Food production has become a race for maximum efficiency. When it comes to producing meat, whether chicken, beef, or pork, that race has fallen at the feet of the so-called factory farm and its hallmark feature — the feedlot.
Feedlots, officially called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), house thousands of animals in tiny, confined spaces before they’re slaughtered. Critics call the practice inhumane and say it breeds environmental problems and disease.
“A feedlot is very much a pre-modern city … teeming and filthy and stinking, with open sewers, unpaved roads, and choking air rendered visible by dust,” Michael Pollan writes in his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”
There are currently about 15,500 CAFOs in the U.S. According to FarmForward — which used numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture — 99% of farmed animals in the U.S. are raised on feedlots.
For the last several years, British artist Mishka Henner has collected images of the feedlots via satellite, to document a largely hidden phenomenon. Initially, he was searching satellite imagery to look for oil fields. When he came across the feedlots, Henner was shocked he didn’t know about about such a central part of our food production.
“The feedlots are a brilliant representation of how abstract our food industry has come,” Henner told Business Insider. “It’s an efficient system for extracting the maximum yield from animals. That’s the world we live in now. We want to extract the maximum yield from everything, no matter what business you are in.”
As you can see from these photos, the chemicals in animal waste turn feedlots into oddly beautiful, multicolored cesspools. Henner’s work has been collected into a study called Feedlots, prints of which can be purchased here. Henner will be displaying the work with the Carroll/Fletcher Gallery at ArtExpo in Chicago from Sept. 18-21.
(keep reading at filmsforaction.org)