An in-depth feature entitled “Close to the Bone” will be published on October 9 in The New York Times Magazine as part of its current “Food Issue.” Tasked with unveiling issues surrounding transparency in the meat industry, writer Ted Genoways discusses the efforts of uncovering cruelty at Hormel Foods Corporation, arguing that animal-rights advocates are crucial to the public understanding of the circumstances surrounding meat. “When picking among shrink-wrapped packages in the meat aisle of your local grocery,” Genoways says, “it’s remarkable how little information you’re provided about the steak, pork chop, or chicken breast inside.” Genoways contends that the government’s lack of enforcement when it comes to animal welfare standards in meat production creates a need for independent, undercover investigations, saying, “Animal rights activists, once regarded as the radical fringe, have taken on a somewhat unlikely role as consumer watchdogs.” The article argues that the lack of transparency goes unchecked by the United States Department of Agriculture due to its partnership with large meat companies in mutually beneficial checkoff programs. “With the government working hand in hand with business, the only remaining window into the food system is the lens of an activist’s camera,” Genoways says. Such windows are increasingly being targeted, however, as Genoways points to the passing of “ag gag” laws that prohibit undercover investigators from exposing cruelty found in farms—a response prompted by a threatened meat industry. However, several reforms throughout the animal agricultural sector provide evidence of the efficacy of animal activists’ work, including the removal of gestation crates and battery cages. McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Publix, Walmart, and multi-national egg producing giant Sodexo all pledged to go cage-free as a result of footage gathered by undercover investigators.
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