Abstract: Farms or Factories? Chickens, Agribusiness, and Environmental Contamination

Monica R. Gisolfi


Focusing on the rise of the multibillion-dollar chicken industry, the paper explores how minimal environmental regulation and massive farm subsidies were central to the rise of the chicken industry. Specifically, the paper probes how agribusiness skirted environmental regulation. After the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and enactment of the Clean Water Act, the chicken industry, like many other forms of agribusiness, escaped regulation. Casting poultry production as small farming, the industry continued to contaminate the environment. Agribusiness enterprises can be classified neither as solely agricultural nor as solely industrial. Furthermore, the rise of agribusiness suggests that historians must broaden their definition of "industry" to accommodate agribusiness and revisit the usefulness of distinguishing among business, industrial, and agricultural history.