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Book Report

Fowl Findings

By Bret McCabe

Chickenizing Farms and Food: How Industrial Meat Production Endangers Workers, Animals, and Consumers

Ellen K. Silbergeld
public health
Photograph of the book Chickenizing Farms and Food
Photograph by Will Kirk

Ellen Silbergeld didn’t set out to write the history of industrial food animal production. When the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health professor first began investigating large-scale chicken production in the late 1990s, she was trying to determine how antibiotics—used as growth supplements for livestock—got into the global food supply and contributed to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The research led her to an even bigger question: How did modern industrial farming practices develop? As she writes, the “dominance of industrial food animal production across the globe has transformed agriculture as much as did the introduction of the plow.”

Chickenizing Farms and Food (Johns Hopkins University Press) distills more than a decade’s worth of research on farming, food science, and politics. Silbergeld charts the emergence of industrialized chicken production in the early 20th century, and how large-scale concentration of the raising, slaughtering, and processing of food animals led to antibodies entering our food supply by the early 1950s. She also illustrates how the industry is left to mostly police itself in terms of food and worker safety. In the end, Silbergeld shows the problem isn’t simply that industrial farming contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections, such as those caused by Salmonella and E. coli, but that we’re creating a world in which antibiotics may not work at all. Even the farm-to-table food reform efforts of the early 2000s have little chance of rolling back that threat. Fortunately, Chickenizing isn’t all alarmist. This diligent history of industrial agriculture tells us that just as policy decisions created this situation, organized responses to reform can help achieve a long-sought promise of safe and affordable food for all.

“This is not a food safety policy that protects the public and improves food safety. This is a food safety policy that protects the industry and accepts unsafe food, shifting responsibility to the victims without attention to the origin of repeated exposure to the hazard. The government has opted for a role that does not ensure safe food supply but rather tells us what to do because they are not taking effective actions to make our food safer.”
The Champion Mindset

The Champion Mindset

Joanna Zeiger

Zeiger, a Johns Hopkins alum with a background in genetic epidemiology, believes that proper mental preparation is what separates the winners from the rest of the pack. The book, a compendium of the author’s journey from struggling swimmer to Ironman world champion, offers practical advice on mental-game aspects such as how to make training fun, set goals, promote self-confidence, and “bring it” on race day.

The Sting of the Wild

The Sting of the Wild

Justin O. Schmidt

An entomologist journeys inside the lives of stinging insects, letting us see the world through their eyes as well as his own. The author explains how and why bugs attack, and reveals from personal experience the powerful punch their venom can deliver. With the colorfully descriptive “Schmidt Sting Pain Index,” we learn what insects are best to avoid and which are all bark and no bite.

Irene and Abe: An Unexpected Life

Irene and Abe

Irene Pollin

A candid memoir from the former co-owner of the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals. She details a life’s journey with her late husband, Abe Pollin, from the time they fell in love as teens through the joys of parenthood and heartbreak of losing two children to heart disease, which led her to found the country’s first organization dedicated to women’s heart disease prevention and education.

Aparna Ramaswamy

Portrait by Tina Berning

5 Picks

Aparna Ramaswamy

Aparna Ramaswamy is a counselor, clinical supervisor, and visiting faculty in the counseling program at Johns Hopkins University School of Education.

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