The Self Feeding Cycle


The meat industry is not something we, as consumers, think about very often. Most of us go to the grocery store and will pick up a flat of chicken or a pork roast as easy as you please. You look at the packaging, see the logo –probably of a farmhouse with a barn and silo– making you feel that the animals life is that of green grass and sunshine. The price might be good or bad, the market is an ever shifting thing, but you buy it anyways. 

You go home and make a delicious meal, but do you ever think about what the life of the centrepiece was. Now, be honest, do you ever think of this? I’m betting you don’t.

–I’ll be honest, until I started farming, I didn’t really think about it. I was a kid and took things at face value, I didn’t ask these questions because it never affected me. But now, seeing the differences, tasting the differences between the industrially raised meat and what we grow on our farm is an eye opener–

As consumers of the meat industry, most of us have this idea of farms as places of expansive green fields, red barns, towering aluminium silos, cows in the sunny pasture as chickens peck at the ground. Pigs roll in the mud to keep cool and eat leafy greens while the farmer, clad in overalls and a straw hat surveys his work as a herding dog snoozes in a patch of sunlight. 

This could not be any more inaccurate in the current industry. 

Today, industry farming has been transformed dramatically from this idyllic scene to a mass scale production where livestock is viewed as walking American dollars. The executives who sit happily on top of a mountain of money from this change only care to expand that mountain, but it comes at a price. Integrity

Firstly, the industrial farms nowadays are huge single story buildings with ventilation shafts and have lights with a certain amount of time allotted to them, but no windows. These animals never see sunlight, they never go outside, they never see green, and never eat green. They live in these ‘barns’ which are seldom cleaned to the point of what you would expect to be acceptable. Secondly, industry farms spanning to pork, cattle, chicken, fish and more feed their livestock corn. (Yes, the fish you get at the store have been raised on corn). The animals are fed corn, and only corn. This allows them to grow at a sufficient rate –if not sped up depending on the genetic make-up of the animal– but this also means that the animal is literal fat. 

Most of us think we’re eating meat when we eat meat, but really it’s just another version of processed corn.

This isn’t quite what you had in mind, is it. That farm scene is deteriorating quickly, and so is your appetite. Perhaps not, but mine is.


In the 1860’s, cities were the hubs of the economy in the US. People flocked to them for jobs that often paid too little and they had virtually no rights. The meat packing industry was one of them. These were jobs that often targeted the immigrants who didn’t have rights to begin with, and used their exploitive circumstances to their advantage. They were paid close to nothing for dangerous work. Sometimes workers would fall into the industrially sized grinders and get hurt, oftentimes killed, and just get put along the meat line like they were pork or beef. There were no health and safety codes or quality controls. Least of all, no one cared, in those days immigrants were a dime a dozen. If one worker was lost from the line a replacement would be found by the next shift. 

 Could you imagine eating another person without knowing it? Maybe eating a dead rat or two a week, but how could you tell when it was ground into paste. No one asked, they were just grateful that they could buy food. Like I said, the cities were poverty hotspots which almost no one got out of or found a sense of happiness in. Simply put, food was a necessity, the knowledge of what was a luxury. 

After Upton Sinclair’s book ‘The Jungle’ hit the shelves it sent shockwaves of realisation into the public’s eye. People getting killed, poor payment, rats and diseased animals in their food? No way! Well, it was true and the public wanted this rectified. Eventually this brought workers unions into the mix who backed the immigrants and protected them from the all-powerful company heads. 

Jumping to the 1930’s, having a job as a meat packer was seen as respectable and dependable. There was a steady pay and benefits, a union to speak with you if something was wrong. Health codes had been set in place and maintained. It was a desirable job, contrary to what might be thought. However, the new implements of farming such as mechanised tractors and planters meant that the job of raising food was sped up. Extending the amount that they could plant and tend to with these technologies meant that farmers could get more money. Farming went from a process of hard manual labour –which still continues into the present day– but now had been expanded. 

Today, animals are raised on these mass scale farms, and to make sure the profit exceeds the quality, many of these companies turned to immigrants or poverty stricken regions for their workforce. These workers, if they are illegal immigrants, or just immigrants to begin with, have no rights, or close to none. People who come from impoverished backgrounds have very little in the way of credibility or money to fight a legal battle, should the slaughterhouses be inspected or raided searching for illegal activity. This also means that the companies don’t have to pay them the legal wage, much less one that is earned for doing these tasks. Sadly, the ideals of Upton Sinclair have been swept under the proverbial rug for profit, and the meat industry has become the most dangerous it has ever been for the worker. 

Here is an example. 

Workers will normally work what ranges from an eight to twelve hour shift, which is regular in the industry. They will go in with knives and other butcher’s implements that are sharpened and cleaned –some workers have their own, some will use ones provided by the company, it all depends on what the company does– and take their place on the deconstruction line. This is where the conveyor belt starts moving and sections of the animal’s carcass are taken apart. Because of the speed at which the belt goes the workers are to make one or two specific cuts on the meat, be it to separate one muscle from another or to remove a bone, they do this one job over and over again. The motions will become mechanical after a while and the same muscles are worked, This causes physical stress and later pain. The speed and the expected quota of the line can also be dangerous. The belt can catch someone if they are not careful, but it is how little time there is to sharpen the tools that are used to deconstruct the animal. 

The line is so fast there is no time to sharpen the knife. The knife gets dull and you have to cut harder. That’s when it really starts to hurt, and that’s when you cut yourself.’ [5]” (Slaughterhouse Workers- Food Empowerment Project). This can be made dangerous furthermore by the quota, which if not met workers will be told to work longer. 

‘The last hour of a regular shift is hard. You’re tired and it’s hard to concentrate. Then they tell you to work two hours overtime. That’s when it gets downright dangerous.’ [7]” (Slaughterhouse Workers- Food Empowerment Project).

The worker is often put in these circumstances because of coercion. Many workers are poor or immigrants and the risk of deportation and jail time is something that they don’t want to see. So, they just keep going, waiting for the bell to ring at the end of their shift. 


For thousands of years people have been using selective breeding to create the crops and livestock that would be nutrient rich, grow the quickest and the biggest. These were all desirable traits, firstly because it fed the people, but this also meant more money for the producers. 

A particular type of chicken that most people are familiar with, but not by name is the cornish-rock-cross. This is a chicken created through the process of selective breeding, not genetic modification. One parent is a Cornish Hen while the other is a White Plymouth. These two birds were chosen for how fast they can grow, how much meat they produce, and how much they eat to get there. 

(Please note: The genetic pattern of these birds is for them to not have feathers that grow on the centre of their chest, stomachs or on the underside of their behinds. Many photos will show this feature and it can be mistaken –to the unaware– of having some form of skin malformation and disease, but this is natural and perfectly fine for the bird to physically express. This is not a result of any form or mistreatment.) 

Now, something you have to understand about the process of raising a bird is moderation and patience. Yes, it has been shown that you can raise a chicken to optimum mass and volume –three to five pounds–in eight weeks, minimum. But doing this has some consequences that the consumers are shielded from. 

Like most fowl of the industry farms, they are kept in the ‘barns’ that have no daylight, and can have multiple layers of housing on the same floor. A cornish-rock-cross, like most chickens, do feel the need to be active if they have the space to do so. Seeing as these chickens are kept in crowded conditions they don’t have the space to no, so they don’t. They will sit in front of the trough until feeding time, and all the birds will swarm these feeders in a frenzy. Some birds will get hurt, be it from beaks or claws, or even suffocation. Also, having these animals in such large ‘barns’ –which are really habitable warehouse-like buildings– the temperature control is hard to keep. If the temperature rises, birds will, firstly, begin to pant and give off excess body heat, but in such close quarters with minimal cleaning, the ammonia from their faecal matter will release gases much faster and in more potent concentrations. These birds may pass out from the heat and ammonia levels, and even die. This happens all the time, and is chalked up to what we now consider the regula loss numbers of industry farming. If it gets too cold the birds will huddle together and inevitably, a fraction of the birds will get sat on, or flat out smothered. Again, they are just the average loss numbers of the meat industry. 

Moderation is a huge problem that these factories will overlook for the sake of profit. The cornish-rock-cross like most other animals –even humans– that needs time to get used to its body weight and build up its strength to support itself. If this is not taken care of the birds’ hollow limbs –this is a naturally occurring thing for birds– will not be able to hold up the bird, and break. Their hips are also at risk of dislocation, which can enable them from moving at all. This can lead to the bird not being able to eat, drink or move when it relieves itself. It will die in this case, which often happens.

One would think that if the company was so interested in making money that they would do something to keep these numbers down, though, as I have told you, they don’t. But quality is not valued over quantity because the public doesn’t really know what they’re missing. 

If birds are raised with space to move around in, clean air to breath, monitored environmental variables, food that varies from fresh vegetables to grass –not the processed corn that they are fed– they live a healthier and oftentimes happier life. 


Putting all of these factors together; livestock living/feeding conditions, workers conditions, and the history of the industry itself and the idea of profit over quality, can show you that the meat industry is not as picturesque of a place as we like to think it is. It is a terrible and corrupt world, hurting more than just the livestock and the workers, but the public itself. This is the endeavour which we have put our finances and faith into, one way or another, creating a self feeding and inescapable cycle. Now we are stuck this way, and there are too many blocks, too many threats and examples of what can happen to those who retaliate against the more powerful and influential. Sadly, I do not see a way out of this man-made disaster. 


Source used: 

Slaughterhouse Workers- Food Empowerment Project (Article): 

Food Inc, (Movie):