In 2003, the animal protection group Compassion Over Killing produced a video exposé of the biggest farm animal industry in our country – the factory farming of chickens raised for meat.  Entitled 45 days,  it laid out the short, brutal life of a broiler  (i.e. meat) chicken: panting, overcrowded, lame, limping and even dead birds. The film shows a bird trapped in a feeder unable to reach water, birds in filthy, dusty conditions, and birds with chests so heavy that they were unable to move around with ease. New Yorker writer Michael Specter wrote separately in 2003 on his first visit to a broiler factory farm, “I was almost knocked to the ground by the overpowering smell of feces and ammonia. My eyes burned and so did my lungs, and I could neither see nor breathe….There must have been thirty thousand chickens sitting silently on the floor in front of me. They didn’t move, didn’t cluck. They were almost like statues of chickens, living in nearly total darkness, and they would spend every minute of their six-week lives that way.” That was nearly ten years ago and still remains the last time the public saw in any detail the life of a factory farmed broiler chicken in the U.S. Globally, the world raises and slaughters some 40 billion chickens for meat every year – 9 billion of whom are right here in the U.S. We are the world’s largest producer. More than 99 perccent of U.S. broiler chickens are raised in barren windowless enclosed long houses, houses that remain inaccessible to anyone outside the industry. Recently in rural north Georgia and south Kentucky, I drove past row upon row of uniform structures – 500 feet long, 40 feet wide and windowless – on otherwise barren properties, surrounded often by beige fields of soy and maize.  What hides behind the walls? What starts off as a seemingly spacious, clean (though barren and dimly lit) environment, soon changes. A full 25,000 individual animals defecate in the same enclosed space for 45 days. They get a lot bigger, rapidly growing from the size of your fist to the size of a soccer ball in that short period. They crowd that space as they grow, with each individual only having space equivalent to less than a piece of 8”x11” paper.   It is a sea of chickens from wall to wall, sitting in their own feces, struggling to move, in large part because of their genetics. The modern broiler chicken is unnaturally large and has been bred to grow at a fast rate. This selective breeding produces as side effects serious welfare consequences including leg disorders: skeletal, developmental and degenerative diseases, heart and lung problems, breathing difficulty, and premature death. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture explains the unnaturally fast growth rate as follows: “If you grew as fast as a chicken, you’d weigh 349 pounds at age 2.” [1] They are forced to breathe ammonia and dust filled air, and have no natural lighting. Most photos and video from factory farms come from undercover investigators who manage to get hired to work within the farm and then secretly gather images for an external organization.  This is next to impossible in a broiler factory farm.   There is hardly a ‘job’ involved in raising broilers in factory farms anymore. Often there are only one or two people, usually the farm owners, overseeing multiple houses, each house filled with tens of thousands of birds. Chickens are put into a long windowless structures soon after hatching. They grow in that house and the main job of the farm owner is to remove, dispose of and record the dead birds on a daily basis. A  University of Georgia’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Science (CAES) study refers to a typical flock of 25,000 birds in Georgia with a 3% mortality rate over 6 weeks.  On average, that means 750 birds dying over the 6 week in each house and the farmer on average picking up 18 dead birds a day in each house over the 6 weeks. That is the main job – recognizing dead or dying birds, killing sick birds, picking up dead birds and disposing of them. The feed, water and temperature are automated and the litter is never changed during those birds’ short life. The job is done easily by one or two people and the farmworker (including a covert one) is hardly required. But not all farmers are afraid to show off their farms. White Oak Pasture’s (WOP) Will Harris, raises over a quarter of a million chickens on pasture every year.  One can drive along Harris’ farm in Bluffton, GA any time of the day or night and see exactly how the chickens are living – in the fields, in the trees, in the shrubs. He and his daughter Jenni will greet you with pride and eagerness to share their farm and welcome you to take photos of the birds.  They have half a dozen certifications hung on the farm office wall showing that they are following the nation’s top guidelines for caring for animals. “Animals were born with certain predetermined instinctive behaviors. So often through the industrialized meat production system, we don’t allow that. We believe the way we raise our animals is much better in terms of animal welfare, environmental sustainability and economic impact,” says Harris. “I believe good animal welfare means me as the stockman creating an environment that allows the animals to express their instinctive behavior. And the way to know if you are successful is – do you enjoy watching the animals?” WOP operates with an open farm door policy because they know the image (i.e. watching the animals) is their greatest asset. They are images we think of when we think of ‘farm’ – green pastures, animals roaming, and a farming family as stewards of the animals and the land. This is the challenge that we are faced with today, ten years on from 45 days. Dare to be honest about who you are, and you are shown off the property of a large scale broiler farm. Scour the law to find a risk free way of getting unbiased, unedited images and you are faced with laws like the Federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act or the Animal Facilities Protection Act. These are laws designed to potentially make it a criminal felony to enter animal rearing properties under false pretenses.  There is often little or no case history in many of these states related to factory farms challenging these laws.  With no case history, the interpretation of the law remains unclear until someone rolls the dice. These laws existed before the new so called “ag-gag” laws, which make it illegal to film or photograph a factory farm.   The surge of proposed ag–gag laws are a sign of the industry’s concern of what might be revealed from within the walls of the factory farm and what impact these revelations might have. Three states – Iowa, Missouri and Utah – have passed these “ag-gag” laws to date.  This is a desperate reaction by an industry whose worst enemy is the images from within. This fall, for example, Pennsylvania became the latest in a slew of states to propose, and fail to pass, an “ag-gag” law. The senator who introduced the bill was Lancaster County-based Republican Mike Brubaker. He represents Manheim, PA where the Humane Society of the United States recently conducted an investigation of Kreider Egg Farms. The images from the investigation revealed mummified dead birds crowded in with live birds in tiny cages, thirsty and filthy birds, among other horrors. This is what our nation’s biggest farm animal industry lacks – images that are an asset rather than a liability.  It has been nearly ten years since we have seen detailed, unedited images of the short life of a factory-farmed broiler chicken. As consumers become more and more aware of where there food comes from, the broiler industry will have to face that they cannot hide beyond the factory farm walls forever. At the end of this month, the International Poultry Expo in Atlanta will bring together the world’s poultry industry.  The challenge to this gathering is to stop responding with knee-jerk reactions like “ag-gag” laws and start thinking about meaningful reform, so they aren’t so scared of the public seeing what their industry looks like. Key issues like the welfare problems caused by the fast growing breeds, the overcrowding, the barren environment, and the lack of natural light will need to be recognized and addressed.  How will we know we have arrived at meaningful reform?  We will have arrived when the inside of the chicken farm is not left to our imagination, when there is nothing left to hide.

[1] University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, “Top Ten Facts about Chickens,” Quoted in Wayne Pacelle, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them. 

  • The rapid growth is due to the growth hormones in the feed plus the antibiotics!!

    • Growth hormones have been banned in poultry feed for some time now.

    • hs3144

       Actually, no, it is not.  I raise chickens at my suburban Detroit home for personal consumption and once tried the ‘fast growers’ that are typically raised for meat.  The type I tried was a ‘Jumbo Cornish x Rock’ and it grew  from a one day old chick to a 5 pound monster in 45 days.  They had the same food as the chickens I  typically raise, which take 18-20 weeks to get to that size.  I didn’t like the JCxR as they were bland and mushy and will never do it again.  They do naturally develop bone and lung problems around 10 weeks and can’t be raised above 5000 feet above sea level.  If you eat chicken, find a local farmer that raises old fashioned chicken and taste what chicken should taste like. 

      •  You are on the right track there. Size in live stock may be important in an economical context, but it comes at the sacrifice of flavour. Heritage breeds of birds, ones that nature has had a large part in constructing as a breed, will always give a fuller flavour. As will a longer life. Heritage breeds can be eaten as tender birds well into their second year, this gives a smart farmer the opportunity to breed for eggs, and still have a saleable bird at the end of two seasons. And the quality is a mile above factory birds.

  • Richard Raymond

    Leah, I had heard you were coming. Good to know who you are finally, and your intentions. couple of things I would like to comment on. First of all is the comment about entering the premises under “false pretenses”. I don’t think any business welcomes a visitor under false pretenses. If you want the industry to be open and transparent, then the people with the cameras should operate under the same rules. Secondly, I have been in many grow out facilities in the last ten years, and I am not the “industry”. You make it sound like the barns have been closed to anyone but the farmers, and that just is not true. Thirdly, the environments I have encountered have not been what you describe. My eyes and lungs did not burn, I could breathe easily and yes, there were 25,000 birds., all eating and drinking and appearing very content. The smells of ammonia, etc, have been conquered, and there are even newer chemicals being developed to eliminate totally the odors. The farmers I have met all cared very deeply for their flocks, and monitored their health on a regular bases. Birds die. If you took 25,000 human infants, not all would survive. That is life. Do not paint a picture that is both outdated and misleading. Tell the truth as it is in 2013 and you may find a more receptive audience. Can we do better? Of course we can. But let’s do it with honest, accurate discussions.

    • ” The farmers I have met all cared very deeply for their flocks…”  Oh my! Have you by any chance ever seen the industrial slaughter of chickens??? To say that the bird-rancher “cares deeply” is just too absurd to be taken seriously. Honestly — They “care” about numbers in so far as what volume brings in the profits. As far as the genuine concern for the individual bird? Not a chance. He/she is worthless as one… Or ten… Or a few hundred – It’s the tens of thousands that “count”. I pray none of us ever would have to experience what it must be like for those trapped, lame and cripple who can’t struggle to water or food. Tragic how so many of these innocent beings languish in starvation all for the human appetite of “wings”, “thighs”, and “breasts”. Sadder still is that none of this “nutrition” can’t be had from healthier and kinder plant based sources.

      • Bea- I see you migrated a to different website to skew your lies, what happened did you get tired on being wrong all the time in the others? “He/she is worthless as one… Or ten… Or a few hundred – It’s the tens of thousands that “count”- that sounds like a field of vegetables to me, one organism must die for you to live and just because vegetables dont act like animals its ok, hypocrisy at its best.

        • Juanita Garcia

          Pretty much people shut down to what you have to say with that attitude you portray except the ones who already want to believe there no consequences for all that we’re doing in the name of greed.

    • Leah Garces

      Richard, Thank
      you for your comments.

      My organization
      was started by a farmer. Like you, most farmers I have met care deeply about
      their animals. They got into farming for that very reason. The problem is more
      inherent, primarily the breeds that are used. Most farmers I have met and
      interviewed are not aware of what that breed is, or the impacts on the animal’s
      welfare. They often don’t make decisions about the breeds they use or the environment
      in which the animals are raised. This is particular true if they are contract
      farmers, which is the majority of large scale production.

      Perhaps we
      could meet up at IPE and discuss this in person. I think the most important
      point in your comment is that there is the potential to do better. We are
      interested in raising the baseline standards and working practically to do so. Please
      do get in touch:

      • Richard Raymond

        Thanks for the response. I will not be at IPE as I am self employed and unless someone wants to pony up for the travel expenses I will be staying home. I do wish we could discuss in person. Maybe another venue?

    •  Richard I’m detecting a stench in your defensiveness. “even newer chemicals being developed”  that’s crafty thinking… were those scientists switched off the hormone/antibiotic line?

      If the “news” is “outdated” throw open the doors and let the food journalists click and question away.

      (It isn’t Kreider’s first call out for filth and irresponsibility)

      • Wow you have no idea what bio-security means do you? Since I detect a lack of education in you comments, hormones have never been used in poultry production. It isn’t Kreider’s first call out for filth and irresponsibility, youre right but she does continue the lack of education so many people as burdened with today.

        • rebecca foree

          For attempting to insult the education of others, you sure seem to have struggled with eking out a proper sentence my friend! 

    • First, which CAFO did you tour, in what capacity did you visit, and are they willing for others to visit and document the experience? If it is as good as you say, then they must not have any problem with an open door policy. 

      And I don’t think the use of chemicals to mask odor is necessarily a good thing. I believe a better approach is not having an issue with the ammonia in a severely enclosed space in the first place.

      I found the author’s take to be objective, honest, detailed, and providing concrete alternatives, such as White Oak Pasture. Are you directing her to tell _the_ truth? Or only the _truth_ you’re willing to have told?

      • Richard Raymond

        I have toured many CAFOs, both in the US and internationally,  as the chief medical officer for the state of Nebraska, as the undersecretary for food safety at the USDA, as a private citizen writing food safety blogs and as a citizen of Nebraska interested in learning more about the industry itself. I just think the author might benefit from visiting a facility today, not quoting a ten year old single opinion piece. Anything wrong with that suggestion?

    • Oginikwe

       “Tell the truth as it is in 2013”

      You seemed to have entirely missed the point of the article.  We don’t know the truth because no one has been in one of these operations for ten years other than, apparently,  people like you and others involved in it.  Don’t be insulted because we don’t take your word for it.  As a consultant for Elanco, I’m sure you’ll understand.

      Please stop trying to undermine this author with your condescending opinions.

      • Richard Raymond

        O, I do wish you would sign your name and list your credentials as I do. I have never been in a poultry plant as a consultant for Elanco. I have not been inside a poultry grow out facility  since I became  a consultant for Elanco. I am not involved in the raising of poultry. I have not made one thin dime from the raising of poultry. I am just saying  that conditions are not as the author portrayed them. And that is the truth as I know it. If you choose to respond, please tell us who you are, what you do and what you do or don’t eat. 

        • Oginikwe

           I never said you were in a poultry plant for Elanco; you could have been just visiting.  What I said is that as a consultant for Elanco, readers would find your opinion suspect. You were the one who was flaunting your credentials “I have been in many grow out facilities in the last ten years.”  So, you haven’t been a consultant for Elanco in the last ten years? Then why did you feel compelled to add to your previous article,  “I want the readers to know that I do some consulting
          on food safety and public health for Elanco, a marketer of antibiotics, but
          have not been in contact with them about this Op-Ed” ?

          We grow our own food and because of that, we recognize
          meadow muffins when presented with them.

          I have wishes, too.

          I wish that brown rice wasn’t full of arsenic because they bought litter from the chicken industry for fertilizer.

          Growers Sue Chicken Industry Over Poultry Litter (Food Safety News) 10/12/2012: 
          ) It would be nice for most people to sit down and have a nice chicken breast
          with rice pilaf knowing that they are not getting their month’s allotment of arsenic.

          I wish we could eat any mass-produced food
          without wondering if it’s going to kill someone in the family.  I wish that scientists would quite selling out
          their integrity for so little. (Why Most Published Research Findings Are
          False (PLoS) 8/2005:


          I wish that Elanco didn’t market rBST
          or ractopamine.


          And most of all, I wish that people
          involved in these industries would stop acting like there’s nothing wrong, like
          we’re too stupid to see that, clearly, there’s a lot wrong.


          Looks like neither of us are going to get
          our wishes.

    • I’ve kept chickens for more than 10 years, and I – and anyone else who’s actually kept chickens with an eye to their welfare – can tell you precisely why it’s simply NOT possible to keep 25,000 hens comfortable in a single confined space:

      These birds rely on an established social hierarchy that simply can’t develop safely when a massive population is kept in one enclosed space and there is nowhere for any picked-on individual to escape the others. This is why debeaking has become standard in large-scale operations: when a flock is kept overcrowded without access to forage or the ability to indulge in innate comfort behaviors (e.g. dust-bathing), the birds peck one another to death. This isn’t a natural feature of a healthy flock. You just don’t see this with birds kept in smaller groups with adequate foraging space – the birds’ll give each other trouble now and then, but it’s pretty uncommon and rarely does anyone get seriously hurt.

      A confined operation can lose 15% of its flock to cannibalism if its birds don’t have their beaks cut and cauterized. And this doesn’t keep the birds from painfully attacking one another on a regular basis; it only reduces fatalities.

      You don’t have to anthropomorphize chickens (or even empathize with them) to understand that they, like many other species, are born with a set of social and survival instincts that make them unsuited for that kind of high-density confinement. The problem is that most folks have never even seen a live chicken, and they certainly don’t realize that these birds are social animals that rely on the hierarchies that naturally develop in small groups.

    • Elizabeth Krushinskie

      Thank you Dr. Raymond for your accurate and rational comments.  The U. S. Poultry & Egg Association has produced numerous videos aimed at educating the general public about the ins and outs of modern poultry production (  Some of these videos provide information and footage inside poultry houses as they are operated today, not ten years ago. also has a wide variety of educational videos that accurately portray modern poultry production in confinement housing.

      Perhaps it would be more productive to start getting an education on real-life poultry production and to stop misrepresenting production conditions and practices in order to support your position. 

  • Tom Hodgetts

    Brilliant article

  • Leah, I appreciate what you are trying to do!!!
     The “Industry” of  “Farming” has grown into a gigantic nightmare!!  Unfortunately for the animals and,  specific to this article “The Chickens”, have all these smooth talking individuals, and specific “Richard Raymond” for this article,  and politicians working desperately working not to change the problem but cover it up.  They try to keep from the public all the atrocities that continue each and every day at these torture chambers called “farms”.   A few smooth words and the American people say, “OK all is well” so they continue with their heads in the sand ignoring what is going on in our country. We must allow our conscience and our hearts to lead us to an enlightened existence as we work together to bring about a world where no being need fear any human being for any reason, because violence and cruelty in any form would cease to exist.  We need to work together and elect politicians who share our concern for all beings.

  • eddie4betty

    Thank you Leah – Well written !!

  • MicroQueen

    WOW….how UNINFORMED is THIS???  I didn’t see ONE word about BIOSECURITY!!!  Producers aren’t SCARED of folks traipsing around their private properties – but they ARE concerned about the diseases that may be introduced into their livestock production systems as a result of increased traffic in and around their animals without proper biosecurity precautions.  And I would ALSO like to know why ANYONE would EVER think it was OK to enter a premise under “false pretenses.”  In my mind, that is criminal activity and should be dealt with as such to the fullest extent of the law as a private property owner.  And again, these are NOT “factory farms,” they are large-scale animal production systems.  The term “factory farm” was coined to sensationalize and villify modern animal production systems to SELL misinformation and further the agendas of animal rights advocates.  And your description of a FARM is sadly outdated and out of touch with modern agricultural practices that feed more people in this world than ever before.  This is exactly WHY laws are needed to protect producers from people acting on the kind of thinking that articles like this promote!!!

    • HajjaRomi

       Are you a troll for the industry?

    • I think you missed an exclamation point. 

  • Read a book and educate yourself hormones have never been used in poultry production ever nor are they even legally allowed! The rapid growth is genetics and good feed.

  • hs3144- Glad to hear about a farmer in an urban environment! I have raised jumbo cornish x rock’s too and I had the same problem. I changed my ration to include more variety of grains and some forage and slowed their growth way down. After that they turned out to be pretty good eating, I never had bone or lung problems and I raised them both in kansas and colorado above 5000ft (our farm sits at 7320ft) so that may have been an issue with your management. The only problem I had was tendons slipping when I grew them too fast.

  • Ursula2007

    Yuck. Disgusting. No thanks.

  • Thank you for exposing the heartbreak that is industrialized farming.  The more people realize the cruelty involved  and the suffering these animals endure for our insatiable appetite for cheap chicken, I hope will be prompted to consider what is really in that bucket of KFC – sentient beings forced to endure a life of torture. No thanks, I’ll pass. I have no appetite for abuse.

  • gvenable

    If you would like to see inside a chicken house or turkey barn, click here:

    Our industry is proud of the job we do in the feeding america.

  • The only real way to make sure one is not supporting inhumane chicken practices is to stop eating chicken and eggs entirely.  While so-called “pastured” chickens may be treated better while they live their short lives, they still face the upsidedown slit throat.  Please consider veganism.

  • MicroQueen

    Nothing wrong with THAT suggestion at all, as long as it is done in good faith and NOT under “false pretenses” and respects good biosafety practices when visiting.

  • MicroQueen

    What a classy and intelligent question!!!  I am a fourth-generation farm girl from the USA – with a degree in Animal Science from an accredited land-grant ag university and 25 years of experience in a state animal disease diagnostic laboratory who is sick and tired of misinformation and skewed facts being presented as the norm in agriculture – when in FACT, IT IS NOT.  I am SO GLAD you ASKED….

  • The suggestion is more than a little disingenuous, considering CAFOs have a problem with the EPA viewing the buildings from a 1000 feet up in the air, much less someone like the author being able to get even closer.

    This, in addition to the growing number of ag-gag laws being put into place to ensure that even undercover investigators can’t get access to the locations. 

    The point the author made is when the farmer is using sound livestock practices, they don’t need to hide. Point of fact, they typically welcome visitors–some even plan on tours as regular events. 

    I’ve never heard of a CAFO that gives regular tours. Have you?

    • MicroQueen

      What is “disingenuous” is approaching a producer’s operation under “false pretenses” or as an “undercover investigator.”  Why should producers be EXPECTED to welcome visitors who are seeking to cause harm to their premises and animals???  I sure wouldn’t, and I welcome laws that curb this kind of behaviour.  And it is ALSO totally reasonable to expect that if you are composing an opinion piece, that you use several sources of the most current information available on the subject – not old, outdated information from a single source that just happens to support your opinion.  The more information collected, the more valid the information – it’s simple statistics.  And yes, large-scale operations DO host visitors – most will schedule time to accommodate a visit that won’t interfere with normal operations OR expose their animals to unnecessary biosecurity risks.  The liability involved with accepting visitors onto large-scale operations is TREMENDOUS, so it should come as no surprise or suspicion that not every producer would want to host unannounced visits to their operations.   

      • By “harm” I assume you mean exposing unsafe working conditions, food handling, and inhumane practices. 

        If you have to hide what you do, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. 

    • The ag gag laws are so foolish investigators actually report crimes immediately instead of waiting when its convience for them to make a statement. CAFO’s will give tours if asked, but that wouldn’t agree with your mindset.

    • Poultry PhD student

      You obviously do not understand what Biosecurity means.

      • lubbactually

        Student above- biosecurity means transparency in the food business that includes full public knowledge of what animals are doused in, fed and injected with — no exceptions. If you are a youngster, the trend here is transparency. Arrogance and know-it-all-ism was tried for 100 years and it’s safe to say the “Trust Me” school is all but dead.

  • Perhaps you should focus on what the person writes, not who they are. 

  • So, you think that video proved your point?


    • Yes it did, it just doesn’t prove your point so it annoys you.

  • My Babcha kept chickens and sold the eggs. She would occasionally give my Mother a hen. I would watch my Mother kill and dress and the cook the bird.  I loved chicken.  

    I know why I cannot eat chicken anymore.  The taste of cruelty comes through. It is slimy and it tastes and smells bad, even if I soak it in salt water.   We just do not eat it anymore. 

  • What is going wrong is so wrong that chicken is too disgusting to eat any more.  When farming practices create inedible food, there is definitely BAD shit going on. 

    • YES!  Thanks for saying that!  I can’t eat chicken anymore – it makes me gag!!!

  • jswholesome

    Interesting reading.  My comments are quite random and directed at other discussions.  
      *Free range birds are great options for some.  I noticed a death loss cited for a commercial flock, but not for the White Oak Flock.  There are disease outbreaks in free range/enriched flocks and they too are not pretty.  
      *Lame, starving, abused animals raised in a poor environment don’t grow well, are not profitable and no amount of antibiotics will change that.  An abused bird won’t make five pounds in 48 days.
      *Welcome visitors?  Sounds like a losing proposition if your visitor is looking for an incident to sensationalize.  As seen in a referenced a You Tube video, the good is poo pood as staged and won’t get media attention like sensationalism.  Was the video “proving a point”?  As apposed to a negative video “proving a point”?  The difference is lack of media attention.
      *Cruel does not equal profits.  The best farms (farmers), confined, free range, enriched are proud of healthy wholesome flocks.
      *”Politicians working to cover up…”.  Animal agriculture is increasingly regulated by those far removed from food production.  Previous comments underscore the need for education not only for consumers, but also for our elected officials.
      *18-20 weeks to raise a bird?  I honestly didn’t think you could grow them that slow without withholding good feed and water.  Certainly there are differences in genetics and feeding programs.  Isn’t it great to live in a country where we have these options for taste and affordability?
      *Slaughter is not pretty.  Commercial processing plants with carbon dioxide (I think that’s right) chambers have improved the image of slaughter.  However, my personal belief, over and method of killing,  is it is right to give thanks when we draw blood for our own sustenance. 

    • MicroQueen

      FINALLY, some INTELLIGENT discourse on the subject!!!

    • But notice that you’re not providing any references to back up your assertions. For instance, as you implying there’s more disease outbreak in free range chicken flocks, as compared to what happens in a CAFO?

      Not proven by fact, considering how many times CAFO flocks (both chicken and turkey) have had to be destroyed. 

      Can’t sensationalize overcrowded buildings full of dead and damaged birds. 

      You used confined and free range together. I have to assume you mean either/or not and. 

      Animal agriculture is decreasingly regulated, thanks to the efforts of large agribusiness interests to make it so.

      And your last paragraph is just plain creepy. 

      • MicroQueen

        Based on knowledge and common sense, free range birds are exposed to many more naturally occuring disease events than those birds housed in barns.  Birds housed in barns are on regular vaccination schedules to protect from disease outbreaks and are shielded from exposure from outside sources of disease using good biosecurity practices on the premise.  Poultry producers that participate in the National Poultry Improvement Plan HAVE to meet several disease-free status benchmarks to protect their flocks.  Many free ranging birds are alot less likely to meet these standards.    And talk about sensationalism – dead and damaged birds make no profits for a producer, so you can bet they are going to take care of their flocks to prevent excessive mortality – but in spite of the very best care in a barn OR free ranging, there is going to be mortality.  That’s just the statistics of population science.

        • I have to be blunt on this: your assertions about free range birds are not factual.

          • Actually they are and you have failed to provide any sources on your discussions….

        • zuri

          actually that’s incorrect. chickens housed inside “barns” as you call them are exposed to diseases that their bodies aren’t built to fight off. They are housed inside dark warehouses with less than a few inches of space per chicken, not counting all of the crap around them. chickens living out in the wild can be exposed to some diseases yes, but they’ve had hundreds or maybe even thousands of years for their bodies to become immune to those diseases by natural selection.

          • Untamablespirit

            Exactly and backyard chickens or free range are scrutinized if they don’t have enough room in the coops and runs to house the chickens!!!!

      • jswholesome

        I read my comment several times and see no implication of either system of having more disease, just that there are disease concerns in any production system.  My point was that the authors comment about the White Oak Flock did not use any death loss statistics.  My apologies to the folks at White Oak if anyone ASSumes my comments are in any way negative toward them personally.  I like to believe they have a passion for their livelihood. 
          *I believe your comment about “buildings full of dead a damaged birds” was rather contradictory.
          *Confined OR free range OR enriched..  hows that?
          *Less regulation?  I will have to do some research to see where regulations have lessened.
          *Sorry if I creeped you out.  I am thankful for the food I eat.

        • Of course there are disease concerns regardless of production method. However, extreme over crowding in an enclosed place increases the likelihood of problems happening. I know that in Missouri  complete eradication of large turkey CAFOs have happened twice, but I haven’t heard of one related to any of the truly free range turkey farmers. 

          Buildings full of damaged or dead birds–fairly plain English. 

    • “Lame, starving, abused animals raised in a poor environment don’t grow well, are not profitable and no amount of antibiotics will change that.  An abused bird won’t make five pounds in 48 days.”

      A Cornish cross (standard broiler) is going to eat regardless of whether it’s living in a suitable environment. These birds are bred to want to eat nonstop. I recall reading a humorous account from a frustrated hobbyist who found that the only way he could get his Cornish crosses to get any exercise at all (with the goal of keeping their strength up and avoiding the disabilities common to the breed) was by putting their food at the top of a little hill and their water at the bottom. Producers recommend withholding food for part of the day or night so that the birds don’t literally eat themselves to death.

      If the food’s there, these birds will put on the weight. Saying these birds won’t grow if they’re in a poor environment is just plain false. The birds won’t grow if they’re (A) not provided with food, (B) too lame to even drag themselves to the feeder, or (C) suffering from certain illnesses. That’s about it.

      • jswholesome

        Please re-read my comments.  I said they won’t grow well. A common theme in slamming conventional production systems is that using antibiotics and abusing animals can somehow bring about desired production.  Good feed, clean water and fresh air in a stress free environment are common goals of livestock production and result in superior performance.    This is just my opinion, but I am guessing that poultry producers who sell heritage breeds don’t brag about slow growth.  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against heritage breeds, great to have options.  All production systems have many good animal husbandry practices in common.  By the same token, there are some folks that should not raise livestock and you will find them in all production systems.  

        • MicroQueen

          YAYYYY for the TRUTH!!!  FINE JOB….

  • Thanks for bringing more awareness to the growing problem of closed factory farms.  I have to wonder why they’re being so secretive, if they have nothing to hide.       Why are whistleblowers being prosecuted at felons and not given rewards?  These are the only people brave enough to speak out against the filthiest of the factory farms.  These are the same farms where our food is produced and where drug-resistant bacteria are being incubated.   It’s a public health and safety issue, even if nobody cares about the worker safety and animal welfare issues.      It’s also a massive pollution and sanitation issue when the high density operation improperly disposes of waste or has waste running off the property due to storms.    

    The thing I find interesting is that the high density farms are being run like an industry and not like a natural farm.   Massive amounts of chemicals, drugs, and growth simulators are added.   Animals aren’t being raised in flocks but in cramped sheds of 10,000+.    Daily death in the shed is so normal, it’s expected.   The dead bodies are piled up to be composed or rendered.   The amount of waste from a single chicken or pig shed can be in the order of tens of tons or more. Imagine a small town that has thousands of residents but absolutely no sewage treatment plant; this is what a factory farm produces.  That waste is dumped into massive open lagoons.   A heavy rain or storm can overflow the lagoon, dumping raw waste into the same creeks that human drinking water is drawn from.     Waste that’s allowed to sit awhile is dumped on fields to dispose of it, some of which runs off causing nitrogen problems in the bay, fish kills, and algae blooms.    And although the modern factory farm runs like a giant factory, there are little to no pollution control laws.    Depending on state, there may be little to no inspection.    Imagine if someone ran a chemical plant next to your home with no oversight? and imagine if someone who visited reported the issues was treated as a felon under the new laws?    If we have no whistleblowers and no unbiased inspectors, who regulates the factory farms?

    I encourage people to watch Food Inc, as it also covers this issue.  The few farmers who try to do things right are losing their contracts with the big chicken meat buyers.  And since the commercial meat industry is almost completely dominated by only a handful of big corporations, the farmer who doesn’t comply cannot find a buyer for his birds.   Imagine the farms who are told they’re not allowed to open windows on the sheds?   Or that a shed with windows lets birds get a little sunlight are not complaint with Tyson or Purdue’s contracts?      And since it’s not illegal to deprive birds of sunlight, real dirt, significant amounts of fresh air, space, or medical treatment, this has become the norm.    These are birds that evolved to scratch, perch, interact socially (without the beak being cut off by a hot iron at a young age), and fly short distances.   When did it become ok to lock them in darkness, unable to do any natural behaviors?  And to feed them an engineered diet which includes antibiotics as a growth agent?   

    • MicroQueen

      There is SOOOOOO much innuendo, half-truth and misinformation in this that it is incredible and laughable…

  • MicroQueen

    One should never assume, but rather ask for additional information.  As a livestock producer, HARM to me would be defined as entering someone’s private property unannounced and uninvited with the intent to disrupt or destroy said property, equipment, livestock or people.  Producers aren’t trying to HIDE anything, they are trying to PROTECT their livelihoods from destruction caused by activists who are nothing more than common criminals. 

    • And when is bringing in a camera and exposing bad practices destroying property? 

      This isn’t about protection–it’s about preventing consumers from discovering the truth about what happens behind those large, windowless buildings. 

      • Youre not a regular consumer youre an activist with an agenda against us. Doesn’t matter what we do, you seek the end of livestock agriculture. Just be clear with your intentions you arent fooling anyone with a brain.

      • MicroQueen

        WHEN…is when they use forceable entry to gain access to a property – it’s illegal.  WHEN…is when they destroy equipment and entrances that create open access for livestock to escape and be exposed to disease,  inclement weather or other dangers that could harm them.  This is HOW they bring in their cameras…they don’t do it with ANY type of honesty OR integrity in reporting, that’s for SURE…

        • There are already laws against trespassing and property destruction. The ag-gag laws are not focused at these already criminal activities.

          They’re focused on undercover investigators who film violations of human and food safety, and inhumane handling of livestock.

          Stick to facts, please.

  • I wish people would educate themselves and read more one then one article and not think the world is ending……or find figures like rBST is used in less then 15% of all commerical dairies, and even organic milk has BST hormones because they are naturally produced in all lactating cattle. Or your arsenic article which you fail, they tested chicken livers which contain about 40X the amount of arsenic as the meat, or organic arsenic is safe at low levels and has been used since the 1940’s before CAFO’s were around.  Does it make any sense to you for “industrial” farms to kill their consumers? Or the fact they eat the same food and would be killing themselves?  Please don’t let education and knowledge get in the way of your ideals and self-professed truths.

    • MicroQueen

      HOORAY for presenting the FACTS….scientifically AND in context!!!  Their arguments hold NO water once science and fact are introduced…

  • Chickens must be given large doses of antibiotics to keep them from developing massive infections while living in such filth.  Continually feeding ANYTHING antibiotics causes antibiotic resistant bacteria.  It’s no surprise we have to be so careful with raw chicken, or that the taste and texture of the meat is so disgusting these days.   

  • Oginikwe

     Yeah, all those investigative journalists know nothing.  Just garbage in, garbage out.
    Just like this article:

    Antibiotics and Animals Raised for Food: Lies, Damn
    Lies and Statistics  (Food Safety News)

    Oh, that’s right–you liked that one . . .oops!

  • Lisa Taylor

    That sounds like a field of humans to me, or anything else for that matter, but to call treating the eating of vegetables different than of animals is not hypocrisy. Would you eat a vegetable or fruit that you knew had been sprayed liberally with pesticides throughout its life? The fruits and veggies aren’t the only things affected by the pesticides. I buy organic fruits and vegetables because I’ve also seen what farmers wear when using these pesticides. Their health is endangered, too. We don’t live in Arcadia. This is not a perfect world. We are humans. We must eat to live. I chose a vegetarian, then vegan lifestyle, which I follow to the best of my ability. Most of the posts here are angry, defensive, divisive, and make one’s argument less persuasive or convincing.

  • Abolitionist__Vegan

    Even on those idyllic farms the birds are murdered when they or only teenagers in human terms. And all domesticated chickens and turkeys have been bred to grow faster than their bodies can handle, causing major growing pains. Most importantly, the idea that we can exploit and murder other beings is the root cause of factory farms and needs to stop.
    As long as we ignore non-human animals’ rights to control their lives and bodies, as long as we are blind to their intrinsic value, as long as we view animals as property – as tools for human gains – the exploitation and abuse will continue. The answer to stop this once and for all is to embrace veganism!

    Request a FREE VEGAN STARTER pack from Action for Animals. Just web search “AFA Vegan Starter Pack” or go to VeganStarterPack [d0t] com

    The pack includes vegan recipes; info on protein and nutrition; how you can help animals; eco-effects of meat, milk, & eggs; info on what vegans eat; and some free stickers!

  • Abolitionist__Vegan

     Request a FREE VEGAN STARTER pack from Action for Animals. Just web search “AFA Vegan Starter Pack” or go to VeganStarterPack [d0t] com

    The pack includes vegan recipes; info on protein and nutrition; how you can help animals; eco-effects of meat, milk, & eggs; info on what vegans eat; and some free stickers!

  • yogachick

    So glad I am vegan! No animal has to suffer and die for my taste buds. There is NO REASON to kill animals for food in our modern industrial society. Humans thrive on plant-based diet, plus it’s better for the earth too, and can help to end global hunger.

  • MOM

    my chickens run around out side of my house and free graze and i don’t have any more bugs thank chicken.we are a team me and my chickens that is and tomorrow it off to the potato patch for some more bugs .

  • Poultry PhD student

    this article is ridiculous. it does state some facts but is unfortunately turning them the wrong way. One of the main problems with the propaganda presented here is that there is a reason no one besides a few trusted employees can see these flocks. It is for Biosecurity and Bioterrorism reasons. If you want Avian Influenza to break out and cause mass stamping out of flocks then by all means, allow anyone into the houses to infect and spread disease to these flocks. or if you want terrorists to infect our food supply, go ahead let anyone into these houses. I dont even have time to get into the other issues in this misinformed article. Get your facts straight.

  • Poultry PhD student

    commercial buildings are not full of dead or damaged birds. dead and damaged birds dont reach market and are not profitable. the large majority of birds are healthy and happy and growers work very hard to keep it that way. just because you dont want to live in a house with not a lot of extra room, doesnt mean chickens dont. they are raised to thrive in these conditions and most prefer them. don’t anthropomorphize and maybe you can understand.

  • Sweet T

    It’s funny how someone who writes an article like this claims “we haven’t been allowed inside in 10 years…” but spends the rest of the article pretending like they know exactly what goes on inside of a chicken house.
    The problem with the image of a “free range farm” is that everybody has this mental image of happy chickens frolicking about in the sunshine and everyday it’s 75 degrees and sunny every day! They never think about how many chickens on a free range farm freeze to death during the winter, or die from the heat when it’s a 100 in the summer. Not to mention how many of them are picked off by predators like coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opposums, snakes, hawks, owls, etc. It’s also funny how people never think that free range chickens never step in their own poop either. I guess they just do their business and never step there again!
    The truth is, chickens only care about 4 things. Food, water, a comfortable air temperature and safety. If you can give them those 4 things, you have a happy chicken. Free range chickens are lucky to be getting 2 of those 4 things on any given day. That’s why free range chickens take so long to grow. An unhappy chicken is not going to be as healthy or gain weight as fast. Chickens appreciate an environmentally controlled environment just as much as people do.
    The difference between a “free range” chicken and a “factory farm” chicken is about like the difference for a human living in the woods for 2 months or staying a the Holiday Inn for 2 months. Plain and simple…

  • Read

    you could not have chosen a more biased video. Of course the U.S. Poultry lobby would put this out! Watch the video and THINK. They breed chickens with maximum efficiency. They show you the egg incubators. They don’t show you the slaughter of the baby chicks that would be a waste of their money to raise. They raise these birds in barns, which if you pay any attention have no windows despite “state of the art” facilities. This is a load of outright propaganda and it’s a shame that you refuse to open your eyes to it.