Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version



Published in Agribusiness 15:3 (1999), pp. 427–429. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Used by permission.


Early in their introductory comments, the editors of this book claim that they “are not political activists and that [they] neither promote nor defend industrial agriculture based on any political agenda” (p. 4). Industrial agriculture, as understood in this book, includes large corporations, vertically integrated firms, multinationals, and anything else that seems to differ from what might be thought of as a traditional family farm. The editors suggest that their goal is to provide objective assessments of one example of industrial agriculture, large-scale hog confinement operations. However, as the introduction progresses, strange things seem to happen to this perfectly sensible goal. On page 13, several studies highlighting the potential benefits of large-scale swine production enterprises are dismissed because they are “based on a set of assumptions, not empirical data.” But on the next page, a study by one of the contributors to the volume (an agricultural economist) is cited approvingly with no critical discussion of the fact that the chapter in question is also based on assumptions and, what is worse, includes straw-man argumentation and conclusions that are not supported by the data reported.