HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Health Effects of Factory Farms

I highly recommend Mother Jones's shocking investigative report on the troubling impact of factory farming practices on animals, workers, and consumers.  The piece focuses on Quality Pork Processors Inc. (QPP), in Austin, Minnesota.  One worker alleged that the workers in the plant felt nearly as disposable as the animals: 

"I feel thrown away," Miriam Angeles says. "Before, I worked hard and willingly for QPP, but after I got sick and needed restrictions, they threw me away like trash."

Sickness and exhaustion are apparently a common problem at the plant. As the article's author, Ted Genoways, noted, "The line speed at QPP had increased from 750 heads per hour in 1989 to 1,350 per hour in 2006, while the workforce barely grew."  Few parts of the production process, from cutting and slicing legs and other parts to vaporizing swine brains, are easy.  Health effects are dramatic:

Workers say nearly everyone suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome or some repetitive stress injury, but by October 2007, there were signs of something else. Workers from QPP's kill floor were coming to . . . the plant's occupational health nurse, with increasingly familiar complaints: numbness and tingling in their extremities, chronic fatigue, searing skin pain. Bower started noticing workers so tender that they struggled with the stairs to the top-floor locker rooms, high above the roar of the factory line. 

Read the whole thing to find out what happens when  a neurologist suspects a rare autoimmune disorder, and decides it's "time to contact the Minnesota Department of Health."


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