Jobs in Factory Farms

The promise of jobs is one of the most compelling arguments ILO proponents make, particularly in communities where many of the young people have moved away. However the few jobs offered by factory farms come with many problems. Many of these problems stem from factory farms being under less stringent labour regulations which were originally designed for family farms and their hired hands. Factory farms are industrial workplaces, but workers do not have the same level of rights and protections that other factory workers have gained.

Low wages

Intensive livestock production is all about maximizing production and minimizing costs. One of the costs that is minimized is labour—thus ILO workers have low wages. Labour standards that apply to other industries, such as statutory holidays, hours of work, etc. do not necessarily apply in factory farms. Moreover, ILOs are generally not unionized (only one barn in Canada has ever had a union). The combination of low wages and poor working conditions results in a high rate of turn-over. Many companies have had to recruit new workers from abroad, as local and Canadian workers are able to find more attractive employment.

Occupational Health problems

Working in a factory farm is a hazardous occupation.

Hog barn worker disease hazards include:
  • infectious diseases
  • upper airway disease
  • lower airway disease (including organic dust toxic syndrome (ODTS), occupational asthma, acute or subacute bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • interstitial lung disease.
Hog barn worker injury hazards include:
  • eye, nose and throat irritation
  • traumatic injuries
  • noise-induced hearing loss
  • needle sticks
  • hydrogen sulphide (H2S) poisonings
  • carbon monoxide (Co) poisonings
  • electrocutions
  • thermal stress
  • drowning

Yet in many jurisdictions, coverage by workers compensation is not compulsory for factory farms. So if a worker is hurt on the job or develops a chronic health condition, the cost will be carried by the public health system, the worker and his or her family. It may result in a long-term injury preventing the worker from getting another job.