While the climate justice movement has highlighted the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation as being the leading causes of the climate crisis, the role of agribusiness and factory farming have received far less public attention. In the Center’s newest report, A Green New Meal: How Factory Farming Fuels Climate Injustice and What We Can Do About It, we show how factory farming in the United States is indeed a major driver of climate change and environmental injustice. The report is the culmination of a year's worth of research by Noa Dalzell, Director of the State Climate Policy Network (SCPN). Dalzell also serves as a Fellow at the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, a national organization working toward a world without factory farming through education and advocacy.
Factory farms, also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), are industrial-sized livestock operations that pack a minimum of a thousand animals into highly confined, unvegetated spaces for at least 45 days a year. Some 99 percent of the commercial meat in the US is raised in CAFOs. If you consume meat—albeit in a fancy restaurant, or from the local grocery store, or at a neighborhood barbeque—chances are that it comes from a factory farm.
The entire factory farming system is propped up by massive government subsidies and bailouts at taxpayer expense, and thrives economically as a result of weak environmental regulations and a capitalist economic system that prioritizes short-term profits over the well-being of people, the climate, and animals. These harms are especially severe in those most vulnerable communities that are adjacent to CAFOs. Even so, such a perspective is often overlooked in broader analyses of economic inequality, environmental racism, and climate-related injustices in the US.
Despite the severity of these problems, there is hope. The report concludes by offering a wide range of solutions to this crisis, starting with a description of what a shift toward regenerative farming and a more just and equitable agricultural system could look like. These policy approaches have the potential to become part of a Green New Deal (GND) for America. All across the country, we have seen popular mobilization around the adoption of a GND. Even with these efforts in our cities, rural America also needs a GND, and it must begin with the transformation of the country’s agricultural system.
A genuine, comprehensive GND for America would empower family farmers and other rural people to protect themselves from economic exploitation by big banks and agribusiness; promote more sustainable land uses; provide universal access to healthier foods for consumers; encourage agroecology and the elimination of chemical-intensive agriculture; end animal cruelty and factory farming; encourage low-tech carbon sequestration and regenerative agricultural practices; mandate safe working conditions and living wages for farmworkers; restore biological diversity; and catalyze the economic revitalization of rural areas.
These are the promises of what Noa calls a Green New Meal for America. It would transform our food system, end factory farming, fight climate and environmental injustice, and redistribute the power of big agribusiness back to farmers, consumers, rural workers, and the American people. Read the report to learn why we need a Green New Meal and what we can do today to make it a reality.