An essential part of survival for all living animals is the need to consume some sort of food source; human beings are no different in the fact that we need to consume food to function. Human beings may need food to survive, however the consumption of food has taken on a much larger role in human society than just mere survival. Humans eat to celebrate, to socialize, as part of religious practices, and even out of plain boredom. So much of the human lifestyle is centered around the consumption of food. In the past in order for humans to consume food, the food must have first been collected and prepared. Many people still prepare a large part of their own food but understandably there are very few people in today’s modern society that actually grow, collect, or hunt their own food. People simply don’t have the time, it is much more convenient and efficient for people to obtain food through markets and restaurants. Even though markets and restaurants have been around for quite some time they have evolved into new modern versions known as super markets and fast food restaurants in order to keep up with the demand of society. In the modern day super market every type of food a person could imagine is conveniently available year-round and at an affordable price to most. The emergence of the supermarket truly is an amazing feat of human evolution but what price comes along with the gained convenience. Most people when sitting at a gathering eating food, most likely bought from a super market, ever stop and question where the food they are consuming actually comes from. The majority of society today does not realize what all goes into having a vast array of food available at all times, anywhere in the country at the local super market or fast food joint. The demand super markets and fast food restaurants have imposed on farmers has completely changed the way food is farmed in the United States; and these changes come with a great deal of social, health, economic, and even political impacts in modern society.
A major question that must be understood before the repercussions on society can really be analyzed is of course; what has caused the farming industry to change more in the past fifty years than it has in the past thousand. The answer is actually much simpler than most would imagine, and that answer is consumer demand. Troy Roush, the vice president of the American Corn Growers Association, said it very well in the documentary Food Inc; “You have to understand that we farmers… we’re gonna deliver to the marketplace what the marketplace demands. If you wanna buy $2 milk, you’re going to get a factoryfarm in your backyard. It’s that simple. People have got to start *demanding* good, wholesome food of us, and we’ll deliver; I promise you. We’re very ingenious people, we will deliver.”(Roush, Food Inc) The major supermarket and fast food companies are the ones that are dealing with the farmers directly and indirectly forcing the farmers to implement new factory style farming techniques in order to keep up with the increasing demand. However those major supermarket and fast food corporations are only doing so because the increasing demand for incredibly wide varieties of food at very cheap prices is created by the consumer. The consumer is who holds the real power in this predicament, and the consumer is partially the cause of the issue of corporatized farming. On the other hand the supermarket and fast food companies are still at fault, it was those companies that did implement the idea of having so many foods available at a very cheap price and look the same every time everywhere. These companies did not intend to change the farming industry and impact society the way they have, they simply just wanted to make money off of selling food at cheap prices to people. Once the idea of buying any food regardless of season at a cheap price was made a reality more and more people began to buy their food at supermarkets which caused the demand to increase rapidly. To keep up with the consumer demand, much more food needed to be produced than ever before, food needed to be grown faster, and it needed to last longer on shelves. In order for this to be possible the way food is produced had to be changed and these changes occurred so quickly that things like quality of the food, health of the consumer, and safety of the workers were neglected. The consumer could have demanded for high quality, healthy food but because the consumers had become accustomed to the cheap prices they valued the priced over the quality of the food. In conclusion the farming industry has become such a corporatized industry due to the consumer creating more demand for convenient, cheap food than for quality, healthy food; and the supermarket and fast food companies responding to this demand.
The corporatization of the farming industry is not just another normal part of human evolution with no consequences, this drastic change is affecting society in a number of crucial ways. One of the major effects of this dilemma is the staggering decrease of family owned local farms. There are very few privately owned farms that sell their food to their local communities in existence anymore. It’s not that the smaller farms are going anywhere; what is occurring is major agriculture companies with immense amounts of money are coming to smaller family operated farms and forcing them to sign contracts to grow food or livestock for the company. The companies can do this because they threaten the small farmers with running them out of business because the small farmer simply can’t compete without the technology the corporate farms have to offer. If the thought of not being able to compete isn’t enough to get a farmer to sign with the corporation many times the corporations will even use their money and contacts with organizations such as the USDA and FDA to get the small farm such down on some sort of health hazard. Once the large agricultural company gets the farmer to sign a contract the farmer is forced to upgrade his or hers technology in order to keep up with the contracts production standards. The local farmer may still be the technical owner of his or her farm but they are essentially enslaved by the company they have a contract with by being forced to go way into thousands of dollars in debt to purchase the new farming technology from the companies to produce more food for the companies. This is bad for local economies, even discouraging farmers from continuing producing food and discouraging to new farmers that want to enter the industry.
Another major impact of agriculture becoming corporatized is the diminishing quality of life of farm animals. A great quote from PETA’s official website that summarizes what exactly these animals are going through is as follows: “On today’s factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy, windowless sheds and stuffed into wire cages, metal crates, and other torturous devices. These animals will never raise their families, root around in the soil, build nests, or do anything that is natural and important to them. Most won’t even feel the warmth of the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they’re loaded onto trucks headed for slaughterhouses.”(PETA) These terrible living conditions are a direct result of major corporations being in control of the farms these animals are raised on. Because a company is making all of the decisions and not a farmer the animals are looked at as a product not a living creature. Cuts are made and new processes are introduced to improve production efficiency and the animals are the ones suffering the consequences. For example, many different processes have been introduced to raise chickens in much less time, to make chickens grow larger breasts, and to raise as many chicken as possible in the smallest space as possible; while the health and wellbeing of the chicken are completely neglected. This is due to the fact that these major corporations value profit margins over the lives of the animals, and the people making these executive decisions on the animal’s behalf are not ever directly dealing with the animals themselves. That is why decisions such as how farm animals are raised should be being made by the farmers that actually do and see the work take place not by people in an office somewhere.
Corporate agriculture is not only negatively effecting the live of the farm animals but it also has rather significant negative impacts on the environment as well. As mentioned before when people in an office that are not actually out working the farmland are making the executive decisions certain things are neglected. The center of concern for economic and social justice says that corporate agriculture “creates environmental disaster through excessive pesticide use, soil erosion, genetic engineering, monoculture, and concentration of animal waste”(coc.org). The companies are so concerned with temporary gains that long term environmental impacts are often ignored. This is truly the core of what is so wrong with the farming industry being taken over by large agricultural companies. Agriculture is being treated as any other business when it is much more important than that. The agriculture business does not just produce another product it produces the food that feeds the world. Without agriculture and the farming industry human life as we know it would exist no longer. In the farming industry things like quality and sustainability need to be the priority in order to not only feed ourselves today but to feed future generations to come. Thankfully steps are being taken to address these issues today and the future is beginning to look a little bit brighter where food production is concerned. Organizations like PETA are improving the lives of farm animals, demand is increasing for more locally grown organic foods, which is more farmers markets sprout up all over the nation. It truly does boil down to what we as the consumer and more importantly citizens of our society want out from our food, if we start to value and demand high quality food and farming conditions than the farming industry will provide.
- Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Magnolia Pictures, 2010. Netflix.
- “Why Corporate Agriculture Is a Problem.” Center of Concern. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://www.coc.org/node/6073>.
- “Factory Farming: Misery for Animals.” PETA. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/>.