Nicholas Kristof Urges America to Clean the Henhouse

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof grew up on a family farm. Who knew? Today, however, he put his upbringing to good use with an op-ed that contrasts his family's "horrendously inefficient" model of backyard chicken farming with the brutally efficient industrial techniques that have given rise to the recent egg safety scare. Most importantly, he makes a big-picture point that others have mostly missed—that our ongoing Salmonella saga is less a story about eggs than a story about industrial agriculture as a whole:

Inspections of Iowa poultry farms linked to the salmonella outbreak have prompted headlines about infestations with maggots and rodents. But the larger truth is: industrial agriculture is itself unhealthy.

Repeated studies have found that cramming hens into small cages results in more eggs with salmonella than in cage-free operations. As a trade journal, World Poultry, acknowledged in May: "salmonella thrives in cage housing."

Industrial operations -- essentially factories of meat and eggs -- excel at manufacturing cheap food for the supermarket. But there is evidence that this model is economically viable only because it passes on health costs to the public -- in the form of occasional salmonella, antibiotic-resistant diseases, polluted waters, food poisoning and possibly certain cancers. That's why the president's cancer panel this year recommended that consumers turn to organic food if possible -- a stunning condemnation of our food system.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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