To Beef, Or Not To Beef

On average, people living in America today consume 120 pounds of meat per year.[1] Today in America roughly 37,233,715,560 pounds of meat is consumed annually.[2] Although there is one other country in the world that consumes more meat, America is one of few countries that have resorted to factory farming in order to maintain this habit. While there are discrepancies on whether factory farming is good or bad for the American society, it is proven that it changes the lives of those living near the farms. If the residents are not suffering from severe asthma or some sort of lung ailment, they have heart cancer or skin disease. This leads to the question of why are we as Americans and we as meat eaters still allowing the practice of factory farms when they are so detrimental to the health of those living around them?

Franz Boas would answer this question by stating that this culture has evolved on its own terms, not developing ideas from other cultures but instead creating customs and values through independent invention. With that in mind, the concept of factory farming is an independent invention and could be viewed as a positive cultural adaptation that is having negative effects on the immediate surrounding people. As stated in Cultural Anthropology, Appreciating Cultural Diversity, “Boas showed that human biology was plastic. It could be changed by the environment, including cultural forces…”[3] Boas would maintain that these medical issues are passed along to future generations of people living in these areas. Therefore the medical and cultural illnesses are adopted by those affected (i.e. negativity toward the factory farms and anyone who works there). If many different types of race were to be living in this farming area, it would also support Boas’ theory that “biology (including race) did not determine culture” meaning the people affected by this issue would not just be one race.[4]

Applied Anthropology would recognize this situation as a problem, and try to change it by studying the culture of these areas very well and then attempting to change the culture into what they believe is the right solution. This could however be a situation where they may not see a problem, or they could be completely outraged, but either way they will try to adapt the culture into something that they believe is right, generally trying to change it into something more similar to that of their own. While an Applied Anthropologist would put great amounts of time into studying this cultural dilemma, they also greatly believe in trying to solve the problems that they see, and sometimes will do it in ways that disturb the cultural flow. In this example of the factory farms they may not have to worry about disturbing the cultural flow of the people living in the area of the factory farms because they would be benefitting their lives greatly by solving the problem. The disruption would be for the rest of Americans who “need” their 120 pounds of meat yearly and would not be able to obtain it because of the closing of the factory farms.

— Pat E.


[1] Berg, Brandon. “More on American Meat Consumption.” Distributed Republic (2008): n. pag. Web. 18 Sep 2010. <;.

2 Bittman, Mark. “Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler.” New York Times (2008): n. pag. Web. 5 Oct 2010. <;

3 Kottak , Conrad. Cultural Anthropology, Appreciating Cultural Diversity. 14th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2009. 1-100. Print.

4 Kottak , Conrad. Cultural Anthropology, Appreciating Cultural Diversity. 14th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2009. 1-100. Print.

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60 Responses to To Beef, Or Not To Beef

  1. Luke Nelson says:

    I would be interested to learn more about theses health affects that come from living near farms. The major health concerns I am aware of are drug resistant bacteria that are themselves a result of antibiotics being given freely to livestock in these farms. These bacteria, already resistant to basic antibiotics, then evolve to infect humans, who have no natural immunity to them, and now no antibiotics to fight them. This to me is another example of the Boasian idea that human biology is affected by changes in environment and culture. I really like how you introduced this concept to factory farming, as well as your acknowledgement about the difficulty of changing our factory farm culture due to our increasing dependence on it.

    • Everett Warner says:

      I agree with Luke that it would be very interesting to learn more about the health affects caused by the farming. I, personally, have never really heard about any health problems caused by the farming of beef so I’m glad Pat brought this up. I was also interested in the possibility that an Applied Anthropologist might also cause a disruption with the people at the farm. I don’t know how many people it takes to operate one of these farms but I’m sure they’re getting help from the surrounding community, which is experiencing the health problems as well as receiving a salary from the farm. I’m sure a portion of the community and definetely the owners of the farm would be deeply affected by changes in the farm, especially if it got shut down. So an Applied Anthropologist would have to be very careful considering the fact that money is also involved.
      I also liked how Luke pointed out the bacteria affecting humans was an example of Boasian Anthropology. However, while Luke mentioned that
      the environment has changed to create these bacteria and they have affected humans because we are not immune to them; I believe that the relation to Boasian Anthropology is that humans will develop an immunity to the bacteria eventually by creating antibacteria and therefore the environment/bacteria has molded human biology.

      • Luke Nelson says:

        Thats a good point to bring up with Boasian Anthropology, and I definitely think you can apply it both ways. Overall though, I think we agree that Factory Farming is a problem, and a good one for an Applied Anthropologist. We could also probably look at this from a cultural ecologist perspective, how these factory farms are helping us adapt and survive to our current environment.

  2. Kate Barry says:

    I agree with Luke on how you introduced factory farming. It was a great introduction into the topic. As someone who is concerned about the health effects of the increased amount of factory farming, I feel that this is a very important topic. One idea that applied anthropologists could look into for solving our dependence would be farming of soy. While there are many problems such as speeding up the climate change, there are also many benefits of cultivating soy. Many people consume meat because it is healthy and they need the nutrients, soy offers protein and other nutrients that meat also has to offer. I have noticed that soy is a popular choice in Boulder, but in other parts of the country (I am out of state) many people would not even consider soy products. So maybe if we decreased factory farming and increased the consumption of soy there would be less health problems.

    • Courtney Antone says:

      Interesting comment that Katy made about Boulder residents being open to alternative sources of protein such as soy in contrast to other communities. An applied anthropologist in this case could research the difference between communities who support alternative sources of food and communities who consume exclusively meat based products. Understanding some of these differences could help an anthropologist generate ideas on spreading support for alternative food sources.

    • Brian Ruddle says:

      Kate, I like how you introduce an alternative to the factory farms by suggesting that we move to a more eco-friendly method of soybean farming. I however feel that there are some risks associated with this alternative. Because of the relative ease of farming soybeans, and its wide variety of uses, I feel that we might be heading for many of the same problems as we have seen with corn. Corn over the past century has, because of its generic widespread use has come to completely dominate how we as Americans eat. Corn is incorporated into almost every processed item on the store shelves with high fructose corn syrup. We need to be sure in our production of soy that it doesn’t become another “corn”. Also while reading your article; I remembered an article in Men’s Health on the dangers of soybean consumption by males. In the article, the author clamed that while soybeans do have many health benefits, over consumption by males can lead to various health problems. Compounds called Isoflavones, which are found in soy, are very similar to the hormone estrogen, which is not found in large amounts in men. The article further claimed that eating excessive amounts of soy based products can decrease testosterone in males to unhealthy levels. I think that the lesson we need to take from the dangers of factory farming, corn production, and the expanding soy industry, is that diversification is key in maintaining balance, both for our bodies, and our ecosystems.

  3. Alex Bayer says:

    If a Cultural Evolutionist looked at this problem what might they say is the reason human society has adopted this practice of Factory Farms even though they are bad for the health of other?

    • Kylee Smith says:

      At the rise of factory farms, I’m assuming Americans were unaware of the negative health effects. Actually, I would say most Americans still are. A cultural evolutionist, and a Marxist anthropologist even, would understand the rise of factory farms in the terms of increased production and demand. Our culture evolved technologically to be able to support a growing population, and once the detrimental impact of factory farming is evident to the majority of the people perhaps our culture will continue to evolve to be factory-farm free.

      • Peter Zwickey says:

        I personally was unaware of the negative effects of factoring farming on the local residents. The introduction to this paper sort of jumped to the fact that there are some extremely bad things that can happen to humans around factory farms. I wish I knew more about that so maybe some explication on that would be helpful to the continuity of your paper. The smell coming from Greeley is testament to the negatives of large scale livestock!

    • Alexis Bell says:

      I think a cultural evolutionist would look at the stages of development that lead to the factory farm. We didn’t jump from local farmer to factory farm in one step, and there were most likely small evolutionary steps in modern farming, each one of which was not significantly more harmful. The question then becomes has factory farming so ‘evolved’ that it is over specialized and can’t be sustained long term.

    • andersca316 says:

      I think that the practice of factory farming is so widespread even with the consideration of health concerns because the final product is much cheaper to purchase then the more expensive but better alternative of long term health benefits. People in America are concerned with instant gratification at a cheap price. Most people would rather pay a smaller price and pay for it later ( bad health) then pay that more expensive price now and have a lesser fear of declined health later in life.

    • Casey Shea says:

      As the culture progressed, it became more and more focused on efficiency and streamlining. If you’re running a business based purely on numbers (as most would) and not based on ethical concerns, it makes more sense to run feed lots and systematic meat farms. This is sort of related to the “Shifting Tastes of Food in America” essay, in that it would be appropriate for an applied anthropological approach to come into play here. If the norms and culture that surround a practice change, then that practice is sure to change as well.

      Norms of efficiency and profit margins created factory farming; maybe norms of ethical animal treatment and healthy food consumption can get rid of it.

  4. stephanie ahlgrain says:

    I think it would be interesting to study ways that anthropology could solve this problem. When I tell people I am an anthropology major, so many think that I study bones and artifacts. They don’t see the link between what I study and my mission to help the world. But what they don’t know is that anthropology has the power to do a lot of good in the world because it allows people to understand each other’s cultures and human needs. An applied anthropologist may be able to help this situation by conducting interviews with locals who can explain the effects of this industry on them. Interviews or other data collection can help to pinpoint the exact source of problem, such as production uncleanness and its effects on all meat consumers, factory pollution and its effects on factory neighbors, or the safety of workers.
    Also applied anthropologists help to preserve a culture even when trying to change some problem. What does our meat eating say about American culture? Is there any cultural characteristic that we would lose by cleaning up the meat industry or by refusing to eat meat?

  5. Kaitlyn Clure says:

    Pat- The introduction of your paper grabbed me in, and I was very interested to keep reading! I had learned about factory farming in Nutrition last semester and would recommend anyone interested in learning more about the harmful effects on not only the animals but the humans, watch Food Inc.(Luke Nelson) In regards to stephanie ahlgrain, and her question to what meat eating means to American culture, I believe that Americans will never give up meat, no matter how drastic and harmful the effects are. I also doubt that we would lose any cultural characteristic by refusing to eat meat or clean up the factories, but that challenge would be an uphill battle, something would is extremely sad.

    • Michelle LaGreca says:

      Kaitlyn, I definitely agree with you on the fact that the essay was grabbing and interesting. But as a vegetarian, I have a biased view on America’s practice on meat eating. I think that many aspects of factory farming are wrong and, like stated in the essay, are detrimental to many aspects of the society in which they are situated. I wish that I could say that American culture would shift away from the dependance on mass-produced meats to feed our society, and instead towards a more animal-friendly means of feeding our population, but that would just be ignorant of the facts about how American culture functions and will continue to live. I don’t think that any major element of our culture would be lost if we stopped eating meats, but I do think that Americans could grow much more if we tried to find plausible alternatives.

  6. Alyssa Paylor says:

    I think it would be interesting to approach meat consumption from an energy efficiency standpoint, and look at a historical perspective. Meat has not commonly been a significant part of the human diet for most of our history. Feeding animals puts in both calories from human energy and food that could be consumed by a human into the development of an animal. Raising meat is not necessarily energy or calorie efficient. In many parts of the world today, societies do not consume meat frequently, saving the consumption of animal products for special occasions and times. Knowing this, perhaps an applied anthropologist working on solving issues of hunger would want to look into the alternative ways in which the grains and other organic products that are typically fed to animals could be modified to feed humans.

    • angielarson says:

      Alyssa, I think you bring up a very interesting point that we have not always been so reliant on meat and it is not as necessary as we think it is. It is almost like a brainwashing that we have all been through that we feel like every single meal has to revolve around some sort of meat, whether it be steak or chicken breast or sliced deli meat. You also bring up a valid point that we feed animals food which we could be consuming and we could be just as healthy as long as we are getting protein from somewhere. I agree that it could be looked into to see how we could be consuming this food instead. This was a very informative essay and I enjoyed reading it. I don’t know much about factory farming so it was nice to get some information on the effect it’s having on humans since I had no idea!

  7. Hannah Limov says:

    This is such a controversial yet fascinating subject! I definitely liked both of the ideas you brought up, however, I would love to see how both the Boasian and Applied Anthropologist would deal with one of the largest aspects affecting the meat industry: our current economic system. As Americans, we live in a “First-World” capitalist society (ethnocentric, yes, but also very indicative of how we view our own economic system) which also heavily promotes individualism and progress up the social/economic ladder. This has wrought a system of “supply and demand” with the producer responding solely to the needs of the consumer. Though our society may be viewed as unique through Boasian eyes, and a potential problem through the lens of an Applied anthropologist, how do both of these account for one of the greatest factors powering the meat industry: America’s economic consumer culture?

    And Kate, I loved your comment on the issue of soy production. Because, this is just another example of replacing one problem (meat production) with another of equal harm (soy production). Even through the lens of an anthropologist, it is so difficult to determine the long-term consequences of our actions, particularly regarding such a wide-spread issue as food production.

  8. Sarah Zall says:

    Stephanie raises some great questions about the relationship between being American and eating meat. I recently heard a story on NPR about “Meatless Mondays” and its growing popularity in NYC restaurants and school cafeterias across the country. Many restaurants across the country are beginning to add more and more vegetarian options to their menus and celebrities have begun to publicly support vegan and vegetarian diets. I wonder what a Cultural Evolutionist would think about the growing vegetarian phenomenon. If a civilized society has a booming factory-farm meat industry, in which direction along the evolutionary continuum would they be moving if the switched to vegetarianism? Would this decision be more or less civilized? Would we still be a civilized nation if we stopped embracing our dominance over animals and slaughtering them in massive amounts?

    As far as losing cultural characteristics, an Applied Anthropologist might study what it means to eat meat. What would a Fourth of July BBQ feel like without burgers and hot dogs on the grill? Would pasta and veggies make us feel as fancy as a Filet Mignon or juicy Kobe beef steak at an upscale restaurant? What would Thanksgiving be without a turkey? Being a vegetarian is often viewed as the weaker option to eating meat. Would it be possible for an Applied Anthropologist to spin being a “whimpy vegetarian” into a positive? Would it ever be possible to redefine American traditions even though they heavily rely on meat-eating rituals?

  9. Kylee Smith says:

    I find your explanation of applied anthropology very interesting. I had always understood it to be the applied anthropologists job to ensure that cultural change occurs smoothly and in a way the community understands and accepts the changes. But I suppose it is inevitable that there will be objectors! You say that “they may not have to worry about disturbing the cultural flow of the people living in the area of the factory farms because they would be benefitting their lives greatly by solving the problem.” However, what about the people who make their living from the factory farms? New occupational skills and opportunities would need to be available. Also, there would need to be open land feasible on which non-factory farms can be established.
    In response to your last paragraph, I believe in the power of words. I think that we can change our would by the language we use. It is definitely possible to adjust the unpositive connotation associated with being vegartian. You can start now!

    • Morgan Piper says:

      Kylee – I completely agree with what you are saying, if instead of changing the way that factory farming is organized in America, maybe Applied Anthropologists could focus on reducing the negativity associated with being a vegetarian in America. It would be interesting to see if that would benefit the nation by increasing the amount of vegetarians and decreasing the amount of meat needed yearly. I believe that one of the problems currently is that many people try to scare others into becoming vegetarian by telling them what meat is doing to their bodies as well as to the world, but may by creating a positive campaign Applied Anthropologists could persuade more Americans to reduce the amount of meat that they are currently consuming.

      • chrissamaury says:

        I agree, it would be very interesting to see how the Applied Anthropologists could reduce the negativity of vegetarianism. From a personal standpoint, I grew up in the south in a hunting family and when I was about 9 years old I decided I wanted to be a vegetarian. When I told my family they sat there silently and told me that I’d turn pale and I wouldn’t be healthy and there would be no way that I could get all of the nutrients that I get through meat. So I ended up not becoming a vegetarian because of all the negative views that my family believed.

    • sleepy head says:

      It would be interesting to study ways in which a cultural attitude about vegetarianism can be changed. Some tactics may be useful in changing attitudes about vegetarianism in some cultures, but detrimental in others. For example, it might be easier to change attitudes in Boulder by talking about ethical implications of meat production, but this might be a “turn off” in other parts in the nation. In more conservative parts of the nation, it might be more beneficial to stress economic or practical reasons of being a vegetarian. An applied anthropologist may want to study these cultural variations and how different strategies work in different American sub cultures to change peoples’ minds about becoming vegetarian.
      It may also be interesting to study this problem through a utilitarian framework. If American culture as a whole believes they get more utility from the amount of meat they are able to purchase every year than the utility lost by those who live near factory farms, it may prove difficult to make substantive changes in production.

  10. Jordie Karlinski says:

    I really would love to have read more about the topic you chose. Maybe the guidelines for this paper were not appropriate for going deeply into the subject, but it would have been nice to read more about the problems with factory farming and the people living in those areas. As a culture that has been dependent on farmed meat products for a number of years now, I feel Americans will never give up their meat because we have lived off meat for so long now. It seems so far-fetched to even think about that idea, even though health risks due exist for some. Like you said, even if an applied anthropologists solved the meat farming problem for the close few who live near the farms, the biggest problem would be the millions of other people who depend on meat for a food source.

  11. Anna Hermann says:

    To Sarah Zall: I think you hit the nail on the head (so to speak!) in your last comments. Will pasta ever be able to be as elegant as a filet mignon? I would argue no; there is an inherent significance our culture places on these meat dishes, and I don’t know if we’ll ever get over the idea that meat is more valuable (presumably because you have to take a life to get it?). The real question then is, if we put so much value on the elegance of these meats, why don’t we treat it with that same value? I was particularly interested in what Alyssa said about energy efficiency, and I would argue it largely is an economic issue, because otherwise we would not allow these farms which are posing such health dangers to those in surrounding areas (can’t believe I hadn’t looked into that before I read this essay).

    Just to respond to what Sarah said about soy, I think it is a question worth pondering. We’re seeing soy be used more and more…however, soy also has its risks. An excess in soy has been linked to certain cancers just as excess in meat has its associations with other medical problems. I think the point here is that almost anything in excess can be very unhealthy for individuals, and one of the problems I see our society facing is particular reliance on certain foods. We realize, for example, we can farm so many cattle in such an area, and we use it to the extreme, producing one kind of meat and selling it over and over because people seem to always have a taste for it. We are obsessed with producing as much meat as possible and this creates boundless issues not only for those consuming it but also for those who live near these megafarms. We have created a diet that is more staple and less variety, and I think therein lies one of the biggest problems.

  12. Landon Shumaker says:

    This is a very well laid out essay. The intro is precise and exactly to the point. I liked how in-depth the two paragraphs were, pertaining to the theories that could be used to understand why Americans still use factory farming. This is an interesting essay and I would like to see what other theories would have to say. The most interesting part was about the health risks involved, being from Nebraska, its sad that this is the first time learning about actually human health risks.

  13. Kelsey Robb says:

    I think it’s interesting to think about not only the affects factory farming has on the people living near the farms, but also the affects factory farming has on the environment. The methane produced by the cattle on factory farms has severely increased the amount of methane in the ozone layer which is having negative effects. Although methane gas is a natural green house gas, too much of it causes problems and that’s evident today. I think this would give an applied anthropologist even more of a reason to focus on factory farming and try to halt its production. However, as described in the essay, this could potentially interfere with the culture that is present when dealing with factory farming such as their income, diet, relationships, etc.

  14. Rebecca Powell says:

    Anna, I liked what you had to say about excess. Ideally, our culture would just start to eat all the products that are healthy for our bodies in moderation. What with globalization, nationalism, the world system, and a strong feeling of superiority though, our American culture is not very receptive to moderation. Here, where bigger is better, nationalism comes mainly with a sense of superiority, and it seems that many Americans take that to mean they can and should eat as much McDonald’s as they want.
    Don’t get me wrong, I like Micky D’s as much as the next person. But if we all, as a society, could start to eat McDonald’s more as the exception than the rule, I think the whole country would be much healthier.

  15. Mia Sadowsky says:

    Given that a cultural anthropologist would recognize this situation as a problem, and try to change it by studying the culture; they would have to look into America’s problem of consumerism. I think consumerism is clearly the root cause of problematic factory farming. We live in a country where supply and demand runs businesses, corporations, and food production. Unfortunately we have become accustomed to the belief that our demand is never too high. Perhaps a solution to the problem is communication. If people knew more about nutrition and what your body actually needs people would view mass consumption of animal product as unnecessary

    • Morgan Piper says:

      I believe Mia is correct in saying that consumerism is the main reason that factory farming even began. This goes to say that if an Applied Anthropologist was going to try to adapt factory farming to make it less detrimental to the people living close to the farms, they would need to first consider a solution for consumerism. This could possibly be why nothing has been done about this situation, because trying to find a solution for American consumerism is quite possibly one of the hardest and nearly impossible things to do within this nation. Americans rely on consumerism for every aspect of their lives and if an Applied Anthropologist were to try to tone down the amount of consumerism it could greatly affect the way that America and even the entire world, operates.

  16. Kelcy Schamehorn says:

    To go along with Mia’s comment, i too beleieve that consumerism and knowledge are two major key factors for this social issue. The biggest problem we have today as Americans is that through the generations, we are rapidly learning how to make a surplus of food for cheaper prices, in a faster amount of time. Our cultural norms and expectations make us want to purchase more meat than we need in order to keep up with our crazy, impatient and busy lifestyles. The worst part about this is that most of us do not even realize the affects factory farming has on us both directly and indirectly. factory farming is only benefitting the supply and demand part of the spectrum, but most of us fail to realize how it is affecting our environment, plants, animals, and even our own bodies. On a Boasian perspective, i agree that factory farming was a result of our own acculteration to solving a problem, but consequently it only led to greater problems. i would love to learn more about the affects factory farming has on all aspects of our culture, land and bodies.

  17. Mark Lamberti says:

    @Alex Bayer- You asked how a cultural evolutionist would look at this problem of factory farming. The answer is dependent on were the anthropologists themselves are from and if they use the factory farming technique. If they did use the same factory farming technology then they would see the practice as a “Civilized” action. Unless of course their culture used a healthier factory farming method or even more advanced technology in which case they would view it as “barbaric.” Furthermore a cultural evolutionist would possibly say the reason the the cultured adopted an unhealthy practice was to support its massive growth in population and infrastructure during the industrial revolution. I hope that answers your question.

  18. Cristina Gannon says:

    Great topic choice. You have brought light to something that very few Amercian know about or care to know about. There is the saying “what you don’t know or see can’t hurt you.” This rings true with this topic. I do feel however, that with the recent problems with food products (bad beef, contaminated eggs/tomatoes) that have been coming to light through the media, that more Americans are becoming concerns about what they are comsuming. But how has the meat industry responded to being under a high scrutiny…..
    “Green Marketing” is how. They are presenting there meat products and biproducts as more environmentally and animal “friendly”. One example of this is seen with “free range” chickens and egss. The only FDA requirement for them to be labeled/considered “free range” is that they have ACCESS to the outdoors. Most times the chickens are still kept in tight, over-populated factories, but given a “doggie-dog” to the outside, which I’m assuming the chickens are really that adapted to use. So why do we, as a culture, allow such “false” advertising to calm our concerns about the products so important to our health and survival?

  19. Katie Carbaugh says:

    I think that it would be interesting to look at factory farming as an Economic Anthropologist would. According to this view, the reason these systems of production, distribution, and consumption of resources across cultures are present, is that they allow the manipulation of environments to gain maximum economic benefit. So, although the factory farming system has some negative affects on the people who operate the facilities, and arguably the health of the people who consume the meat, are there more benefits to having the system in place? Does it benefit us economically as a nation? The factory farming system efficiently feeds millions of people. One example of a benefit is that the factory farming system allows people to obtain a complete, biologically appropriate form of protein (animal flesh contains the same ratio and number of amino acids as the human body), vitamin B-12, and other nutrients essential for proper human development overall health for a fraction of the cost of pastured animals. Though pastured animals are far superior nutritionally, they build top soil on the lands that they graze, and do not harbor near the same number or types of zoonotic diseases as factory farmed animals, they are more expensive to raise (mostly because the animal ‘feed’ given to feed-lot animals is government subsidized corn) and that cost is passed on to the consumers. How would people’s lives in America change if the factory farming system were to disappear? Surely there would be some benefits, but there would also be some negatives. Would the health of the nation be distributed even more unequally? Would the less financially fortunate groups of individuals become protein or vitamin deficient and suffer the consequences because they cannot afford pastured meat? Would the higher class individuals in our society become healthier due to buying pastured animal meat and therefore the gap between the rich and the poor would increase?

  20. Amy Austin says:

    My peers have brought up a number of interesting points related to this article regarding the application of various other anthropological theories. I understand the plight of the applied anthropologist to do something about this issue, however I find that applying themes of a Post-Structuralist Anthropologist illuminates the complexity of that endeavor.

    Last year I visited a factory farming operation for one of my classes in order to learn about the agriculture industry in Colorado. What I learned that weekend was how much power lobbyists and meat industries have on policy in Colorado. While it is honorable of the applied anthropologist to try to make changes to benefit the lives of surrounding communities, this individual must realize the extent of the power they would be going up against. Foucault would analyze this situation in terms of power structure and would help the applied anthropologist determine which angle they ought to approach the issue from in order to have the most significant effect.

  21. Parker Robbins says:

    Perhaps a post-structuralist would see the meat consumption of Americans as a sign of power. Is it possible that Americans not only consume meat because of their habits, but also to show that they are superior to poorer countries? Meat consumption could be seen as a sign of both wealth and power, and this could potentially be one of the reasons Americans consume so much meat.

  22. Bryan Daino says:

    This is a really interesting topic about factory farming. I heard one time that the fast food industry was one of the main reasons for the start of factory farming. They wanted an cheap and easy way to produce meat, so that they could sell it to the public. You said that the US is the consume the second most out of any country, i wonder who is number one? and there way of mass producing meat? do other countries that have factory farming have the same health issues as the US does?

  23. Joseph DeMoor says:

    This topic reminds me of our original transformation from being hunter gatherers to agriculturalists. Studies show that it is most likely healthier to be a hunter gatherer, people are more spread out, there is less disease. So why switch over to agriculture? Out of necessity. People realized living in urban areas more things could be accomplished and a greater amount of people would be sustained. Now today we are transforming once again to a means of production that is trying to sustain our growing population. How long will our planet survive this exploitation? Is there another way to feed all of the people? Around the world many people are starving to death every day while some of us over eat every day… something to think about

  24. Jessie Kronke says:

    It seems to me that we as meat eaters are only “allowing” such practices to occur to a certain extent. The food industry is a huge market and run by corporations with major incomes, examples outside of the meat market such as agricultural farms included. The difficulties in combating these institutions that are providing less than satisfactory products can be explained through Marxist theory, as these national companies have financial leverage, as well as close ties to politicians, over smaller, more consumer-friendly business.

  25. laine smith says:

    Going back to being a “Wimpy Vegetarian”. I’m actually a vegetarian, a lot of my friends are really interested in becoming one, for economic, environmental and animal friendly reasons. Usually, they get really passionate about it, say they’re going to try it, and wimp out after a week. The normal response is “thats badass but I just can’t do it”. I do agree that a big football player guy would probably get poked fun at for being a vegetarian, but when you live in a place like Boulder, you most likely won’t see that reaction. Through my experience it goes from being categorized as a “wimp” to a “badass” cause most people can’t take not eating meat for a bit. Todays food industry is a huge problem, especially with factory farming. I definitely would like to see this from an Applied Anthropologist perspective to see some realistic potential solutions. Off of what Katie was saying, I don’t think theres much chance of changing our factory farming system is population growth continues as is, which it will. It is and efficient way to feed millions of people with only a few potential health hazards due to living nearby, but, all in all the system is disgusting and unhealthy towards our environment and basic human morals towards animals. Humans are omnivores and can thrive off of a diet without meat-I’ve been doing it since I was six. I get all the essential nutrients cause I’m aware of what my body needs, and through that research I have become more nutrient aware, increasing my overall diet and health when in the beginning I was only focused on the non meat aspect. Now I’m extremely aware of what goes into my body, which most Americans are not. Eating a McDonalds hamburger in order to get your essential amino acids instead of whole grains, nuts, seeds and leafy greens is not much of a trade off.

  26. Rachel Nussbaum says:

    I really enjoyed reading this essay and thought it was very detailed and precise. I am taking an environment and culture class right now and have been learning a lot about factory farming and conditions surrounding it. I think it would be interesting to look at the environmental justice of factory farming with a race and ethnicity perspective. It would be interesting to see which groups of people are living around factory farms and whether or not they chose to be there. There are many other factors surrounding environmental justice such as income and education levels, however, I believe race and ethnicity is the biggest factor. Overall, this was a great essay and I really enjoyed learning more about the beef industry.

  27. Payton Bess says:

    Kaitlyn Clure- you comment saying that you “believe that Americans will never give up meat, no matter how drastic and harmful the effects are.” was one that caught my eye. I have to wonder if people would not give up meat if the effects were harmful enough to kill. If the effects were killing great numbers of people, would people stop consuming? Or would the government step in? I agree with this point that Americans will never give meat up and think that people are naive and/or selfish. If large numbers of people were dying they would still continue to consume the beef in the numbers they do today. It would be the same as cigarettes. The production of this product was never stopped because the people making it and the people who were around it were harmed. Many people die from the effects of cigarettes and will continue to die. It is revealing about the character of our country that even though a product may kill people and harm others, it will still be consumed.

  28. Kelsey Ross says:

    It’s unfortunate that people’s health is compromised. What I’m surprised about is why people are putting up with it. Not necessarily from the larger standpoint of dealing with the factory farms themselves, but the families choosing to live and continue living near them. If the people affected adopt cultural illnesses, such as negativity, why not solve the problem for themselves and move elsewhere? I know that my family, having asthma and heart problems, researches things like this and we make decisions that will not endanger our health.

    • Courtney O'Rourke says:

      In response to your comment, I think it is important to remember that not everyone can afford to move around and that factory farms do supply economic stability for many families, in the form of jobs, despite the health risks. Sometimes people do not have the choice to leave an unhealthy situation, and therefore adopting cultural illnesses becomes more of a rational decision.
      For an applied anthropologist, I think it would be important to look at multiple factors here, including an economic standpoint. Economically, factory farms can supply inexperienced workers with stable jobs. If factory farms were closed, how would an applied anthropologist account for the lost jobs? Like many aspects of American culture, I think an efficient solution has to balance an appropiate budget with practical results.

  29. Wills Christensen says:

    Personally, as a huge meat eater, I am glad that the writer of this paper went into the human lives and the ethics of that rather than the ethics of the cows being raised in a factory farm. It seems too easy some times to just appeal to the cows and say that it is unethical for them to be raised in an environment. On the other hand, the farmers are being affected negatively in their own environment and they do not want to get severely ill but they also probably need the money from the beef. I also enjoyed the detail of the Applied Anthropology paragraph because the writer not only described what an Applied Anthropologist might do in a community like this, but what would be wrong or negative with their effects on the society.

  30. Maddie Sweeney says:

    I agree with most of your argument about what applied anthropologists would do in order to better the community living around these meat farms, but I also believe that by changing the way meat is processed, it is also possible that these applied anthropologists would be hurting the communities around meat farms. For example, some people living in the surrounding communities could be earning their living off of the meat farms and would therefore suffer if applied anthropologists tried to come in and change the structure.

  31. Alex Myers says:

    I like what Payton has to say. Our society will never give up meat. Factory farms feed a large portion of our people and this will remain the case for many years. I was unaware about the negative effects, but i believe the them to be to small to be changed. The meat being produced is making a larger audience more happy than the small group it is effecting. In this case, if people are unhappy with their surroundings they must adapt, or find a new place of residence.

  32. Ben Perkins says:

    Factory farming is a very interesting topic that impacts us all. I would have liked to see more examples of how it effects both those near fear. Although it’s very interesting to see how many pounds America consumes annually, I believe it would have been more effective to show statistics on meat prices (and how they would change), those negatively effected and/or the amount of factories in the US. Numbers can be very powerful in expressing a point and its intensity, and relate more specifically towards the argument instead of a quick fun fact. When discussing applied Anthropology, there should be examples on how an anthropologist looks at the situation and how they deal with it with different solutions. Kate Barry previously suggested using alternative foods, such as soy beans, as a possible solution to the problem. Giving such examples would not only help the reader understand how anthropology would be applied to such an issue, but also give a sense of hope and solution through anthropological means.

  33. Forrest Jensen says:

    This essay was very surprising. Theres obviously alot to be said for a culture by how much meat it consumes. The whole time i was reading this i couldn’t stop thinking about Hinduism regarding the cow as sacred and abstaining from killing or eating it. I couldn’t help wondering if maybe Americans have developed an excessive view of specism. Coupled with the instant gratification mentioned in previous comments aswell as a distancing (for most) from the actual processing of the product, It would make sense that Americans can’t get enough of their beef. Most americans don’t think about the cow that was just killed for their burger, let alone the environment it was living in. Due to the industrialization of American culture and it’s emphasis on instant gratification, I am going to have to agree with previous comments and say that despite the detrimental effects of factory farming, this isn’t something i see going away anytime soon.

  34. Tim Baker says:

    This is definitely a major issue for those people living near these factory farms. In addition to the harmful effects this practice has on the health of the individuals living close by it also has harmful effects on the environment overall which can further complicate the way these people live. The theoretical approaches you chose to write on are also very interesting as they apply to this topic. While the Boasian approach would seek to record what was happening to these individuals and how their lives were before, the applied anthropology approach would seek to actively change their lives, hopefully for the better. What I am interested in is finding out how applied anthropologists would attempt to make a change to the social and cultural conditions that these people are experiencing.

  35. Sarah Kell says:

    Expecting to read an essay mainly whether or not we should be vegetarians, I was surprised when I first started reading. Your essay really pulled me in at the beginning, and the statistics really helped with that. Overall, I though you did an excellent job of getting your main points across because this really made me ask a lot of questions I had never really thought about. When most people think about whether or not they should eat meat, they usually are thinking about only their health benefits, and not about the effects the factories may be causing others. I, for one, had no idea this was such an issue in our society. I’m glad that you brought up how an applied anthropologist might look at the situation; however, I was hoping for maybe some sort of an example or something to clue me in a bit more. It just seemed a little vague. The applied anthropology paragraph also got me thinking about issues like this that happen every day in our country everywhere. People’s living conditions are constantly compromised by factories or other structures that we question whether we “need” or not. It is a little uncomfortable for me to think about this problem, among the other huge problems we have created for ourselves because of our “need” for something. Your essay really got me thinking about a lot of other issues and made me want to research this subject more too. Great paper!

  36. Taylor Deisinger says:

    I really enjoyed the topic of this paper and believe that everybody had brought up extremely valid points; however, i am going to have to disagree with the comment made by Alex Myers saying that “The meat being produced is making a larger audience more happy than the small group it is effecting.” This is because the actual factory farms may only be affecting the people living in close proximity of it, to which you call the “small group.” But in reality, the products of these farms are in fact causing many more problems to the society as a whole whom are consuming it. Because of the antibiotics and hormones that the farmers are giving to the cows, and other farmed animals, the natural balances of our own hormones are being disrupted causing things like younger ages of puberty and the like. Even if society as a whole is not going to give up meat for previously stated reasons, we must understand the whole issue.

  37. douglas sartori says:

    your paper provides a great analysis about the repercussions of America’s meat heavy dieting trend. you make good connections to the beef industry and the theory of applied anthropology. i would, however, like to know how a cultural ecologist would analyze america’s meat industry. the meat processing plants are quite large, and offer thousands of jobs to the people that live in the surrounding community. meat processing creates a solid infrastructure that includes farmers who grow crops to feed the animals, the people that raise and care for the animals, the factory workers that process the animals, and finally the truck drivers that transport the meat for distribution. the entire industry is essentially fueled by the interaction between people and the environment, and thousands of people across the country benefit directly from that interaction. so my counter argument is as follows: america’s meat heavy dieting trends fuel an industry that creates jobs and economic stability and is a quintessential part of america’s industrial sector.

  38. Amanda Pruess says:

    As a young child, I became obsessed with the vegetarian culture. I learned everything I could about the subject. I wrote so many essays on vegetarianism in high school that it’s almost not funny. I’m a pro. The only positive that comes from factory farming is convenience and profit for companies. The negatives are numerous and include everything from green house gases to, as the essay mentioned, diseases spread to people near the farm, and also just the plain mistreatment of the animals. Factory farming tells a lot about the culture. The fact that America has so much factory farming shows America’s enormous size and as well an enormous appetite. There’s so many people in America that are well off enough to be able to afford meat, and we’ve found a way to make it in such a cheap manner that there’s not much worry, or even much awareness, to what actually goes on behind the scenes.

  39. Joe Zimmermann says:

    Pat E- I appreciate your focus on factory farms and beef for your paper. I am extremely interested in how anthropology can be used to solve social problems, so I was very happy to see your writing about applied anthropology. What I would like to know is how do you think a cultural anthropologist would go about making changes in the culture, rather than just studying it? Some anthropologists seem like they are really good at identifying problems, but they sometimes leave the solutions to other disciplines. How does one weave the identities of a social change agent and scientist (anthropologist)? Thanks for getting the discussion started Pat!

  40. Charlie Bezouska says:

    Joe Z – I don’t think Applied Anthropology and social change in general is a mono-discipline process. It’s not necessarily that anthropologists (whose field is generally described as the study of human beings) leave the actual change to other disciplines, it’s more that other disciplines work with anthropologists to solve social problems. In other words, an anthropologist may do fieldwork and identify a particular problem. It is not really their responsibility to solve that problem themselves, but someone in the position to make said social change may use the anthropologist’s observations to help solve the problem.

  41. Jack Teague says:

    We are all entering the real world in a time of great change in this country and in the world as a whole. Anthropology classes have really opened my eyes to a lot of issues in society that seem fixable. Factory farming is one of those issues. There has got to be a point at which society as a whole turns away from excess, and creates a more healthy and sustainable lifestyle. It will take educated people to apply their knowledge to the many real and present challenges that we face if we hope to achieve anything, but the opportunity to be a part of it is what makes our world so interesting.

  42. Melissa Kristl says:

    Taking a look at the problem of factory farming through the lens of Applied Anthropology would seem to be a fitting approach for working towards an understanding of the challenges and benefits of living in a relatively advanced (i.e. highly complex) culture involving the feeding of many millions of people. While there are plenty of both positive and negative affects of factory farming that Applied Anthropology can determine, it can also propose possible solutions creating a win-win for all involved. In this case it could propose a plan for stricter pollution controls thereby working to eliminate harmful waste while not undermining the need for mass production in an ever increasing populace.

    Applied Anthropology can also work towards finding possible solutions for those who raise concerns about the ethicality of factory farming in that they can present models of different scenarios in order to find one that suits the needs of all involved such as the animals, community members, the local environment, the community en masse (the consumer) and the businesses who maintain the industry.

  43. Ryan Kelly says:

    This essay addresses a problem that is a good example of environmental justice and would be an excellent opportunity for an applied anthropologist involved in the environmental field. People living in the factory’s surrounding area are unfairly exposed to potential health problems. The affected citizens are usually in their situation because of a lower economic status, making it difficult to acquire a lawyer to testify their behalf. A job for an applied anthropologist could be finding a way to provide legal assistance to people in these circumstances.

  44. Brian Cortese says:

    I think in general the biggest way to get rid of this problem is to not be so dependent on beef. There are many other kinds of meat and especially many kinds of non meat that would need to be consumed more. Our hamburger and steak obsessed culture is leading to a lot of problems. Not to mention the inhuman treatment of the cattle we eat.

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