Despite animal cruelty, environmental destruction, and human health impacts factory farming provides affordable meat to our populations, creates jobs in small towns, stimulates local economies, and helps families prosper so goes the argument presented by the meat industry. It is the pig's or your own family's welfare.
Have rural communities actually experienced their purported economic benefits? Has factory farming made life easier for the people in small towns?
A 2022 report by Food and Water Watch suggests the opposite. The report takes pig farms in Iowa as a case study of how our corporate-controlled food systems are failing environments, animals, and communities.
Factory farms, facilities that raise thousands of animals in extreme confinement to maximize production and profit, operated by multibillion-dollar corporations like Smithfield and JBS now dominate the meat market. Factory farms use this dominance to set the terms for pig prices, preventing fair pricing, contributing to market volatility, and pushing down the real price of pigs. The fact that these enormous corporate firms and their equally enormous factory farms control the market is irrefutable.
But are they at least providing more jobs on the ground for the community? Despite years of claiming the contrary, the answer is straightforward: absolutely not. The study found that between 1982 and 2017, real median household income and total wage jobs declined in the counties that sold the most pigs and had the largest farms. The population also took a steep drop, at twice the rate of Iowa’s more rural counties. Job losses, too, were commonplace. Statewide, total farm employment dropped 44% between 1982 and 2017—the boom years for factory farming.
The results of this study are clear: Factory farming is bad for the economy, driving up the price of pigs without returning profits to local farmers. It puts local farms out of business and results in net job loss. Families suffer hardship as incomes decline, and property values diminish due to rampant pollution from factory farms. It ensures that factory-farmed pigs grow up and die in misery, while our climate catastrophe worsens, human health deteriorates, and local communities suffer.
Meat consumption increases the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, pneumonia, and more, the meat industry’s routine use of antibiotics to protect their bottom line results in antibiotic resistance in both farmed animals and the people who eat them.
Factory farms are not good for local communities. Who are factory farms good for? Large corporations. Factory farming—and its corporate chokehold on rural communities—is just as brutal to humans as it is to animals.