitigate the spread of disease and pestilence exacerbated by these crowded living conditions. In addition, antibiotics are used to stimulate livestock growth by killing intestinal bacteria. There are differences in the way factory farming techniques are practiced around the world. There is a continuing debate over the benefits, risks and ethical questions of factory farming. The issues include the efficiency of food production; animal welfare; whether it is essential for feeding thegrowing global human population; the environmental impact and the health risks.

History

Agriculture adopted more intensive methods during the 18th century. With this growth in production best characterized by the Agricultural Revolution , where improvements in farming techniques allowed for significantly improved yields, and supported the urbanization of the population during the Industrial Revolution .
Innovations in agriculturebeginning in the late 19thcentury paralleled developments in mass production in other industries. The identification of nitrogen and phosphorus as critical factors in plant growth led to the manufacture of synthetic fertilizers , making possible more intensive types of agriculture.
The first animals to be factory farmed were chickens. The discovery of vitamins and their role in animal nutrition , in the first two decades of the 20thcentury, led to vitamin supplements, which allowed chickens to be raised indoors. The discovery of antibiotics and vaccines facilitated raising livestock in larger numbers by reducing disease. Chemicals developed for use in World War II gave rise tosynthetic pesticides . Developments in shipping networks and technology have made long-distance distributionof agricultural produce feasible.
According to the BBC , factory farming in Britainbegan in 1947 when a new Agriculture Act granted subsidies to farmers to encourage greater output by introducing new technology, in order to reduce Britain's reliance on imported meat. The United Nations writes that "intensification of animal production was seen as a way of providing food security."
In 1960s North America, pigs and cows began to be raised on factory farms. This practicethen spread to Western Europe. In Britain, the agriculture correspondent of The Guardian wrote in 1964:
Factory farming, whether we like it or not, has come to stay. The tide will not be heldback, either by the humanitarian outcry of well meaning but sometimes misguided animal lovers, by the threat implicit to traditional farming methods, or by the sentimental approach to a rural way of life. In a year which has been as uneventful on the husbandry side as it has been significant in economic and political developments touching the future of food procurement, the more far-seeing would name the growth of intensivefarming as the major development.
Advocates of factory farming claim that factory farming has led to the betterment of housing, nutrition, and disease control over the last twenty years. From its American and West European heartlandfactory farming became globalised in the later years of the 20th century and is still expanding and replacing traditional practices of stock rearing in an increasing number of countries. In 1990 factory farming accounted for 30% of world meat production. By 2005 this had risen to 40%.

Scale

Agricultural production across the world doubledfour times between 1820 and 1975 (1820 to 1920; 1920 to 1950; 1950to 1965; and 1965 to 1975) to feed a global population of one billion human beings in 1800 and 6.5 billion in 2002.
During the same period, the number of people involved in farming dropped as the process became more automated. In the 1930s, 24 percent of theAmerican population worked in agriculture compared to 1.5 percent in 2002; in 1940, each farm worker supplied 11 consumers, whereas in 2002, each worker supplied 90 consumers.
The number of farms has also decreased, and their ownerships are more concentrated. However, in the U.S. 766,350 producers participate in raising beef. The beef industry is segmented with the bulk of the producers participating in raising beef calves. Beef calves are generally raised in small herds, with over 90% of the herds having less than 100 head of cattle. Fewer producers participate in the finishing phase which often occurs in a feedlot,but nonetheless there are 82,170 feedlots in the United States. (NASS2010; http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/USCatSup/USCatSup... ) The major concentration of the industry occurs at the slaughter and meat processing phase, with only four companies slaughtering and processing 81 percent ofcows, 73 percent of sheep, 57 percent of pigs and 50 percent of chickens. This concentration at the slaughter phase is in large part due to regulator barriers that make it nearly impossible for small slaughter plants to be built, maintained or stay in business. Factory farming is no more beneficial to livestock producers than traditional farming because it contributes tothe overproduction that drives down prices. Through “forward contracts” and “marketing agreements,” meatpackers are able to set the price of livestocklong before they are ready for production. These strategies oftencause farmers to lose money, as half of all U.S. family farming operations did in 2007. Many of the nation's livestock producers would like to market livestock directly to consumers but with limited USDA inspected slaughter facilities livestock grown locally can not typically be slaughtered and processed locally. In1967, there were one million pig farms in America; as of 2002, there were 114,000, with 80 million pigs (outof 95 million) killed each year on factory farms as of 2002, according to the U.S. National Pork Producers Council. According to the Worldwatch Institute , 74 percent of the world's poultry, 43 percent of beef, and 68 percent of eggs are produced this way.
Europe has become increasingly skeptical of factory farming, after a series of diseases such as Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE,"mad cow") and foot andmouth disease affected its agricultural industries,yet despite these outbreaks there are indications that the industrialized production of farm animals is set toincrease globally. According to Denis Averyof the Hudson Institute , Asia increased its consumption of pork by 18 million tons in the 1990s. As of 1997, the world had a stock of900 million pigs, which Avery predicts will rise to 2.5 billion pigs by 2050. He told the College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley that three billion pigs will thereafter be needed annually to meet demand.

Distinctive characteristics

Factory farms hold large numbers of animals, typically cows, pigs, turkeys, or chickens, often indoors, typically at high densities. The aim of the operation is to produce large quantities of meat, eggs, or milk at the lowest possible cost. Food is supplied in place, and a wide variety of artificial methods are employed to maintain animal health and improve production, suchas the use of antimicrobial agents, vitamin supplements, and growth hormones. Physical restraints are used to control movement or actions regarded as undesirable. Breeding programs are used to produce animals more suited to the confined conditions and able to provide a consistent food product.
The distinctive characteristic of factory farms is the intense concentration of livestock. At one farm (Farm 2105) run by Carrolls Foods of North Carolina, the second-largest pig producer in the U.S., twenty pigs arekept per pen and each confinement building or"hog parlor" holds 25 pens. The company's chief executive officer, F.J."Sonny" Faison, has said:"It's all a supply-and-demand price question … The meat business in this country is just about perfect, uncontrolled supply-and-demand free enterprise. And it continues to get more and more sophisticated, based on science. Only the least-cost producer survives in agriculture." Faison states:
They're in state-of-the-art confinement facilities. The conditionsthat we keep these animals in are much more humane than when they were out in the field. Today they're in housing that is environmentally controlled in many respects. And the feed is right there for them all the time, and water, fresh water. They're looked after in some of the best conditions, because the healthier and content that animal, the better it grows. So we're very interested in their well-being—up to an extent.

Ethical issues

The large concentration of animals, animal waste, and the potentialfor dead animals in a small space poses ethical issues. It is recognized that some techniques used to sustain intensive agriculture can be cruel to animals. As awareness of the problems of intensive techniques has grown, there have been some efforts by governments and industry to remove inappropriate techniques.
In the UK, the Farm Animal Welfare Council was set up by the government to act as anindependent advisor on animal welfare in 1979 and expresses its policy as five freedoms: from hunger & thirst; from discomfort; from pain, injury or disease; toexpress normal behavior;from fear and distress.
Interior of a gestational sow barn
There are differences around the world as to which practices are accepted and there continue to be changes in regulations with animal welfare being a strong driver for increased regulation. For example, the EU is bringing in further regulation to set maximum stocking densities for meat chickens by 2010, where the UK Animal Welfare Minister commented,"The welfare of meat chickens is a major concern to people throughout the EuropeanUnion. This agreement sends a strong messageto the rest of the world that we care about animal welfare.”
Factory farming is greatly debated throughout Australia, with many people disagreeing with the methods and ways in which the animals in factory farms are treated. Animals are often under stress frombeing kept in confined spaces and will attack each other. In an effort to prevent injury leading to infection, their beaks, tails and teeth are removed. Manypiglets will die of shock after having their teeth and tails removed. This is due to the fact that painkilling medicines are not used in these operations. Others say that factory farms are agreat way to gain space,with animals such as chickens being kept in spaces smaller than an A4 ...
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