Can we phase out factory farming and still feed everyone?

One of the biggest arguments corporations and decision makers use to avoid taking action to stop harmful industrial farming practices like factory farming is that industrial farming is the only way to grow food at a scale large enough to feed everyone. It’s true that world  hunger has been rising since 2015: 650 million people across the globe went hungry in 2019, 811 million in 2020.

But global food production has also been rising steadily for more than half a century, comfortably beating population growth. Infact, the world’s farmers produce enough food to feed 1.5x the global population.

Food scarcity is not the problem, inequality and poverty are

Although food scarcity and food apartheid are real crises faced by people across the globe, the problem isn’t that we don’t have enough food to feed everyone, it’s that corporate greed perpetuates poverty and inequality. Our food system is not designed to feed people, it is designed to profit large corporations — the same corporations that pay poverty wages, practice environmental racism, drive up prices, and engage in a range of other practices that worsen inequity and burden low income families and communities of color.

Our food system is dominated by a handful of such corporations, and they successfully use the hunger crisis to push false narratives in which they are stewards of our food supply. For example, in April 2020, a full page ad in The New York Times by Tyson Foods used this narrative to keep their hazardous meatpacking plants open during the COVID19 pandemic, despite the risk to working people. Large meat industry corporations use this perception to justify the high socioeconomic and environmental costs of factory farming.

Sustainable farming and regional supply chains can successfully replace factory farms

With the right investment in small and medium scale farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, we can begin to transform our farming, ranching, and fishing industries to ones that are truly designed to feed people nutritious food.

While the proliferation of factory farms has meant the shuttering of smaller operations that were successfully growing livestock for generations, the COVID-19 pandemic showed us that regional food production and distribution are the answer feeding communities on a global scale. (Read more about regional food systems in the Create resilient Regional Economies’ plank of HEAL’s Platform for Real Food).

We must work together to fight for policies and programs that promote such decentralized food systems in which animals are raised sustainably as part of diversified farming operations.