BOOK REVIEW: The CAFO Reader: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories

The CAFO Reader: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories

A CAFO is a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, better known as a factory farm. These industrial-scale farms produce most animal products consumed in the U.S. today.

CAFO collects essays from a variety of voices condemning the factory farm from animal welfare, humanitarian, environmental, and economic perspectives. Along the way, we absorb devastating little tidbits about what this out-of-control industry hath wrought: The states of Iowa and North Carolina each administer more antibiotics for livestock production than the entire human population of the US uses for medical purposes, editor Daniel Imhoff informs us. And in the brave new world of genetically engineering the hoped-for “perfect” production animal, GE goats are referred to as “transgenic production platforms” by one biotech company. In the factory farm, an animal is not a living creature, but rather a piece of biological machinery.

Although it includes veg*n writers, CAFO is not a vegan or animal rights book. Most of the authors explicitly support the raising of animals for food as long as it is done in a more natural, humane fashion. (Dan Barber’s fetishization of eating pasture-raised lamb bordered on the nauseating.) However, absent as it is of a vegetarian agenda, CAFO may be more palatable to skeptical omnivores.

Despite the increasing exposure the CAFO system is receiving, the quantity of meat eaten in the US has been steadily on the rise. In 2007, meat and poultry consumption hit an all-time high of 222 lbs per person, Erik Marcus notes in another essay. Convincing omnivores to make some changes in their food choices is essential if we wish to see the most egregiousness abuses end.

CAFO is an important contribution to the literature on food and factory farming.

(review originally appeared at


1 Comment (+add yours?)

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    Oct 24, 2011 @ 16:42:40

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