Unsentimental study of the dangers in how meat is produced and distributed around the world, particularly in the United States.
Silbergeld (Public Health/Johns Hopkins Univ.) may take a detached, academic tone toward her subject, but she has immersed herself deeply in the world of factory farms. Her reports from the “Broiler Belt” of Delmarva—the Chesapeake Bay intersection of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, where a substantial portion of the nation’s chickens are raised—paint a credible picture of a system that has spun out of control. The author steadfastly sticks to a middle path that is likely to displease both those who long to return to an earlier, pastoral model of agriculture and those who would like to see as little government regulation of farming as possible. Silbergeld argues that, whether we like it or not, agriculture has become an industry and ought to be treated as such, which means much more government oversight than is currently in place. As the author points out, the rapid increase in “chickenization”—a term coined by the United States Department of Agriculture “to describe the global diffusion of industrial methods of food animal production”—has caused a number of problems, including worker safety issues and the disposal of vast quantities of concentrated waste. Of particular concern, she feels, is the amount of antimicrobials fed to chickens and other poultry and passed along to the humans who eat them, leading to the creation of drug-resistant bacteria. She carefully unravels the history of adding antimicrobials to feed and makes a convincing case that they do little to prevent infection—cleaning the poultry houses is far more effective—and that they are “risking the loss of the crown jewel of modern medicine, the ability to prevent and cure deadly infections with antimicrobial drugs.”
An insightful book that should be of interest to anyone who eats food, animal or not.