Industrial-scale beef production is a sign of crisis in Britain’s farming | Felicity Lawrence

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Most farmers make a loss and rely on Brussels subsidies. Before it’s too late we must decide the kind of meat we want to eat

Pens of bare earth in serried rows, stretching across fields as barren as an urban car park, packed with cattle being intensively fed – this is the vision we have of the over-industrialised, disease-prone, polluting and crueller side of American feedlot beef production. However, as the Guardian revealed this week, this has become a feature of the British landscape, in the form of concentrated animal feeding operations (Cafos).

The bucolic idyll has been rooted deep in the English psyche for centuries, nowhere more so than in the hearts of the metropolitan middle classes, who want the countryside to be their green lung away from the smoke of traffic and who expect to see cows safely grazing on green and pleasant pastureland. Many prefer to remain disconnected from the reality of the processes required to turn those cows into aseptic packages of supermarket meat or fast-food burgers at rock-bottom prices.

Related: Revealed: industrial-scale beef farming comes to the UK

Related: Meat and fish multinationals ‘jeopardising Paris climate goals’

The US has made clear that accepting their agricultural standards has to be the basis for any post-Brexit trade deal

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