Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 90

ATONEMENT, AGRICULTURE, AND ANIMAL FEEDING - Kirkpatrick Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) Just as crop farming has changed, so has the raising of domestic livestock.18 While cows still spend the first few months of their lives nursing from their mothers and grazing on grass, as soon as they are weaned they are shipped to what are now called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). This new term was created because, save for the presence of livestock, they bear no resemblance to the farms and ranches that once peppered the United States.19 The upside to these densely populated CAFOs is that the price of meat has decreased significantly over the last fifty years so that many Americans eat meat with every meal. Beef cattle, which once ate grass for the entirety of its lifespan, for that is its natural diet, now eat a combination of corn, antibiotics, vitamins, synthetic hormones, liquefied animal fat, and protein supplements.20 In short, beef cattle eat a diet entirely other than what their digestive tracts were designed for simply because it is the most inexpensive way to feed them.21 More than that, those responsible for the well-being of the cows have turned these herbivores into omnivores, which occasionally dabble in cannibalism.22 Farmers are no longer limited by the confines of nature; “industry has allowed us to reinvent the human food chain.”23 While this assumedly forward progress has allowed farmers and ranchers to produce more food for an ever increasing population, these farming practices are taking a significant toll on the land, the crops and animals, and the people who eat them. One of the negative effects of monocultures (the cultivation of a single crop in a particular area) is that the soil is consistently overworked and depleted of the nutrients the crops need to survive. Historically, farmers practiced a combination of crop rotation and fallowing which ensured long-term soil fertility. Today, studies show that the levels of 18. This includes, but is not limited to, beef cattle, milk cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys. For the sake of brevity, I have limited my focus to beef cattle. 19. Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, 67. 20. Michael Pollan, “Power Steer,” New York Times Magazine, March 31, 2002, 1, accessed April 6, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/31/magazine/powersteer.html. 21. Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, 68. 22. The liquefied fat is whatever is readily available to the CAFO, and it occasionally includes beef fat. See Pollan, “Power Steer,” and Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, 73–77. 23. Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, 7. 87