The goal of all people involved in factory farming is to make as much money as possible. This is achieved by keeping cost prices as low as possible and yields as high as possible (in terms of quantity) or by maintaining a semblance of high quality.
The strategy of keeping the cost price of animal produce low is used to allow for as much specialization and segmentation as possible in the various sectors of production. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing: the person who witnesses the birth of an animal, is often someone other than the person who sees the animal growing up and certainly someone other than the person who slaughters, processes and sells it. No particular party forms a relationship with an individual animal, there are simply too many of them and the duration of contact is too short.
In the pursuit of efficient ways of production, each facet of the life of a production animal is examined critically, with a view to economical gain.
This starts at the outset of the life of production animals. In the wild, a male and female animal meet and the male inseminates the female.
In factory farming, this process is speeded up by taking seed from the male and artificially inseminating many females simultaneously, through human intervention.
This saves many man-hours when bringing animal sperm and egg-cells together.
Then the birth itself. This is a risky time because young animals could be suffocated and there is the risk of infections being transmitted from mother to young. Where possible (in the case of pigs or double-muscled cows, for example), Caesarean Sections are carried out to prevent infection and loss of lives.
Then comes the rearing. The aim here is to have the young animal ready for slaughter or production as quickly as possible. The most economical way to do this, is to house the animal as minimally as possible and with as many of its own sort as possible. For many newborn calves and cocks their lives are over as soon as they have begun, there is no point in living on.
Animals are also kept indoors, in this way they are prevented from plowing up the meadows or flattening them. The advantages of a “clean” meadow are that the farmer can control the number of factors which determine speedy growth of grass for fodder. He can spread fertilizer without having to bother about animals in the meadow. He can also create silage from the grass as soon as it has grown high enough. The farmer also saves time by not having to bring and collect cows to and from the meadows to be milked.
Use of antibiotics in livestock fodder serves a double purpose: the animal grows quicker and animal diseases are prevented.
As only young animals are kept in factory farming, their physical condition is often strong enough to be able to conceal any effects caused by stress. They simply do not live (quite) long enough to display any symptoms caused by their living conditions.
Young animals are separated from their mothers as quickly as possible in order to increase efficiency in their care. Emotional bonds are ignored. Following a short period of emotional loss, the parents are prepared for the following pregnancy (or in the case of cows) for milk production.
Importing livestock fodder from Third World countries also saves money. Production of fodder in those countries can be done on a much larger scale and with less employment costs. The lower price is still there even when shipping and transport costs are taken into account. In our own country, land is much too expensive to be used for production of animal fodder.
Then animal slaughter. Animals are transported to those abattoirs paying the highest prices for the (still) live animal. It makes no difference whether this is at home or abroad. Transport out of the country is often attractive, due to the export subsidy. There is minimal consideration for the animals’ welfare, because the animal is going to be slaughtered soon anyway.
Then the meat and animal processing industry. Her interests are to earn as much money as possible for the process of as little expensive meat as possible in the product. This is why the product is processed with breadcrumbs, fluid, inexpensive meat replacers and flavor-enhancers so that the consumer notices a minimal loss of flavor or other changes.
Where eggs are used in the industrial production of bread or biscuits, for example, the manufacturer will chose battery eggs. The less you know, the better. A consumer buying eggs himself will be able to chose free-range or other animal friendly eggs in the supermarket. Large scale production and focus on export forms a dilemma for the consumer: when he puts animal welfare first, his product costs him more than when he purchases a product that has been mass-produced. By ignoring your conscience you save money!.
In his efforts to compete with factory farming, the West European (hobby) farmer wishing to produce on a small scale and in an animal friendly way, experiences extra disadvantages. As land in Western Europe is relatively polluted, the chances of harmful substances (such as cadmium or dioxin) being present in milk or eggs is higher than in the products of animals which are fed indoors with fodder from abroad. It would also be difficult to dilute or disguise harmful products at the processing or delivery stage, as they would not be absorbed in large scale production. Factory farming can also turn her disadvantages around to disputable advantages by keeping animals behind closed barn doors and by fermenting manure instead of leaving it in the natural cycle. In this way animal diseases, confrontations with the public and stench problems are avoided.
Finally, the language used by advertisers and image makers in communication with the public. Terms such as “sustainable”, “healthy”, “conscious” are applied to methods of production which, in fact, are the exact opposite of their original meaning.
So what should the conscientious consumer do?
Those wishing to consume animal products are faced with an unattractive dilemma. Food produced in a more animal friendly way is more expensive, but barely (or not )healthier.
It would be more interesting for the conscientious consumer to avoid consuming animal products as much as possible and to invest in preparation of tasty, vegetarian meals. These can be responsible, affordable, healthy and tastefully produced.