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Animal Factory - David Kirby

Article by David Kirby: 6 Baby Steps Toward a More Sustainable Animal Diets
     Interview with David Kirby, Author of "Animal Factory"

Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment (Hardcover): Released on March 3. Pre-Publication Special BF Price, Includes Shipping and Handling. By David Kirby's Review (excerpt)

“Thanks to Kirby’s extraordinary journalism, we have the most relatable, irrefutable, and unforgettable testimony yet to the hazards of industrial animal farming.”--Booklist (starred review)

“David Kirby’s book, Animal Factory, is a beautifully written account of the danger industrial meat and dairy production represents to our health, environment and democratic process. In a unique and captivating way, Kirby reveals the consequences of animal factories through the eyes of the citizen advocates who have fought the long and hard battle to civilize the barbaric and often criminal behavior of the meat barons. Rick Dove, Karen Hudson, Helen Reddout, Chris Petersen, Don Webb and others featured in the book are real American heroes. Their stories are compelling, true and engaging.

The time has come to end the greedy and destructive practices of animal factories. As the readers of Kirby’s book will learn, nature’s clock is ticking and much is at stake for the planet and all of its inhabitants. Each page of this book is filled with powerful information. It has all the makings of a number one best seller."--Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

"In Animal Factory, bestselling investigative journalist David Kirby exposes the powerful business and political interests behind large-scale factory farms, and tracks the far-reaching fallout that contaminates our air, land, water, and food.

In this thoroughly-researched book, Kirby follows three families and communities whose lives are utterly changed by immense neighboring animal farms. These farms (known as “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations,” or CAFOs), confine thousands of pigs, dairy cattle, and poultry in small spaces, often under horrifying conditions, and generate enormous volumes of fecal and biological waste as well as other toxins. Weaving science, politics, law, big business, and everyday life, Kirby accompanies these families in their struggles against animal factories. A North Carolina fisherman takes on pig farms upstream to preserve his river, his family’s life, and his home. A mother in a small Illinois town pushes back against an outsized dairy farm and its devastating impact. And, a Washington state grandmother becomes an unlikely activist when her home is covered with soot and her water supply is compromised by runoff from leaking lagoons of cattle waste.

Animal Factory is an important book about our American food system gone terribly wrong—and the people who are fighting to restore sustainable farming practices and save our limited natural resources."


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VERDICT Unlike recent books on this topic that advocate for a vegetarian lifestyle (e.g., Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals or Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's The Face on Your Plate ), Kirby focuses on the negative impacts CAFOs are having on not only those who live near these operations but also those who may be affected by polluted water originating from waste lagoon spills at these sites. His narrative is immensely readable and should be required reading for anybody concerned with how CAFOs are changing the nature of livestock farming in the United States. -- Library Journal

Animal Factory is a thoroughly-researched piece of investigative journalism, in which Kirby sets out to approach factory farms differently from 'Fast Food Nation' or 'Eating Animals'. As his powerful and provocative books shows, the supermarket price of milk, pork, steak and chicken do not reflect the actual costs of mass-producing meat and dairy, which are passed on the to surrounding communities, including:

Airborne feces sprayed by farms, covering neighboring homes, fields, and towns

Recalls of dangerous meats, fruits, and vegetables caused by farm pathogens

Increasing public health crises, including asthma and MRSA infection, and possibly swine flu and leukemia and other cancers in communities adjacent to these farms

High levels of feces and nitrates in public water supplies near these farms. The New York Times recently reported that “19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from drinking water contaminated with parasites, bacteria or viruses.” (9/15/09)

Massive fish kills in local waters from pig and cow manure lagoon spills

Immense costs to clean up hazardous farms, absorbed by taxpayers or individual farmers, rather than by the corporations that profit from such practices

Dead zones spreading miles out to sea, where marine life is suffocated by algae growth stimulated in part by factory farm pollution

In Animal Factory, Kirby follows three American families in different regions of the US, whose lives have been utterly changed by Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs. Weaving complex science, politics, business, and the lives of everyday people, Kirby documents a crisis that has reached a critical juncture in the history of human health and our larger global environment.

6 Baby Steps Toward a More Sustainable Animal Diet

by David Kirby, Author of Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment

The most common question I get about my new book Animal Factory, which comes out Tuesday, March 2, is, "Am I going to have to become a vegetarian after reading this?"

My answer usually throws people off.

"No," I say, "You're going to want to eat even MORE meat, eggs and dairy!" Then, as a bemused brow breaks over their face, I add: "But by that, I mean more that is raised humanely and sustainably, without harm to human health or the environment."

Most people I speak with inherently sense that their meat and dairy should be raised as "humanely and sustainably" as possible, but don't really know what those terms mean. The whole new morality of shopping the supermarket meat aisle can seem so daunting, especially while trying to sort through the various "cage-free" "humane" and "organic" labels.

Meanwhile, the painful ordeal of shelling out big chunks of one's paycheck for pricey protein from boutique sources other than CAFOs -- (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or factory farms), is just too onerous for some to ponder. And if even they were to make the sacrifice to "go sustainable," they ask, how are they going to find such vaunted foodstuffs, both at home and on the road?

Still others beg off the subject entirely with a wince, a wave, and an "I don't want to know!"

But some of my friends really do make every last effort to eat only sustainable animal protein and, when not available, to go without. But I also understand that, for most Americans, it is exceedingly difficult and prohibitively expensive to switch overnight to a 100 percent CAFO-free diet, unless they are planning to go completely vegan.

I do not believe in telling others what to eat or, more importantly, what not to eat. It's a deeply personal choice. But I do believe that we all have a responsibility -- even a solemn duty -- to inform ourselves about the origins of our food, and the impact it had on people, places and animals.

Just remember, that pork chop may have been raised in a crowded North Carolina CAFO, whose liquefied manure emits noxious gases into the air, might leak pathogens and nutrients into state waters, and has been known to coat neighboring homes, cars and people with the greasy, misty detritus of a massive manure "sprayfield," Carolina style.

So what's a conscientious but somewhat underpaid omnivore to do? What follows are just a few suggestions -- some baby steps to reduce your reliance on cheap animal factory food, whence most American meat, egg and dairy "outputs" are now derived.

Be Label Conscious - You have rights as a consumer, but you also have responsibilities, in my opinion, and that includes self-education and being savvy about labeling. In Animal Factory, I describe some of the competing food labels (organic, humane, cage free, etc.) and the different criteria they require to earn their endorsement. There's a lot of cross-over, and a lot of confusion. Some consumers are now looking for what is widely considered to be the most stringent label of all, "Animal Welfare Approved." AWA requires all animals to have pasture-based certification, prohibits the use of liquefied manure, and only certifies farms "whose owners own the animals, are engaged in the day to day management of the farm, and derive a share of their livelihood from the farm." You can search a database of farms and where to find AWA products at .

Pick A Protein - Begin your path towards being a more sustainable epicure one food at a time. Pound-for-pound and dollar-for-dollar, eggs, cheese, or butter are good starter products. For example, I only buy humanely raised, certified organic eggs at my local supermarket. They cost $3.99 a dozen vs. the $1.99 a dozen for factory farmed eggs -- a difference of about 16.5 cents an egg. And while I have the admitted luxury of not having to support a family, I am more than happy to double my costs and expend an extra 33 cents in the morning for my omelet. Organic (pasture-fed) cheese and butter also have manageable price point ratios to their commercial counterparts, so you might want to pick one of those as one of your switchover foods as well.

Become Cooperative - A few national chain stores, and of course your local farmers market (the ones in New York are a marvel) are usually excellent and reliable sources of sustainably raised protein. But the prices can sometimes make you laugh out of sheer exasperation -- I have seen $27 chickens, which for most families is too extravagant. On the other hand, I have seen $2.70 chickens in my supermarket, which to me at least seems too cheap for the life of a bird. Another alternative is to seek out a food coop in your area that specializes in local, sustainable meat and produce. I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, home to the nation's oldest coop, which offers deep discounts on delicious, fresh, local meat, dairy and eggs. Unfortunately for me, the place is so popular that I have not yet been able to get a slot in the mandatory orientation for new membership, but I keep trying.

Go Red-Tag Shopping - I have noticed that the meat department at my local place tends to get rid of its older stuff on Mondays and Tuesdays, slapping a bright red, easy-to-spot sticker with the words "Manager's Special" onto the cellophane. I make it a point to shop on those days or, sometimes if I am just passing by, I might pop in and make a quick run down the aisle, eyes peeled for those exciting red tags as I scan the row. The discounts are usually about 30% off the normal price, and sometimes more. Whole organic chickens are often reduced from $3.99 to $1.99 a pound. If you don't eat it that day, freeze it.

Go Online - Another great resource for finding local, sustainably and humanely raised animal products is Sustainable Table, and its Eat Well Guide -- with a Zip-code based searchable database for farms, markets and restaurants in your area that offer food that did not take a toll on humans, animals or the environment before landing in your mouth.

Eat Less Meat - This is a suggestion, not an order, and it doesn't come from me, it comes from the "Meatless Monday" campaign. But reducing your animal protein even a little bit each week will contribute to easing worldwide animal demand from any source. Check out the Meatless Monday virtual online support group for temporary withdrawals of the flesh. Think of it this way: for billions of people in the world, it's going to be "Meatless 2010," so a 52-day sacrifice is not that hard to make.

Copyright © 2010 David Kirby, author of Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment

Author Bio

David Kirby, author of Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment, is a Huffington Post contributor and author of the New York Times bestseller Evidence of Harm, winner of the 2005 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for Best Book, and finalist for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein award for Excellence in Journalism. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit .

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