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What undercover videos tell us about meat in America

Investigations into factory farms are good at exposing illegal abuse. They're also good at exposing completely legal practices we don't know about.

Christophe Haubursin is a senior producer for the Vox video team. Since joining the team in 2016, he has produced for Vox’s YouTube channel and Emmy-nominated shows Glad You Asked and Explained.

In seven states in the US, there are laws that criminalize shooting or possessing video of an agricultural facility without the owner’s permission. The food industry wants to keep farms private — but given that similar anti-whistleblower bills have failed in most states and have earned overwhelmingly negative press, it appears that the public doesn’t entirely agree.

When activist organizations do these undercover investigations, they can often reveal shocking employee behavior on farms — but they can also reveal perfectly legal, standard industry practices that the public doesn’t know about.

And with a population increasingly uninvolved with food production, there’s a lot that we don’t know about how our food is made.

The percentage of Americans working in agriculture has steadily decreased over our history

Food in America is unique: We spend less on food in the US than any other country, only 6.5 percent.

The US spends a uniquely small percentage of income on food

It’s hard to say whether anti-whistleblower laws will last long — just this summer, a federal judge overturned Idaho’s law, ruling that it was an unconstitutional violation of the right to free speech. The food industry is trying to figure out a way to strike a balance between transparency and business interests, and it's a balance that's still very much in the works.

Watch the video above or on our YouTube channel to find out what this awkward tension ends up looking like captured in undercover videos.


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