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NIU anthropologist Kendall Thu pens chapter for award-winning book on feeding operations

June 13, 2011
Kendall Thu

Kendall Thu

Hey, Kendall Thu enjoys a juicy grilled steak as much as any meat lover. He just wishes people would give some thought to where their steaks come from. 

The NIU anthropology professor is a key contributor to a book on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that recently received the prestigious 2011 Nautilus Gold Award.

The book is titled “CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories.”

Nautilus Awards are given annually to “books of exceptional merit that make a literary and heartfelt contribution to spiritual growth, conscious living, high-level wellness, green values, responsible leadership and positive social change.”

“CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories” was honored in the category of Conscious Media/Journalism/Investigative Reporting.

The book discusses the culture of the nation’s multibillion-dollar meat industry and the sometimes detrimental implications for workers, the environment and the economy. Thu wrote a chapter titled “CAFOs Are in Everyone’s Backyard: Industrial Agricultural, Democracy and the Future.”

Book cover of "CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories"

Book cover of "CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories"

Other writers who contributed to the book include Robert F. Kennedy Jr., journalism professor and author Michael Pollen and journalist Eric Schlosser, who also penned “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal.”

“I’m grateful to be a part of this project,” Thu said. “The book educates the public about the meat processing industry and the problems with animal factories, but it is not a wholesale criticism of the nation’s meat industry or a call for people to become vegetarians.

“I grill meat,” he added. “I love to grill beef and chicken.”

The problem is that the majority of the meat processing industry is controlled by a handful of companies, Thu said. Those companies reap profits while passing along countless costs to society.

“My message in the book is to inform consumers that they have choices when purchasing meat,” Thu said. “They can buy directly from farming co-ops and local farms that are widely available in Illinois and handle meat on a small-scale basis. These sources leave smaller footprints on our society and put more money in farmers’ pockets.”

Editors of the book asked Thu to contribute because he has written numerous academic articles about the meat processing industry.

Thu, who recently was named an NIU Presidential Engagement Professor in recognition of his research and the work he does in the community, teaches courses in the anthropology of food, environmental anthropology and medical anthropology.

by Gerard Dziuba