Sample Expository Essay: How Factory Farms Work and Treat Livestock

EssayExpository Essay

An expository essay is a type of essay which main purpose is to present information to the reader. For instance, an expository essay may tell a story, teach a process, or explain a subject. This sample essay discusses the rise of factory farming with a special focus on the treatment of livestock. This essay will also briefly discuss factory farming in the context of climate change.

For the most part of history, meat was considered as the food of the rich. This statement, however, is no mere unfounded assumption; there is substantial evidence that establishes this as fact. Meat production is far more resource-intensive, which means that it costs more to produce a kilogram of meat than most other staple foods like grain, fruits, and vegetables (Pimentel & Pimentel, 2003; Garza, 2014). Meat, therefore, was more accessible to those with higher incomes (Sans and Combris, 2015). Meat production and consumption have nevertheless rapidly grown in the past few decades. Advances in animal husbandry methods and new technologies coupled with increased use of arable land have led to the emergence of factory farming. This new approach made meat production cheaper, which in turn made meat accessible for more people. While it is true that innovations in meat production helped expand access to food, a dark side to factory farming is the widespread mistreatment of animals in such farms and the industry’s contribution to climate change.

Meat Production and Consumption

Factory farming can be defined as an approach to raising livestock in a manner that minimizes costs while maximizing production. This type of farming is often conducted on a large scale over vast tracts of land and involves anywhere between thousands to millions of animals kept in high-density pens or enclosures. Moreover, such farms rely on the use of modern machinery and advanced biotechnology to manage the animals (Lempert, 2015). For example, it is not uncommon for poultry farms to keep thousands of chickens inside coops with automatic food dispensers that reduce the need for manual labor. Such practices have enabled factory farms to drastically increase production. Global meat production increased more than 400% in the last 60 years, from around 71 million tons in 1961 to 341 million tons in 2018. The largest growth occurred in Asia. Whereas Asia produced only 12% of meat in 1961, the continent now produces 40-45% of meat globally (Ritchie and Roser, 2019).

Average consumption per person has also increased. Ritchie and Roser (2019) report that the average person today eats around 43 kilograms of meat every year. This represents an increase of around 20 kilograms since 1961. Rates vary among regions, however, with high-income countries consuming more meat per year than low-income countries (Lempert, 2015). For instance, North Americans and Europeans on average consume 110 kilograms and 80 kilograms of meat per year, respectively. Meanwhile, countries like Senegal, Nigeria, and Ethiopia consume less than 20 kilograms per person per year. Culture may also play a part, such as in the case of India where consumption is just 4 kilograms per person per year, partly on account of the vegetarian lifestyle followed by Hindus (Ritchie and Roser, 2019).

Factory Farming and the Treatment of Livestock

While factory farming helped increase the production of meat and make it more accessible, the benefits humans reap come at a hefty cost for the livestock that serves as the source of meat. In particular, factory farming has been heavily criticized for what many consider inhumane treatment of animals. This treatment involves various aspects of the livestock’s life, from impeded mobility to outright abuse.

One of the main problems engendered by the emergence of factory farming is the lack of mobility afforded to animals. Factory farming largely relies on managing huge volumes of livestock to keep costs down and raise profits. It is not uncommon for such farms to hold thousands or even tens of thousands of animals in enclosures. For example, industrialized chicken farms keep chickens inside coops. Sometimes, as many as 30,000 to 40,000 chickens are kept in a single coop where they can barely move. The same goes for pigs, which are confined to individual quarters that prevent them from moving around. The lack of room often causes stress that leads to abnormal behavior. For instance, chickens have been observed to peck each other while pigs exhibit aggressive behavior against other pigs in the same pen. Animals are also often deprived of lighting and ventilation. Chicken coops are kept dark to discourage physical activity and thereby encourage weight gain (Anomaly, 2015). Similarly, pigs are kept in dark pens where they receive limited light and ventilation (Belyaev, 2018).

Health and sanitation are also negatively affected by factory farming practices. Because livestock is kept in crowded enclosures with limited light and ventilation, animals are often forced to relieve waste in the same area where they eat. Scenes of chickens and pigs surrounded by their own excrement are not uncommon in such farms. Such unsanitary conditions, in turn, put livestock at high risk for infections. Furthermore, the fact that such livestock’s food and waste mingle increases the risk of spreading disease. Meanwhile, the constant administration of antibiotics to these animals has led to antibiotic resistance in many (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [ASPCA], 2021). The spread of disease among livestock also poses threats to human health. For example, there have been many cases before where meat products have been contaminated with pathogens from wastes such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella (Wasley, 2018; Ali, 2019). Also, such unsanitary conditions are considered potential breeding grounds for new viruses and bacteria, such as in the case of the emergence of mad cow disease and the novel coronavirus. While the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic did not come from a factory farm, the unsanitary conditions in the wet market in which it is believed to have originated are not much different from the situation in many factory farms. 

Animal cruelty is also a real problem in factory farming. Many practices in factory farming cause pain and suffering to animals. For example, male chicks are not considered as useful, since they are slow to grow and there is barely a market for them. As a result, male chicks are killed shortly after they are hatched, thus denying them a longer lifespan than many other animals including female chicks are given. Meanwhile, pigs also suffer from cruelty. Pigs are highly social and intelligent animals, and sows in particular are known to develop strong bonds with their offspring. But sows that give birth in factory farms are rarely allowed the time to bond with their offspring. Piglets are often taken away from their mothers at a very young age, thus denying them the opportunity to interact as they would in their natural environment. Moreover, cattle also suffer animal cruelty. While cattle raised for beef are often given more space due to the nature of their needs, dairy cows are kept in pens where they are hooked to milking machines. But cows only produce milk following pregnancy, and so cows are artificially inseminated every year to promote milk production. Many cows subsequently suffer from inflammation and infection of the udders due to continuous milk production (ASPCA, 2021). Social isolation is likewise a perennial problem in these farms, as animals like dairy cows and sows are kept in large pens together but often confined in very cramped individual cells.

Sows refer to an adult female animal that is ready for reproduction such as a female swine.

Lack of mobility, lighting, and ventilation, health and sanitation issues, and animal cruelty are just some of the problems caused by factory farming. Many other painful and inhumane practices are suffered by animals. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

Factory Farming and Climate Change

While the discussion focuses on the poor treatment of livestock in factory farms, it is worth mentioning that factory farming is also associated with climate change. The meat production and consumption industry is far more resource-intensive than the production of plant-based food. What this essentially means is that the industry has a higher carbon footprint than other food industries. Furthermore, the cattle industry is a major contributor to climate change due to the sheer amount of greenhouse gases that millions of livestock emit. According to some estimates, around 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock, thus making the meat industry a significant contributor to climate change and the effects of global warming (Quinton, 2019). The dual issues of animal suffering in factory farms and the industry’s role in climate change have been advanced as grounds for the promotion of plant-based diets around the world. Lowered demand for meat is expected to reduce factory farming, which in turn will contribute to mitigating animal suffering and decreasing carbon emissions.


Livestock undoubtedly played an important role in the progress of humanity. Society’s ability to domesticate animals and use them for food and other necessities served as a cornerstone of civilization. But as more advanced methods of raising animals for food are developed, the more suffering it brings to animals. Lack of mobility, denial of lighting and ventilation, poor sanitation, and animal cruelty are just a few of the myriad problems confronting factory farming. Stopping all factory farming may prove to be impossible and indeed disastrous to the global economy, but this does not mean that the industry has no reason or incentive to change its ways. There is a clear need for reforms in this sector. Such changes are a win for everyone: the animals that these farms manage, the planet that provides resources, and the people who depend on both the animals and the planet for its own survival.

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Ali, M. (2019). Antibiotic resistance and ineffective regulations for factory farming. Wake Forest Journal of Law and Policy, 87-110.

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (2021). Animals on factory farms. ASPCA.

Anomaly, J. (2015). What’s wrong with factory farming? Public Health Ethics, 8(3), 246-254.

Belyaev, V. V. (2018). Overcrowded housing in a group of pigs: Are we counting additional profit or losses? Svinovodstvo (Moskva), 18(6), 9-10.

Garza, E. (2014, July 10). Meat vs. veg: An energy perspective. UVM Food Feed.

Lempert, P. (2015, June 15). Why factory farming isn’t what you think. Forbes.

Pimentel, D. & Pimentel, M. (2003). Sustainability of meat-based and plan-based diets and the environment. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 78 (3), 660S-663S.

Quinton, A. (2019). Cows and climate change: Making cattle more sustainable . UC Davis.

Ritchie, H. & Roser, M. (2019, November). Meat and dairy production . Our World in Data.

Sans, P. & Combris, P. (2015). World meat consumption patterns: An overview of the last fifty years (1961-2011). Meat Science, 109, 106-111. doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2015.05.012

Walsey, A. (2018, February 21). ‘Dirty meat’: Shocking hygiene failings discovered in US pig and chicken plants. The Guardian.

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