I just finished reading Eating Animals, by Joanathan Safran Foer. This is a thick, long book that is not always easy to read, yet I'm really glad I did. Foer starts the book by talking about eating animals of all type (ie why we think it's ok to eat cows but not dogs) and how different cultures are very different in this respect. He talks about the words we use to describe how we eat animals - organic, natural, CAFO, etc. and what they may or may not mean (which is often different from what consumers think they mean). He describes factory farming in great detail, which is unsettling even if you already know how awful it is. He also describes the situation in slaughterhouses, which also terrible.
There are separate sections on how chickens, pigs and cows are treated. The section on chickens was particularly disturbing, since in addition to the inhumane treatment the birds receive, you see how fecal contamination gets everywhere and how it is impossible to buy "clean" chicken if it came from a factory farm. There is a lot of detail on the different kinds of flus that humans can contract, and how the way we process animals can contribute to the spread of those flus. For each type of animal, if there is a farm that does it better, he also talks about that, and discusses why some aspects might be better but some aren't very good at all.
He concludes with a big section on the choice to eat animals or not. He acknowledges that there are many points of view on this, and there is a lot of detail on both sides. He also talks a lot about how it is very difficult to eat meat, but only meat that was not grown on a factory farm or processed in a slaughterhouse that does not adhere to the standards he'd like to see. Reading this book renewed my wish to be vegetarian. One thing he did not go into in a lot of detail is the treatment of animals that are raised for their non-meat products (eggs, milk, cheese, etc.) From other reading I have done, I'm pretty sure that the animals in factory farms producing eggs and dairy are going through the same awful stuff. Ideally, I'd like to be vegan except for the rare instances when I can get products from small farms that are treating the animals humanely, feeding them food which makes them more nutritious, and processing them humanely and cleanly. Getting food like that is very difficult though, so I think I'll aim to eat an absolute minimum of animal products.
Whether you eat meat or not, or other animal products, this book would be a very thought provoking read. It is at times discouraging, since it's hard to see how much of this is going to change, but it's a start to know about it. I'd give this book 4 out of 5 stars. At times, it felt disorganized, and hard to look something up if you wanted to go back to it. I would have liked the sections to be more clearly marked. This book is best read from start to finish, as it's difficult to look up a particular topic.