Chicken. Have you eaten it recently? Some people love it, myself included. I like eating it fried, grilled, BBQed, or even roasted straight out of the rotisserie oven. It tastes good and it’s pretty cheap, too, as far as meats go. And most people would agree that it’s delicious, but have you ever thought about how it could be so cheap? Well, just like the shoes you are wearing or the computer you are using, it was mass produced.
You see, for thousands of years, if you wanted to eat a chicken, you raised it, fed it, protected it, collected its eggs, and then killed it, de-feathered it, cleaned it, cooked it, and then ate it. And although there are still people who live this way, many of us get our chicken from the supermarket or local grocery store. It is already cut and packaged neatly and ready to cook. Millions of chickens are killed each day around the world for us to so conveniently have their meat on our tables whenever we want. And in order to do that, we have to rely on an elaborate system of production and distribution. And this is the result of a process called industrialization, that has changed the way we live and work in many ways.
Back in the late 1880s in England, large factories were built in order to more cheaply produce goods in greater quantities. This provided jobs for many people, so they gave up farming and moved to the city. And those jobs became more and more specialized as factories became larger. For example, before industrialization, one person raised a chicken, killed it, cleaned it, and sold it. But with industrialization, now many people are involved with the same process, yet each person has a smaller task. One person raises the chicken, another person kills it, another one de-feathers it, another one cuts it, another one packages it, another one ships it, another one sells it, and so on. This is called division of labor. And gradually, machines are beginning to replace people in some of those steps in the factory production process.
But here is the interesting thing about it: that same factory model of production didn’t just remain in the production of goods, but it has also been applied in many of the most important service institutions in our societies: health care, public schooling, government, agriculture, and so on. For me, this raises some important concerns. What does the factory model do to the quality of goods and services? How does it affect our quality of life? And how does it affect the way humans relate to each other and the natural environment?