The meatpacking plant of Chicago’s Union Stockyards to be a sprawling basic that taken on the slaughter, processing, packaging, and also distribution the cattle and swine. In procedure by 1865, it was among the more quickly U.S. Businesses come exemplify the industrial model, setup precedents other industries would follow. Henry Ford even credited the animal “disassembly” lines in ~ Union Stockyards with motivating the idea because that his automobile manufacturing plants.3 photograph credit: man Vachon, 1941. Publicly domain.

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In the early 1900s, much more than half of Americans to be either farmers or lived in rural communities.1 many U.S. Farms were diversified, meaning they created a variety of crops and also animal varieties together ~ above the exact same farm, in complementary ways.2 farmers were professional in a wide selection of trades and also had autonomy over how to control their crops and animals. Animals were typically raised with access to the outdoors. Many of the occupational on the farm yard was excellent by person or pet labor.

Although problems like this still exist, the industrialization of farming radically transformed how the vast majority of food is developed in the U.S. And many various other parts the the world. End the brief span the the 20th century, farming underwent greater adjust than it had since it was very first adopted part 13,000 year ago. Modern-day U.S. Agriculture has been explained as “the most effective in the world, at the very least in regards to the dollar and also cent prices of production.”1 the public health and also ecological prices of industrialization, however, space not reflect in the price of food. 



Wheat harvest in Idaho. Specialization aims to increase effectiveness by narrowing the variety of tasks and roles affiliated in production. This approach was used to practically all facets of food production. Diversified ranches gave means to gene uniform monocultures—fields planted with just one crop varieties at a time, end a very large area. Photograph credit: USDA. Public domain.


Workers in a cigar factory. Tampa, Florida; circa 1920. In the at an early stage 1900s, more than half of Americans were farmers or resided in rural communities. The industrialization of farming is stated to have completed two goals: to “free” american from farming so they could join the labor force in offices and also factories, and to do food and also farming cheaper for this reason Americans can afford come buy the products readily available by brand-new industries.4 photograph public domain.

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Specialization aims to increase efficiency by narrowing the range of tasks and roles connected in production. A diversity farmer, for example, could need to manage and care for numerous different vegetable crops, a composting operation, a i cry of egg-laying hens, a sow, and her litter that piglets. Devoted farmers, by contrast, can focus all their knowledge, skills, and also equipment on one or two enterprises, together as cultivation corn and also soy, or fattening beef cattle. End the course of industrialization, specialization was applied to nearly all facets of food production.

Diversified ranches gave way to genetically uniform monocultures—fields planted with simply one crop varieties at a time, such as corn, wheat, or soy, end a very big area. Meat, milk, and also egg production came to be largely be separated from chop production and also involved facilities that housed a solitary breed that animal, throughout a particular duration of the lifespan, because that a single purpose (e.g., breeding, feeding, or slaughter). Farmers, once professional in a breadth that trades, dropped into more dedicated roles.

Specialization was likewise applied to animal genetics, as selective reproduction produced pets designed for a solitary outcome—large breast meat, because that example, or raised milk production. Contrasted to chicken of the 1930s, today’s chickens bred for meat (“broilers”) flourish to practically twice the weight, in much less than fifty percent the time, using much less than half as much feed.5 Genetic selection for these exaggerated properties has regularly come at the price of the animals’ health, including increased dangers for heart fail in broilers and udder infections in dairy products cows bred for greater milk production.6



The incorporate harvester performs two procedures at once: cut grain (reaping) and removing that from the inedible part (threshing). Mechanization in agriculture greatly lessened the require for human and animal labor. Native 1950 come 2000, production on U.S. Farms an ext than double with less than a 3rd of the labor costs.9 photo credit: Dan Davidson, 2010. An imaginative Commons CC by 2.0.


Threshing rice. Harnatar, India; circa 1906. Mechanization carried tremendous benefit in efficiency. By hand, a person deserve to thresh around 15 to 40 kg the grain every hour, commonly by beating the harvested crop versus a hard surface come shake the grain loosened from the inedible chaff that surrounds it. In the same amount that time, a mechanical based thresher can procedure 450 come 600 kg that rice, sorghum, or beans, or 1,500 to 2,000 kg the corn.8 Photo: publicly domain.

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Like work on one assembly line, committed labor often involves repetitive tasks that deserve to be carry out by machines. This intended routine work like sowing seeds, harvesting crops, milking cows, and feeding and slaughtering pets could it is in mechanized, to reduce (and in some instances eliminating) the need for human and also animal labor. In between 1900 and 2000, the re-publishing of the U.S. Workforce associated in farming declined indigenous 41 percent come 2 percent.7

In some cases, mechanization lugged tremendous profit in efficiency. Grain and bean crops, such as corn, wheat, rice, and soy, need to be cut from the areas (reaped) and also removed from the inedible parts of the plant (threshed). Act this by hand entails an massive amount that time and effort. By hand, a person can thresh about 15 come 40 kg the grain every hour, commonly by beating the harvested crop versus a difficult surface come shake the grain loose from the inedible chaff the surrounds it. In the exact same amount the time, a mechanical based thresher can process 450 to 600 kg the rice, sorghum, or beans, or 1,500 to 2,000 kg that corn.8

Chemical and pharmaceutical inputs


Fertilizer applications on U.S. Crops, 1964–92. Man-made nitrogen fertilizers, introduced in the early 1900s, have been attributed with feeding the lion’s re-superstructure of a an international population that flourished from 1.6 to 6 billion over the 20th century. In just 12 years, between 1964 and 1976, synthetic and mineral fertilizer applications on U.S. Crops practically doubled.10


Pesticide applications on significant U.S. Crops, 1964–1992. Between 1964 and also 1976, total pesticide applications on major U.S. Crops increased by 143 percent. Most of this to be accounted because that by herbicide use. Over the years presented in this graph, U.S. Corn plants were responsible because that the largest share the pesticide and fertilizer use.10

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The early on 1900s saw the introduction of artificial fertilizers and also chemical pesticides, innovations that have come to be a hallmark of industrial chop production. In just 12 years, in between 1964 and also 1976, synthetic and mineral fertilizer applications ~ above U.S. Crops almost doubled, when pesticide usage on significant U.S. Crops increased by 143 percent.10 The change to devoted monocultures enhanced farmers’ dependency on this chemicals, in component because chop diversity can help suppress weeds and also other pests.11,12

Chemical and pharmaceutical use likewise became popular in newly industrialized models of meat, milk, and egg production. Antibiotics, for example, were introduced to swine, poultry, and cattle feeding after a collection of experiment in the 1940s and also 1950s uncovered that feeding the drugs to animals caused lock to acquire weight faster and also on less feed.13 by 2009, 80 percent of the antibiotic drugs marketed in the U.S. Were used not for person medicine yet for breed boy production.14

As with other trends in industrialization, the usage of chemical and pharmaceutical inputs in agriculture offered profit in productivity, however not without health and also ecological consequences.



Consolidation in U.S. Farms, 1950–1997. Consolidation in agriculture is the change toward fewer and also larger farms. The total variety of U.S. Farms declined from 5.39 million come 1.91 million in between 1950 and 1997. End the exact same period, the typical size that U.S. Farms much more than double (from 215 come 487 acres).17


Consolidation in U.S. Hog farms, 1955–2015. The variety of U.S. Hog farms declined from 1.85 million to 63,000 between 1959 and 2012. End the very same period, the average number of hogs every farm enhanced from 37 to 1,044. Sixty percent of the hogs in the U.S. Are created in framework that confine more than 5,000 animals at a given time.17 photo credit: Brent Kim, Johns Hopkins center for a Livable Future.

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Consolidation in farming is the shift toward fewer and larger farms, usually as a an outcome of big farms acquiring larger and also smaller ranches going the end of business. In the late 1950s, U.S. Secretary of farming Ezra Taft Benson exemplified federal government pressure come consolidate once he dubbed on farmers to “get large or acquire out.”15

Between 1950 and also 1997, the median U.S. Farm an ext than double in size, and less than half the ranches remained.16 In meat, dairy, and also egg production, the number of animals on every farm rose dramatically, if the number of small farms declined. Numerous other sectors in the food system, including pet slaughtering and processing, additionally underwent significant consolidation.

What journey the push to consolidate? brand-new technology, including chemicals and also larger tractors, allowed farmers to work-related larger areas of soil with much less labor.2 government policies urged farmers to range up their operations. Farmer were additionally motivated by economic climates of scale—the economic benefit of producing larger numbers of products. A chicken farmer, because that example, can turn a better profit on each bird by housing a larger number of birds (up to a point).

Largely together a an outcome of consolidation, many food manufacturing in the U.S. Currently takes location on massive-scale operations. Half of every U.S. Cropland is on farms with at least 1,000 acre (over 1.5 square miles).2 The vast bulk of U.S. Poultry and pork products comes from facilities that each develop over 200,000 chicken or 5,000 pigs in a single year, while many egg-laying hens are confined in facilities that home over 100,000 bird at a time.17

Market concentration


Percentage of sales earned by the four largest companies in their respective industries.20,25 earnings from food and agricultural industries have become increasingly concentrated amongst a small number of powerful companies. In the U.S. Beef slaughtering and also processing industry, the 4 largest carriers earn 82 percent of the sales. Picture credit: Michael Milli and Brent Kim. Johns Hopkins center for a Livable Future, 2013.

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Decisions about who produces our food, what food is produced, just how it is produced, and also who gets to eat that food have been steadily moving from … households and also governments come … corporation boardrooms.

– mary Hendrickson and also Harvey S. James Jr.18

Market re-superstructure is the proportion of one industry’s sales deserve by one company. In the U.S. Sector for braided snacks, because that example, 64 percent of sales room earned by PepsiCo.19

When a small number of companies have a huge market re-publishing of an industry, the market for that market is stated to be concentrated. Markets become more concentrated once companies take over, or merge with, their competitors.

Over the food of industrialization, markets for food and agricultural products have become increasingly concentrated. In the U.S. Beef slaughtering and processing industry, because that example, the four largest suppliers earn 82 percent that the sales.20 In the supermarket industry, 4 companies knife at the very least 42 percent the the sales.21

Vertical integration is a kind of market concentration that occurs as soon as companies gain control of multiple industries connected in the exact same products. Smithfield Foods, for example, is associated in the breeding, production, slaughter, processing, and also marketing that hogs and pork products.22 A small variety of powerful companies have similar control over poultry industries.

What does industry concentration median for farmers and also consumers? In some cases, industry concentration have the right to lower prices for consumers and increase sales.23 ~ above the various other hand, with fewer rivals in a focused market, dominant companies may acquire greater power to affect prices in your favor.23 lock may additionally dictate how foods items are produced, leaving farmers with little choice over just how to grow plants or raise animals.18 many highly focused corporations additionally have a strong presence in federal government agencies, whereby they deserve to influence policies in your favor.24


The complying with list of suggested resources is intended as a starting point for additional exploration, and also is no in any method comprehensive. Some products may not reflect the see of the Johns Hopkins facility for a Livable Future.

See more: And Then... Along Comes The Association, Liner Notes For And Then

For teachers


Academic newspaper articles



1. Ikerd JE. Maintain the benefit of agriculture. In: Economist’s function in the agricultural Sustainability Paradigm. Mountain Antonio, TX: college of Missouri; 1996. 2. MacDonald J, Korb P, Hoppe R. Farm Size and also the company of U.S. Crop Farming. 2013. 3. Rifkin J. Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the cattle Culture. Brand-new York, new York: Plume; 1993. 4. Ikerd JE. Sustaining the profit of Agriculture. In: Economist’s role in the farming Sustainability Paradigm. San Antonio, TX: university of Missouri; 1996. 5. Striffler S. Chicken: The Dangerous transformation of America`s favorite Food. Brand-new Haven: Yale college Press; 2005. 6. Rauw WM, Kanis E, Noordhuizen-Stassen E., Grommers F. Undesirable side results of an option for high production effectiveness in farm yard animals: a review. Livest Prod Sci. 1998;56(1):15-33. 7. Dimitri C, Effland A, Conklin N. The 20th Century transformation of U.S. Farming and farm yard Policy. USDA ERS. 2006. 8. M. De Lucia, Assennato D. Agricultural engineering in Development: Post-Harvest Operations and Management of Foodgrains. Food and agriculture Organization of the united Nations; 1994. 9. USDA economic Research Service. Agricultural Productivity in the unified States. 2014. 10. Lin B-H, Padgitt M, Bull L, Delvo H, Shank D, Taylor H. Pesticide and Fertilizer Use and also Trends in U.S. Agriculture. 1995. 11. Liebman M, Davis AS. Integration the soil, crop and also weed monitoring in low-external-input farming systems. Weed Res. 2000;40:27-47. 12. Kirschenmann FL. Potential because that a brand-new generation that biodiversity in agroecosystems the the future. Agron J. 2007;99(2):373-376. 13. Gustafson RH, Bowen RE. Antibiotic use in animal agriculture. J Appl Microbiol. 1997;83(5):531-41. 14. U.S. Food and also Drug Administration. Letter to The Honorable Louise M. Slaughter: Sales that Antibacterial medicine in Kilograms. Washington D.C.; 2010. 15. Zimdahl RR. Agriculture’s moral Horizon. Second ed. Waltham, MA: Elsevier; 2012. 16. Hoppe RA, Banker DE. Structure and Finances the U.S. Farms: 2005 household Farm Report. Vol financial I. USDA financial Research Service; 2006. 17. USDA. 2012 U.S. Census the Agriculture. 2014. 18. Hendrickson MK, James HS. The principles of Constrained Choice: how the Industrialization of agriculture Impacts Farming and also Farmer Behavior. J Agric Environ Ethics. 2005;18(3):269-291. 19. Cooper T. This firm Seeks to dominate Snacks. The Motley Fool. 2013. 20. James HS, Hendrickson MK, Howard PH. Networks, Power, and also Dependency in the Agrifood Industry. In: James HS, ed. The Ethics and also Economics the Agrifood Competition. Dordrecht: Springer Science-Business Media Press; 2013:99-126. 21. Hendrickson M, Heffernan W. Concentration of farming Markets. 2007. 22. Martinez SW. Vertical Coordination in the Pork and also Broiler Industries: implications for Pork and also Chicken Products. 1999. 23. Shields DA. Consolidation and also Concentration in the U.S. Dairy products Industry. 2010. 24. Ikerd JE. Crisis & Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture. Lincoln, NE: college of Nebraska Press; 2008. 25. Heffernan WD, Douglas HC. Concentration of farming Markets. 1990.