Eating Animals Part 5



BACK BAY BOOKS                       2009


Chapter 4: Hiding/Seeking (Cont.)

3. I am a factory farmer

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a retired farmer. I started milking cows when I was six. We lived in Wisconsin. My daddy had a small herd – fifty, give or take – which back then was pretty typical. I worked every day until I left home, worked hard. I thought I’d had enough of it at that point, thought there must be a better way.

After high school, I got a degree in animal science and went to work for a poultry company. I helped service, manage, and design turkey breeder farms. Bounced around some integrated companies after that. I managed large farms, a million birds. Did disease management, flock management. Problem solving, you could say. Farming is a lot of problem solving. Now I specialize in chicken nutrition and health. I’m in agribusiness. Factory farming, some people might say, but I don’t care for the term.

  • The price of food hasn’t increased in the past 30 years. The model now for a viable farm is 1200 cows, with 4 or 5 employees.
  • In response to the economic squeeze you gotta make an animal produce more at a lower cost. You breed for faster growth and improved feed conversion.
  • It’s assumed that if you have 50,000 broilers in a shed, thousands will die in the first weeks –4% right off the bat.
  • If you find someone who tells you he has a perfect system to feed billions and billions of people, you should take a careful look. You hear about free-range eggs and grass-fed cattle, and all that’s good. But it ain’t gonna feed the world.
  • High-yield farming has allowed everyone to eat. If we go away from it, it may improve the welfare of the animal, it may even be better for the environment, but I don’t want to go back to China in 1918. I’m talking about starving people.
  • You could say that people should eat less meat, but people don’t want to eat less meat. You can be like PETA and pretend that the world is going to wake up tomorrow and realize that they love animals and don’t want to eat them anymore, but history shows that people can love animals and eat them.
  • The American farmer has fed the world. People never had the ability to eat like they can now. Protein has never been more affordable.
  • My animals are protected from the elements, get all the food they need, and grow well. Animals in nature starve to death or are ripped apart by other animals. That’s how they die.
  • It’s consumers who tell farmers what to grow. They’ve wanted cheap food. We’ve grown it.
  • It’s cheaper to produce an egg in a massive laying barn with caged hens. It’s more efficient and that means it’s more sustainable. Yes, I’m saying that factory farming can be more sustainable, though I know that word is used against the industry. Do you think family farms are going to sustain a world of ten billions?

·         In the eighties, the industry tried to communicate with animal groups, and we got burned real bad. So the turkey community decided there would be no more of it. We put up a wall, and that was the end.

·         We don’t talk, don’t let people onto the farms.  PETA doesn’t want to talk about farming. They want to end farming. They have absolutely no idea how the world actually works.

·         Can I make a suggestion to you? Before you rush off trying to see everything you can, educate yourself. Don’t trust your eyes. Trust your head. Learn about animals, learn about farming and the economics of food, learn the history. Start at the beginning.


5. I am the last poultry farmer

  • My name is Frank Reese and I’m a poultry farmer. It’s what I’ve given my whole life to. Having been around turkeys for almost 60 years, I know their vocabulary.
  • A lot of people slow down when they pass my farm. Get a lot of schools and churches and 4-H kids. I get kids asking me how a turkey got in my trees or on my roof. I tell ‘em, “He flew there!”
  • Turkeys used to be raised like this by the millions in America. Now mine are the only ones left, and I’m the only one doing it this way.
  • Not a single turkey you can buy in a supermarket could walk, much less jump or fly. They can’t even have sex. Not the antibiotic-free, or organic, or free-range, or anything.
  • They all have the same foolish genetics, and their bodies won’t allow for it anymore.
  • These animals literally can’t reproduce naturally. Tell me what could be sustainable about that?
  • My turkeys all have their toenails; they all have their wings and beaks – nothing’s been cut off; nothing’s been destroyed.
  • We don’t vaccinate, don’t feed antibiotics. No need to. Our birds exercise all day. Because their genes haven’t been messed with, they have naturally strong immune systems.
  • We never lose birds. If you can find a healthier flock, anywhere in the world, take me to it and then I’ll believe you.
  • What the industry has figured out – and this was the real revolution – is that you don’t need healthy animals to make a profit. Sick animals are more profitable. The animals have paid the price for our desire to have everything available at all times for very little money.
  • We never needed biosecurity before. Look at my farm. Anyone who wants to can visit, and I wouldn’t have a second thought about taking my animals to shows and fairs.
  • I tell people to visit an industrial turkey farm. You’ll smell it before you get there. These big turkey factories have incinerators to burn all the turkeys that die everyday.
  • When the industry sends turkeys off to be processed, it knows and accepts that it’s gonna lose 10% to 15% of them in transport. My DOA rate this Thanksgiving was zero.
  • Why are entire flocks of industrial birds dying at once? And what about the people eating those birds? The local paediatrician was telling me he’s seeing all kinds of illnesses that he never used to see.
  • Not only juvenile diabetes, but inflammatory and autoimmune diseases that a lot of the docs don’t even know what to call.
  • Girls are going through puberty much earlier, and the kids are allergic to just about everything, and asthma is out of control. Everyone knows it’s our food.
  • We’re messing with the genes of these animals and then feeding them growth hormones and all kinds of drugs that we really don’t know enough about. And then we’re eating them
  • Kids today are the first generation to grow up on this stuff, and we’re making a science experiment out of them.
  • Isn’t it strange how upset people get about a few dozen baseball players taking growth hormones, when we’re doing what we’re doing to our food animals and feeding them to our children?
  • People are so removed from food animals now. When I grew up, the animals were taken care of first. We never went on vacations. Somebody always had to be here. It had to be done no matter what.
  • If you don’t want that responsibility, don’t become a farmer. Because that’s what it takes to do it right. If consumers don’t want to pay farmers to do it right, they shouldn’t eat meat.
  • Most of the folks who buy my turkeys are not rich by any means; they’re struggling on fixed incomes. But they’re willing to pay more for the sake of what they believe in. They’re willing to pay the real price.
  • To those who say it’s just too much to pay for a turkey, I always say to them, “Don’t eat turkey.”
  • Everyone is saying buy fresh, buy local. It’s a sham. It’s all the same kind of bird, and the suffering is in their genes.
  • When the mass-produced turkey was designed, they killed thousands of turkeys in their experiments. Should it be shorter legs or shorter keel bone?
  • In nature, sometimes human babies are born with deformities. But you don’t aim to reproduce that generation after generation. But that’s what they did with turkeys.
  • Michael Pollan wrote about Polyface Farm in The Omnivore’s Dilemma like it was something great, but that farm is horrible. It’s a joke. Joel Salatin is doing industrial birds. So he puts them on pasture. It makes no difference.
  • KFC chickens are almost always killed in 39 days. They’re babies. That’s how rapidly they’re grown. Salatin’s organic free-range chicken is killed in 42 days.
  • ‘Cause it’s still the same chicken. It can’t be allowed to live any longer because its genetics are so screwed up. Stop and think about that: a bird that you simply can’t let live out of its adolescence.
  • Maybe he’ll say he’s doing as much right as he can, but it’s too expensive to raise healthy birds. These aren’t things, they’re animals, so we shouldn’t be talking about good enough. Either do it right or don’t do it.
  • I do it right from beginning to end. Most important, I use the old genetics, the birds that were raised a hundred years ago. Do they grow slower? Yes. But you look at them and tell me if they’re healthy.
  • I don’t allow baby turkeys to be shipped through the mail. Lot’s of people don’t care that half their turkeys are going to die under the stress of going through the mail or that those that do live are going to be five pounds lighter in the end than those you give food and water to immediately.
  • But I care. All my animals get as much pasture as they want, and I never mutilate or drug them. I don’t manipulate lighting or starve them to cycle unnaturally.
  • I don’t allow my turkeys to be moved if it’s too cold or too hot. I have them transported in the night, so they’ll be calmer.
  • At our processing plant they have to slow everything down. I pay them twice as much to do it half as fast.
  • Everything is done by hand and carefully. It’s done right every time. The turkeys are stunned before they’re shackled. Normally they’re hung live and dragged through an electrical bath, but we don’t do that. We do one at a time. It’s a person doing it, handheld.
  • People care about animals. I believe that. They just don’t want to know or to pay. A fourth of all chickens have stress fractures. It’s wrong. They’re packed body to body, and can’t escape their waste, and never see the sun. Their nails grow around the bars of their cages. It’s wrong.
  • They feel their slaughters. It’s wrong, and people know it’s wrong. They don’t have to be convinced. They just have to act differently. I’m not better than anyone, and I’m not trying to convince people to live by my standards of what’s right. I’m trying to convince them to live by their own.
  • People focus on that last second of death. I want them to focus on the entire life of the animal. People only see the killing. They say, “What’s the big deal if the animal can’t walk or move, ‘cause it’s just gonna get killed anyway?”
  • If it was your child, do you want your child to suffer three years, three months, three weeks, three hours, three minutes? A turkey chick isn’t a human baby, but it suffers.
  • I’ve never met anyone in the industry – manager, vet, worker, anyone – who doubts that they feel pain. So how much suffering is acceptable? That’s what’s at the bottom of all of this, and what each person has to ask himself. How much suffering will you tolerate for you food?

Chapter 4: Influence/Speechlessness

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