Ryan’s notes

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer


I always knew there was a dark side to eating animals, but for years I chose not to engage the topic. Seeing friends around me choose to be vegan, vegetarian, or to eat less meat made me feel like there was probably something they knew that I didn’t but I avoided the issue because I wanted to eat meat and ignorance helped. After a decade of living in California where it's easier to eat less meat, I started to think that maybe I could give it up, and frankly, that’s what led me to read this book. Eating Animals has changed my life and wish I had read it sooner; I will never eat the same way again.

While a lot of books and documentaries on meat production have a slanted agenda, I found Jonathan Safran Foer's motivations to be credible. An on-and-off vegetarian for most of his life, he decided to take a closer look when he had his first child. He felt a sense of responsibility in choosing a diet for another human and felt that he was poorly equipped to answer questions his kid might ask (“Daddy, why do we eat cows but not dogs?”). With this book, JSF deploys investigative journalism to simply describe what is behind the meat products we eat.

Eating Animals is extremely well researched. It's clearly written. Its tone is pressing. JSF doesn't waste a breath. And, despite the weight of the topic, he finds a way to inject humor and word craft to make this book enjoyable to read.

Some key points:

Factory farming is new, massive, and ubiquitous. This book is about eating meat, but more specifically about the factory farming infrastructure that produces nearly every meat product we consume. Ten billion land animals are slaughtered for food every year in America. The average American eats 21 thousand of these animals in a lifetime. That's up 150x from 80 years ago. Thinking about this scale blew me away. Large factory farms, operated by a few major companies, treat animals as inputs to a massive machine that delivers most of the fish, poultry, pork, and beef in our grocery stores. 99.9% of chickens, 99% of turkeys, 95% of pigs, and 78% of cattle are factory farmed. There isn’t enough non-factory poultry produced in America to feed Sacramento and not enough non-factory pork to feed New York City. The meat we eat today is factory farmed meat, even if we shop at Whole Foods.

Factory farming animals is gross. The facts on the ground are foul. We've selectively bred "broiler" chickens to a degree that they can no longer reproduce on their own. We pump them with drugs to manage disease just long enough to deliver them to slaughter after 42 days, before puberty. We throw them into crates by their feet, breaking bones. We drag them through electric water baths, which paralyze them but don't render them unconscious. High-speed machines often rip open intestines, creating a fecal soup in which they cool. Sometimes these chickens don't taste very good so we inject their meat with salty broths to make them taste more like... chicken. Cows are routinely skinned while still alive. Nearly all fish experience prolonged suffocation. 80 to 90 percent of sea life caught by trawling is thrown back into the ocean, dead, because it isn't the primary catch. Industrial pork operations produce giant manure lagoons that cause massively elevated rates of asthma for miles around, and these pits will never be drained. All of this is normal. It's the rule, not the exception.

We accept factory farming practices because they're hidden. Most people, including me, never need to think about how meat gets to our plate. JSF: "This has enabled agribusiness to shift livestock and poultry farming into unhealthy, inhumane systems with little public scrutiny. Few people have seen the insides of industrial dairies, egg or pig operations, and most consumers truly have no idea what is going on at such places." The way we raise and kill animals today violates our basic sense of what is right, but we don't see it so we carry on. The simple idea here is that if we were to consistently confront how the sausage is made, we would choose not to eat it.

Meat is cheap because the true costs are not priced in. In the past 50 years, housing prices have increased 15x, car prices are up 14x, but the price of chicken hasn't doubled. While the average flock size in 1930 was 23, poultry operations manage tens of thousands of birds today. These efficiency improvements in yield and scale are technologically impressive, but they have equally sizable consequences. When we engineer animals to be bigger, more tender, and quicker to grow, we get sicker animals. When we scale production past a certain point, we treat animals as inputs to a machine and lose our sense of decency toward them in the process. Meat is cheaper now (and in greater demand) than ever before because the real costs to the animals and to human society are not priced in. As a result, we're multiplying suffering, increasing pollution, and heating the planet at an ever increasing rate.

There's no good type of meat to eat. If you want to eat meat and you're looking for the best meat to eat you might choose chicken because you know that beef, with its land requirements for feed and grazing and its methane emissions from cow farts, contributes heavily to climate change (the livestock industry emits more greenhouse gases than cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships combined). But chickens are treated horribly compared to cattle, and you need to kill 220 chickens for every cow to get the same caloric value. So maybe you choose to eat pork, except that it's pretty climate intensive too, manure lagoons are toxic and unsustainable, and pigs are the smartest of the bunch, so that feels wrong. Fish then, except that while chickens, cows, and pigs are often killed quickly, nearly every fish dies a slow death. There's really no evidence to think that fish feel less pain, it's just that since they look so different we imagine they don't. And do you really want to kill 10 pounds of bycatch (other sea life) for every pound of shrimp you eat? The point is, there isn't any kind of meat to eat without big problems.

It’s nearly impossible to eat meat and not support factory farming practices. While the vast majority of meat comes from factory farming, it is possible to source ethical animal products. It's just really, really hard. Misleading marketing makes it difficult to know what you’re actually buying. For instance, most "cage-free" chicken operations give just 0.8 square feet per bird to move around. "Free-range" means that animals have "access to the outdoors" but this means little in practice (perhaps a 5x5 foot pen for 30 thousand birds). Most small-scale, good-intentioned, organic producers fall short of treating animals well despite their best efforts. They rely on industrial plants for artificial insemination and a lot of them are forced to outsource slaughter to places with lax standards. While it’s possible to determine the provenance of a given meat product, it is incredibly taxing to do so. Perhaps you expend the extra time, effort, and money to source pasture raised beef with a reputable slaughterhouse or rod and reel caught cod from a trusted fishmonger. Just know that most local restaurants will not.

You might say that I've been radicalized by this book and that's right. But I believe I've been radicalized by the truth. I find JSF's intentions credible and his research sound. I don't want to search for counter-arguments to justify my existing eating habits. JSF asks, "Given that eating animals is in absolutely no way necessary for my family — unlike some in the world, we have easy access to a wide variety of other foods — should we eat animals?" My answer to that now is no.

I've been vegetarian for the past six months. I've made a few exceptions: anchovies and one omakase experience. I still eat dairy and eggs, for now. These changes to my diet are large and I’d rather be successful in dramatically cutting down on my support for factory farming than to be puritanical about it. So, I see it as a stepwise process. The next step will be to cut out egg-forward dishes (scrambles, etc.) while continuing to eat things like baked goods made with an egg.

I believe that consuming industrially produced animal products in the way we do today will be seen by future generations as a horror, and it’s about time my actions started to line up with this belief.

It's frustrating to navigate ethical eating. I agree with JSF when he says: "It shouldn’t be the consumer’s responsibility to figure out what’s cruel and what’s kind, what’s environmentally destructive and what’s sustainable. Cruel and destructive food products should be illegal. We don’t need the option of buying children’s toys made with lead paint, or aerosols with chlorofluorocarbons, or medicines with unlabeled side effects. And we don’t need the option of buying factory-farmed animals." But for now, it's on each of us to get this right.


  • When I graduated, I ate meat — lots of every kind of meat — for about two years. Why? Because it tasted good. And because more important than reason in shaping habits are the stories we tell ourselves and one another. And I told a forgiving story about myself to myself. (Page 8)
  • Why should eating be different from any of the other ethical realms of our lives? We were honest people who occasionally told lies, careful friends who sometimes acted clumsily. We were vegetarians who from time to time ate meat. (Page 9)
  • I didn’t know what animals were, or even approximately how they were farmed or killed. The whole thing made me uncomfortable, but that didn’t imply that anyone else should be, or even that I should be. And I felt no rush or need to sort any of this out. (Page 9) — same here
  • ten billion land animals slaughtered for food every year in America, (Page 15) — !!!
  • If my wife and I raise our son as a vegetarian, he will not eat his great-grandmother’s singular dish, will never receive that unique and most direct expression of her love, will perhaps never think of her as the Greatest Chef Who Ever Lived. Her primal story, our family’s primal story, will have to change. (Page 15) — This is something I haven't really considered. Family dishes: chicken paprikas, piggies, kielbasa
  • Sixty-three percent of American households have at least one pet. This prevalence is most impressive because of its newness. Keeping companion animals became common only with the rise of the middle class and urbanization, (Page 22)
  • The inefficient use of dogs — conveniently already in areas of high human population (take note, local-food advocates) — should make any good ecologist blush. One could argue that various “humane” groups are the worst hypocrites, spending enormous amounts of money and energy in a futile attempt to reduce the number of unwanted dogs while at the very same time propagating the irresponsible no-dog-for-dinner taboo. If we let dogs be dogs, and breed without interference, we would create a sustainable, local meat supply with low energy inputs that would put even the most efficient grass-based farming to shame. For the ecologically minded it’s time to admit that dog is realistic food for realistic environmentalists. Can’t we get over our sentimentality? Dogs are plentiful, (Page 28) — Heh
  • We care most about what’s close to us, and have a remarkably easy time forgetting everything else. We also have a strong impulse to do what others around us are doing, especially when it comes to food. Food ethics are so complex because food is bound to both taste buds and taste, to individual biographies and social histories. (Page 31)
  • the utterly unselective omnivore — “I’m easy; I’ll eat anything” — can appear more socially sensitive than the individual who tries to eat in a way that is good for society. (Page 32)
  • For thousands of years, farmers took their cues from natural processes. Factory farming considers nature an obstacle to be overcome. (Page 34)
  • globally, farmed animals contribute more to climate change than transport. According to the UN, the livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, around 40 percent more than the entire transport sector — cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships — combined. (Page 58)
  • Turkey hens now lay 120 eggs a year and chickens lay over 300. That’s two or even three times as many as in nature. After that first year, they are killed because they won’t lay as many eggs in the second year — the industry figured out that it’s cheaper to slaughter them and start over than it is feed and house birds that lay fewer eggs. (Page 60)
  • The philosopher Elaine Scarry has observed that “beauty always takes place in the particular.” Cruelty, on the other hand, prefers abstraction. (Page 102)
  • By his own acknowledgment, the efficiencies of these lines inspired Henry Ford, who brought the model into the auto industry, leading to a revolution in manufacturing. (Page 103) — Meat packing preceded Model T
  • the 1879 invention of the refrigerator car, allowed for increasingly large concentrations of cattle to be brought together from ever-farther distances. (Page 104)
  • Steele, who managed her family’s small flock of chickens, allegedly received an order of five hundred chicks instead of the fifty she had requested. Rather than get rid of them, she decided to experiment with keeping the birds indoors through the winter. With the help of newly discovered feed supplements the birds survived, and the loop of her experimentations continued. By 1926, Steele had 10,000 birds, and by 1935, 250,000. (The average flock size in America in 1930 was still only 23.) Just ten years after Steele’s breakthrough, the Delmarva Peninsula was the poultry capital of the world. (Page 104)
  • From 1935 to 1995, the average weight of “broilers” increased by 65 percent, while their time-to-market dropped 60 percent and their feed requirements dropped 57 percent. (Page 106)
  • No one can deny seriously, or for very long, that men do all they can in order to dissimulate this cruelty or to hide it from themselves, in order to organize on a global scale the forgetting or misunderstanding of this violence. (Page 108)
  • In the past fifty years, as factory farming spread from poultry to beef, dairy, and pork producers, the average cost of a new house increased nearly 1,500 percent; new cars climbed more than 1,400 percent; but the price of milk is up only 350 percent, and eggs and chicken meat haven’t even doubled. (Page 109)
  • For each food animal species, animal agriculture is now dominated by the factory farm — 99.9 percent of chickens raised for meat, 97 percent of laying hens, 99 percent of turkeys, 95 percent of pigs, and 78 percent of cattle — but there are still some vibrant alternatives. In the pig industry, small farmers have begun to work cooperatively to preserve themselves. And the movements toward sustainable fishing and cattle ranching have captured significant press and market share. But the transformation of the poultry industry — the largest and most influential in animal agriculture (99 percent of all land animals slaughtered are farmed birds) — is all but complete. (Page 109)
  • Not a single turkey you can buy in a supermarket could walk normally, much less jump or fly. Did you know that? They can’t even have sex. Not the antibiotic-free, or organic, or free-range, or anything. They all have the same foolish genetics, and their bodies won’t allow for it anymore. Every turkey sold in every store and served in every restaurant was the product of artificial insemination. If it were only for efficiency, that would be one thing, but these animals literally can’t reproduce naturally. Tell me what could be sustainable about that? (Page 111)
  • What the industry figured out — and this was the real revolution — is that you don’t need healthy animals to make a profit. Sick animals are more profitable. (Page 111)
  • Michael Pollan wrote about Polyface Farm in The Omnivore’s Dilemma like it was something great, but that farm is horrible. It’s a joke. Joel Salatin is doing industrial birds. Call him up and ask him. So he puts them on pasture. It makes no difference. It’s like putting a broken-down Honda on the Autobahn and saying it’s a Porsche. KFC chickens are almost always killed in thirty-nine days. They’re babies. That’s how rapidly they’re grown. Salatin’s organic free-range chicken is killed in forty-two days. ’Cause it’s still the same chicken. It can’t be allowed to live any longer because its genetics are so screwed up. Stop and think about that: a bird that you simply can’t let live out of its adolescence. (Page 113)
  • Everything is done by hand and carefully. It’s done right every time. The turkeys are stunned before they’re shackled. Normally they’re hung live and dragged through an electrical bath, but we don’t do that. We do one at a time. It’s a person doing it, handheld. When they do it one by one, they do it well. (Page 114)
  • It’s wrong, and people know it’s wrong. They don’t have to be convinced. They just have to act differently. I’m not better than anyone, and I’m not trying to convince people to live by my standards of what’s right. I’m trying to convince them to live by their own. (Page 114) — What do i know is wrong that i still choose to do?
  • On average, Americans eat the equivalent of 21,000 entire animals in a lifetime—one animal for every letter on the last five pages. (Page 118)
  • Of course, consumers might notice that their chickens don’t taste quite right — how good could a drug-stuffed, disease-ridden, shit-contaminated animal possibly taste? — but the birds will be injected (or otherwise pumped up) with “broths” and salty solutions to give them what we have come to think of as the chicken look, smell, and taste. (A recent study by Consumer Reports found that chicken and turkey products, many labeled as natural, “ballooned with 10 to 30 percent of their weight as broth, flavoring, or water.”) (Page 127)
  • If your operation is running at the proper speed — 105 chickens crated by a single worker in 3.5 minutes is the expected rate according to several catchers I interviewed — the birds will be handled roughly and, as I was also told, the workers will regularly feel the birds’ bones snapping in their hands. (Page 128)
  • The conveyer system drags the birds through an electrified water bath. This most likely paralyzes them but doesn’t render them insensible. Other countries, including many European countries, require (legally, at least) that chickens be rendered unconscious or killed prior to bleeding and scalding. In America, where the USDA’s interpretation of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act exempts chicken slaughter, the voltage is kept low — about one-tenth the level necessary to render the animals unconscious. (Page 129)
  • After the birds’ heads are pulled off and their feet removed, machines open them with a vertical incision and remove their guts. Contamination often occurs here, as the high-speed machines commonly rip open intestines, releasing feces into the birds’ body cavities. Once upon a time, USDA inspectors had to condemn any bird with such fecal contamination. But about thirty years ago, the poultry industry convinced the USDA to reclassify feces so that it could continue to use these automatic eviscerators. Once a dangerous contaminant, feces are now classified as a “cosmetic blemish.” (Page 130)
  • While a significant number of European and Canadian poultry processors employ air-chilling systems, 99 percent of US poultry producers have stayed with water-immersion systems and fought lawsuits from both consumers and the beef industry to continue the outmoded use of water-chilling. It’s not hard to figure out why. Air-chilling reduces the weight of a bird’s carcass, but water-chilling causes a dead bird to soak up water (the same water known as “fecal soup”). (Page 131)
  • What I’ve described is not exceptional. It isn’t the result of masochistic workers, defective machinery, or “bad apples.” It is the rule. More than 99 percent of all chickens sold for meat in America live and die like this. (Page 132)
  • Fifty billion. Every year fifty billion birds are made to live and die like this. It cannot be overstated how revolutionary and relatively new this reality is — the number of factory-farmed birds was zero before Celia Steele’s 1923 experiment. And we’re not just raising chickens differently; we’re eating more chickens: Americans eat 150 times as many chickens as we did only eighty years ago. (Page 133)
  • In the world of factory farming, expectations are turned upside down. Veterinarians don’t work toward optimal health, but optimal profitability. Drugs are not for curing diseases, but substitutes for destroyed immune systems. Farmers do not aim to produce healthy animals. (Page 184)
  • There is something quite sinister about this scorched-earth style of “harvesting” sea animals. The average trawling operation throws 80 to 90 percent of the sea animals it captures as bycatch overboard. The least efficient operations actually throw more than 98 percent of captured sea animals, dead, back into the ocean. (Page 187)
  • In trawlers, hundreds of different species are crushed together, gashed on corals, bashed on rocks — for hours — and then hauled from the water, causing painful decompression (the decompression sometimes causes the animals’ eyes to pop out or their internal organs to come out their mouths). (Page 188)
  • Although one can realistically expect that at least some percentage of cows and pigs are slaughtered with speed and care, no fish gets a good death. (Page 189)
  • To give up the taste of sushi or roasted chicken is a loss that extends beyond giving up a pleasurable eating experience. Changing what we eat and letting tastes fade from memory create a kind of cultural loss, a forgetting. (Page 190)
  • It seems to me that it’s plainly wrong to eat factory-farmed pork or to feed it to one’s family. It’s probably even wrong to sit silently with friends eating factory-farmed pork, however difficult it can be to say something. Pigs clearly have rich minds and just as clearly are condemned to miserable lives on factory farms. The analogy of a dog kept in a closet is fairly accurate, if somewhat generous. The environmental case against eating factory-farmed pork is airtight and damning. For similar reasons, I wouldn’t eat poultry or sea animals produced by factory methods. Looking into their eyes does not generate the same pathos as meeting eyes with a pig, but we see as much with our minds’ eyes. All I have learned about the intelligence and social sophistication of birds and fish from my research demands that I take the acuteness of their misery just as seriously as the more easily grasped misery of factory-farmed pigs. With feedlot-raised beef, the industry offends me less (and 100 percent pasture-raised beef, setting aside the issue of slaughter for a moment, is probably the least troubling of all meats — more on that in the next chapter). Still, to say that something is less offensive than a pig or chicken factory farm is to say as little as is possible. The question, for me, is this: Given that eating animals is in absolutely no way necessary for my family — unlike some in the world, we have easy access to a wide variety of other foods — should we eat animals? (Page 191)
  • Of course there are circumstances I can conjure under which I would eat meat — there are even circumstances under which I would eat a dog — but these are circumstances I’m unlikely to encounter. Being vegetarian is a flexible framework, and I’ve left a mental state of constant personal decision making about eating animals (who could stay in such a place indefinitely?) for a steady commitment not to. (Page 193)
  • It’s clear enough that factory farming is more than something I just personally dislike, but it’s not clear what conclusions follow. Does the fact that factory farming is cruel to animals and ecologically wasteful and polluting mean everyone needs to boycott factory farm products all the time? Is a partial withdrawal from the system good enough — a sort of preferred purchasing program for nonfactory food that stops short of a boycott? Is the issue not our personal buying choices at all, but one that needs to be resolved through legislation and collective political action? Where should I respectfully disagree with someone and where, for the sake of deeper values, should I take a stand and ask others to stand with me? Where do agreed-upon facts leave room for reasonable people to disagree and where do they demand we all act? I’ve not insisted that meat eating is always wrong for everyone or that the meat industry is irredeemable despite its present sorry state. What positions on eating animals would I insist are basic to moral decency? (Page 196)
  • I used to think that being a vegetarian exempted me from spending time trying to change how farm animals are treated. I felt that by abstaining from meat eating, I was doing my part. That seems silly to me now. The meat industry affects everybody in the sense that we are, all of us, living in a society in which food production is based on factory farming. Being a vegetarian does not relieve me from a responsibility for how our nation raises animals — especially at a time when total meat consumption is increasing both nationally and globally. (Page 204)
  • Does anyone really doubt that the corporations that control the vast majority of animal agriculture in America are in it for the profit? In most industries, that’s a perfectly good driving force. But when the commodities are animals, the factories are the earth itself, and the products are physically consumed, the stakes are not the same, and the thinking can’t be the same. (Page 205) — Negative externalities
  • But here’s the elephant in the room: Why eat animals at all? First, consider the environment and the food crisis: there is no ethical difference between eating meat and throwing vast quantities of food in the trash, since the animals we eat can only turn a small fraction of the food that is fed to them into meat calories — it takes six to twenty-six calories fed to an animal to produce just one calorie of animal flesh. The vast majority of what we grow in the United States is fed to animals — that is land and food that we could use to feed humans or preserve wilderness — and the same thing is happening all over the world, with devastating consequences. The UN special envoy on food called it a “crime against humanity” to funnel 100 million tons of grain and corn to ethanol while almost a billion people are starving. So what kind of crime is animal agriculture, which uses 756 million tons of grain and corn per year, much more than enough to adequately feed the 1.4 billion humans who are living in dire poverty? And that 756 million tons doesn’t even include the fact that 98 percent of the 225-million-ton global soy crop is also fed to farmed animals. You’re supporting vast inefficiency and pushing up the price of food for the poorest in the world, even if you’re eating only meat from Niman Ranch. It was this inefficiency — not the environmental toll or even animal welfare — that inspired me to stop eating meat in the first place. (Page 206)
  • The decision to eat any meat at all (even if the meat is from producers that are less abusive) will cause others you know to eat factory-farmed meat (Page 210)
  • the “ethical carnivore” is a failed idea; even the most prominent advocates don’t do it full-time. I have met countless people who were moved by Eric’s and Michael’s arguments, but none of them now eat exclusively Niman-type meat. They are either vegetarians or they continue to eat at least some factory-farmed animals. (Page 210)
  • today’s social conservatives are yesterday’s “extremists” on issues like women’s rights, civil rights, children’s rights, and so on. (Who advocates half measures on the issue of slavery?) Why, when it comes to eating animals, is it suddenly problematic to point out what is scientifically obvious and irrefutable: other animals are more like us than they’re unlike us? They are our “cousins,” as Richard Dawkins puts it. Even saying “You’re eating a corpse,” which is irrefutable, is called hyperbolic. No, it’s just true. (Page 211)
  • Of course, most people never have to confront the unpleasant fact that animal foods (including dairy and eggs) involve killing animals. They remain disconnected from this reality, buying their meats, fish, and cheeses at restaurants and supermarkets, already cooked or presented to them in pieces, making it easy to give little or no thought to the animals these foods come from. This is a problem. It has enabled agribusiness to shift livestock and poultry farming into unhealthy, inhumane systems with little public scrutiny. Few people have seen the insides of industrial dairies, egg or pig operations, and most consumers truly have no idea what is going on at such places. (Page 213)
  • Our current food-production system, especially how animals are raised in confinement operations, violates the basic ethics of most Americans, who find animal farming morally acceptable but believe that every animal should be provided a decent life and a humane death. (Page 213) — Everyone agrees but system doesn't represent values
  • But what about the argument that we humans should choose not to eat meat, regardless of natural norms, because meat is inherently wasteful of resources? This claim is also flawed. Those figures assume that livestock is raised in intensive confinement facilities and fed grains and soy from fertilized crop fields. Such data is inapplicable to grazing animals kept entirely on pasture, like grass-fed cattle, goats, sheep, and deer. (Page 215)
  • Bruce argues for animal rights. Bill and Nicolette argue for animal welfare. From a certain angle of vision, the two responses seem united: they both seek a lesser violence. (When animal rights advocates argue that animals are not here for us to use, they are calling for a minimization of the harm we inflict.) From this point of view, the more important difference between the positions — the one that is at the core of what motivates us to choose one or the other — is a wager about what ways of living will actually result in this lesser violence. (Page 216) — Really good point. What do I believe?
  • Long after I had made my personal decision to be vegetarian, it remained unclear to me to what extent I could genuinely respect a different decision. Are other strategies simply wrong? (Page 218)
  • The beef industry is still by far the most ethically impressive segment of the meat industry, and so I wish the truth weren’t so ugly here. The Animal Welfare Institute–approved welfare protocols that Niman Ranch follows — again, about the best there are — also allow disbudding (removal of horn buds with hot irons or caustic pastes) and castration. Less obviously a problem, but worse from a welfare point of view, is that Niman Ranch cattle all spend their last months on a feedlot. (Page 220)
  • NICOLETTE: I think because I know it’s not necessary. But I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with it. See, I can’t go to the word wrong. (Page 221)
  • Cattle raised for beef are still adolescents when they meet their end. While early American ranchers kept cattle on the range for four or five years, today they are slaughtered at twelve to fourteen months. (Page 222)
  • No jokes here, and no turning away. Let’s say what we mean: animals are bled, skinned, and dismembered while conscious. It happens all the time, and the industry and the government know it. (Page 226)
  • one in four cattle slaughterhouses unable to reliably render animals unconscious on the first blow. (Page 226)
  • Reliance on such hatcheries where the welfare of breeding birds may be as bad as in the worst factory farms, is the Achilles’ heel of many otherwise excellent small producers. (Page 231)
  • The shuttering of the slaughter plant wasn’t unusual. The destruction of the basic infrastructure that supported small poultry farmers is nearly total in America. (Page 232)
  • AFTER HAVING SPENT NEARLY THREE years learning about animal agriculture, my resolve has become strong in two directions. I’ve become a committed vegetarian, whereas before I waffled among any number of diets. It’s now hard to imagine that changing. I simply don’t want anything to do with the factory farm, and refraining from meat is the only realistic way for me to do that. (Page 237)
  • The ethical relationship of farmers to farm animals is unique. The farmer must raise a living creature that is destined to an endpoint of slaughter for food, or culling and death after a lifetime of production, without becoming emotionally attached or, conversely, without becoming cynical about the animal’s need for a decent life while the animal is alive. The farmer must somehow raise an animal as a commercial endeavor without regarding the animal as a mere commodity. (Page 238)
  • Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when? (Page 239)
  • We treat animals as we do because we want to and can. (Does anyone really wish to deny this anymore?) (Page 239)
  • A not particularly funny thing happened at Niman Ranch recently. Just before this book went to press, Bill was driven out of his namesake company. As he tells it, his own board forced him to leave, quite simply because they wanted to do things more profitably and less ethically than he would allow while remaining at the helm. It seems that even this company — literally the most impressive national meat provider in the United States — has sold out. I included Niman Ranch in this book because it was the best evidence that selective omnivores have a viable strategy. What am I — are we — to make of its fall? (Page 240)
  • If animal agriculture has become a joke, perhaps this is the punch line: even Bill Niman has said he would no longer eat Niman Ranch beef. (Page 240)
  • (the New York Times) editorialize against factory farming as a whole, arguing that “animal husbandry has been turned into animal abuse,” and “manure . . . has been turned into toxic waste.” (Page 247)
  • When Temple Grandin first began to quantify the scale of abuse in slaughterhouses, she reported witnessing “deliberate acts of cruelty occurring on a regular basis” at 32 percent of the plants she surveyed during announced visits in the United States. (Page 251)
  • Farmers have lost — have had taken from them — a direct, human relationship with their work. Increasingly, they don’t own the animals, can’t determine their methods, aren’t allowed to apply their wisdom, and have no alternative to high-speed industrial slaughter. The factory model has estranged them not only from how they labor (hack, chop, saw, stick, lop, cut), but what they produce (disgusting, unhealthy food) and how the product is sold (anonymously and cheaply). Human beings cannot be human (much less humane) under the conditions of a factory farm or slaughterhouse. (Page 252)
  • WE SHOULDN’T KID OURSELVES ABOUT the number of ethical eating options available to most of us. There isn’t enough nonfactory chicken produced in America to feed the population of Staten Island and not enough nonfactory pork to serve New York City, let alone the country. Ethical meat is a promissory note, not a reality. Any ethical-meat advocate who is serious is going to be eating a lot of vegetarian fare. (Page 252)
  • compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use, and the regular exercise of choosing kindness over cruelty would change us. (Page 254) — I've found this to be true in my own life
  • I’ve restricted myself to mostly discussing how our food choices affect the ecology of our planet and the lives of its animals, but I could have just as easily made the entire book about public health, workers’ rights, decaying rural communities, or global poverty — all of which are profoundly affected by factory farming. Factory farming, of course, does not cause all the world’s problems, but it is remarkable just how many of them intersect there. (Page 256)
  • The factory farm will come to an end because of its absurd economics someday. It is radically unsustainable. The earth will eventually shake off factory farming like a dog shakes off fleas; the only question is whether we will get shaken off along with it. (Page 260)
  • Producing and eating our own food is, historically, much of what made us Americans and not subjects of European powers. While other colonies required massive imports to survive, early American immigrants, thanks to help from Native Americans, were almost entirely self-sustaining. Food is not so much a symbol of freedom as the first requirement of freedom. (Page 261)
  • It shouldn’t be the consumer’s responsibility to figure out what’s cruel and what’s kind, what’s environmentally destructive and what’s sustainable. Cruel and destructive food products should be illegal. We don’t need the option of buying children’s toys made with lead paint, or aerosols with chlorofluorocarbons, or medicines with unlabeled side effects. And we don’t need the option of buying factory-farmed animals. (Page 262) — Really good point, this shouldn't be on the individual to navigate

Common issues (non-extensive)

  • All

    • Selectively bred to be big, not healthy (almost every chicken and turkey you can buy)
  • Fish farming

    • Bycatch
    • Overfishing
    • Extended death
    • Aquaculture disease, cannibalism, and starvation
  • Poultry farming

    • Most are kept in cramped quarters and never see the outside
    • Processing is just gross: water baths, antibiotics, broths
  • Pork farming

    • Feces are thrown into giant manure lagoons and it stays there forever, affecting the health (asthma rates) of people nearby
  • Beef farming

    • Insane land use… 33% of the US! 25% for grazing & the rest for feed
    • Methane emissions (a more pontent greenhouse gas)
    • Grain finishing is horrible for digestion, suffering
    • In processing, many cows are still alive during slaughter