Unbelievable Photos Show Factory Farms Destroying The American Countryside
By Harrison Jacobs / businessinsider.com
Nov 11, 2014

Food production has become a race for maximum efficiency. When it comes to producing meat, whether chicken, beef, or pork, that race has fallen at the feet of the so-called factory farm and its hallmark feature — the feedlot.

Feedlots, officially called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), house thousands of animals in tiny, confined spaces before they're slaughtered. Critics call the practice inhumane and say it breeds environmental problems and disease.

"A feedlot is very much a pre-modern city … teeming and filthy and stinking, with open sewers, unpaved roads, and choking air rendered visible by dust," Michael Pollan writes in his book "The Omnivore’s Dilemma."

There are currently about 15,500 CAFOs in the U.S. According to FarmForward — which used numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture — 99% of farmed animals in the U.S. are raised on feedlots.

For the last several years, British artist Mishka Henner has collected images of the feedlots via satellite, to document a largely hidden phenomenon. Initially, he was searching satellite imagery to look for oil fields. When he came across the feedlots, Henner was shocked he didn't know about about such a central part of our food production.

"The feedlots are a brilliant representation of how abstract our food industry has come," Henner told Business Insider. "It’s an efficient system for extracting the maximum yield from animals. That’s the world we live in now. We want to extract the maximum yield from everything, no matter what business you are in."

As you can see from these photos, the chemicals in animal waste turn feedlots into oddly beautiful, multicolored cesspools. Henner's work has been collected into a study called Feedlots, prints of which can be purchased here. Henner will be displaying the work with the Carroll/Fletcher Gallery at ArtExpo in Chicago from Sept. 18-21.

Mishka Henner Tascosa Feedyard (detail), Texas.

The goal of the feedlots is to produce the greatest output at the lowest cost. To that end, cows eat a combination of cheap corn, protein, and fat supplements (often manufactured from other cows), and drugs to fatten them up quickly and efficiently, according to Pollan. Cows naturally feed on grass, but grass-fed cows take much longer than corn-fed cows to get to slaughter weight.

“Cows raised on grass simply take longer to reach slaughter weight than cows raised on a richer diet, and for half a century now the industry has devoted itself to shortening a beef animal’s allotted span on Earth,” Pollan wrote.

Since factory farms became part of the food industry in the mid-20th century, Pollan writes, the length of cows’ lives before being slaughtered has steadily decreased to 12 to 14 months, from about four to five years.

Mishka Henner Coronado Feeders, Dalhart, Texas.

With meat consumption set to rise exponentially in the coming years, these feedlots will only increase their dominance on our production of food. And these CAFOs have serious environmental costs.

Thousands of of cattle on a small parcel of land produce an exorbitant amount of waste with nitrogen and phosphorus that would render it useless as a fertilizer. With nowhere for the manure to go, farms must create “manure lagoons” — ponds or reservoirs filled with toxic waste, according to a report by the CDC. As you can see from these photos, these "lagoons" look like gigantic, multicolored petri dishes.

Mishka Henner Coronado Feeders (detail), Dalhart, Texas.

The manure lagoons can hurt water and land quality. Animal waste pollutants, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, organic matter, antibiotics, pesticides, and diseases, leach into the groundwater and land. The EPA estimates that states with high concentrations of CAFOs experience 20 to 30 serious water quality problems per year.  

That waste also pollutes the air. Farm workers and nearby residents have reported asthma, headaches, eye irritation, and nausea, apparently as a result of the emissions from the feedlots. The health and environmental concerns have driven down nearby property values, according to a recent study cited by the CDC. 

These feedlots are tough to fight because of so-called "ag-gag" laws in seven states, which bar the recording of undercover videos, photographs, or sound recordings at farms. Farms and livestock producers say the laws are aimed at protecting their homes and businesses from intruders, but critics say they have a chilling effect on whistle-blowing or investigative work.

Two "ag-gag" laws are currently being challenged in federal court in Idaho and Utah, according to USA Today. 

While Henner trespassed on no lands to produce his images, he says he has been warned his images would fall under "ag-gag" laws in the states where they exist. He has yet to be confronted with any legal challenges.

"Ag-gag" laws are one of the main reasons so few people have seen photos of the feedlots, making Henner's work all the more unique.

Mishka Henner Randall County Feedyard, Amarillo, Texas.

4.6 ·
8
Trending Today
How Norway Avoided Becoming a Fascist State
George Lakey · 29,261 views today · Instead of falling to the Nazi party, Norway broke through to a social democracy. Their history shows us polarization is nothing to despair over.
Where the Term "Redneck" Came From
15 min · 16,562 views today · If you don't know this story, you'll never look at the word the same again.  This is just a window into the sometimes shocking, subversive and untold history of the United...
Stunning Small Homes Form Part of a Communal Compound for Best Friends
Lighter Side · 13,022 views today · If you’re lucky enough to have longtime friends even as an adult, then you know probably already know how much it means to be able to spend time together. Maybe you even have a...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 9,074 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
Voices of Standing Rock
49 min · 6,805 views today · Short stories told by water protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota. Part 1 - Introduction: Since mid-August 2016, thousands have set up camp near the Standing Rock Sioux...
Redneck Revolt Presents: A Message to the Patriot Movement
6 min · 4,819 views today · Over the past few weeks, Redneck Revolt has been communicating with a former member of a III% Patriot Militia based out of Ohio. Peter made contact with our organization after...
10 Words Every Girl Should Learn
Soraya Chemaly · 4,577 views today · "Stop interrupting me."  "I just said that." "No explanation needed." In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My...
Charles Eisenstein: The Two Great Stories That Give Meaning to Our Lives
6 min · 3,665 views today · What matters in life? Who are we? Every culture has answers to these questions. And the way we answer them has profound effects on the health of people and planet. This is a...
The Fire Within
Words by Sophie Scholl - Illustrations by Gavin Aung Than · 3,528 views today · Sophie Scholl (1921-1943) was a German activist who is famous for speaking out against the Nazi regime. Scholl was a member of a protest group called The White Rose, which...
The London Anarchist Group Squatting Mansions to Fight Homelessness
6 min · 2,418 views today · London squatting activists ANAL (Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians) are squatting empty multi-million pound buildings and opening them up to the homeless.
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 2,144 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
The Lessons of Standing Rock
Michael Emero · 2,109 views today · In mid-November of 2016, I was a Water Protector at Standing Rock. At first my goal was to play investigative journalist; documenting then writing about every detail for my...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 2,061 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
What Happens When You Rebel Against the Herd
Sofo Archon · 1,738 views today · Are You Truly Living Your Life? You live, but are you living the way you want to live, or the way others want you to live? You choose, but are your choices based on...
Everything We Think We Know About Addiction Is Wrong
6 min · 1,362 views today · What causes addiction? Easy, right? Drugs cause addiction. But maybe it is not that simple. This video is adapted from Johann Hari's New York Times best-selling book 'Chasing...
Films for Action's Public Film Screening Guide
Tim Hjersted and Matt Toplikar · 1,045 views today · This guide will give you step by step instructions on how to host Films For Action sponsored film screening events in your city. It is intended primarily for people who have...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 1,015 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 928 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 596 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Philippine Vigils Against Vigilantes - The Reign of Terror in the President's War on Drugs
7 min · 582 views today · The war on drugs waged by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has taken more than 7,000 lives since its inception. It took the killing of a South Korean businessman by police...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Unbelievable Photos Show Factory Farms Destroying The American Countryside