The agricultural industry has undergone enormous changes in the last 30 years, if simply because of the increase in livestock numbers. This has translated into a rise in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), or factory farms. These factors can have profound implications if proposed changes in the poultry industry are implemented.
Poultry Factory Farms
The image of the family livestock farm has all but faded into history. Today, factory farms account for 80 percent of the global farm animal production. The face of the poultry industry includes 72 percent animal production and 43 percent egg production from these operations.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees poultry production. However, in one proposed cost-saving measure, this task would fall to the industry itself. This is not a new program, as the USDA has been undergoing pilot testing since 1998. In addition, it raises valid concerns over the safety of such an industry-wide move.
According to Food and Water Watch, the ground is ripe for an increase in contamination and failures in the inspection process. The organization found that 200 birds a minute were being processed. In a factory farm situation, a single contaminated chicken can come into contact with thousands of other carcasses going through the same processing procedure. This means that potential for widespread contamination exists.
Risks of Food Poisoning
Raw foods such as poultry are one of the primary sources of foodborne illnesses. Contaminated products have the potential to cause some of the top five pathogens responsible for food-related deaths, including Campylobacter spp. and Salmonella.
The possibility for an increase in food poisoning tied to poultry exists because of two reasons. First, federal inspectors receive extensive training for their positions. A similar requirement does not exist with privatized operations. Second, a clear conflict of interest exists.
By processing foods faster, i.e., getting poultry inspected quicker, the industry stands to reduce its costs. This factor increases the chances that contaminated carcasses will get through the inspection process, as Food and Water Watch has already reported.
Food poisoning affects one in six Americans each year, causing 3,000 deaths. The developing scenario in the poultry industry threatens to increase these numbers. While some may scorn federal regulation, a third-party process clearly benefits the consumer and the stability of the industry in the long term.