The U.S. government shutdown is resulting in a number of troubling delays. The recent 18-state salmonella outbreak caused by contaminated chicken from a Foster Farms facility has yet to be fully investigated by researchers and inspections by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have also been suspended at such farms due to the shutdown.

Taken together, these two issues highlight an even larger concern: the overall lack of transparency in the meat industry.

While undercover investigations by leading animal protection organizations like Mercy for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States help shed a light on the unsettling world of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs ) or factory farms, ag-gag bills have sprouted up across the country and become a hot topic among animal advocates and concerned consumers nationwide.

These bills make it illegal to take undercover photos or videos on farms and have already been passed in Utah, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa and Missouri. As the meat industry shuts its doors to the public, the plant-based protein industry is opening theirs.

Beyond Meat, a leading U.S. developer of plant-based protein products, has just announced a transparency challenge, calling on poultry industry giants, like Foster Farms, Tyson, Perdue and Pilgrim’s Pride, to open up their processing facilities to the public.

Ethan Brown, founder and CEO of Beyond Meat, has even gone so far as to ask consumers to come visit his company’s facility at 1714 Commerce Court, Columbia, Missouri and watch how Beyond Meat products are produced.

“We founded this company with one overriding goal: to create a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable and humane protein,” Brown said in a company press release published on PR Newswire. “With this salmonella outbreak, which has now affected people in 18 states, we feel it is the right time to raise the bar for health and sanitation issues in factory farms and giant meat processors.”

If the poultry industry has nothing to hide, it will accept Beyond Meat’s challenge. Yet this is probably a far-fetched reality. As Paul McCartney once said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”

While the horrendous conditions at factory farms might not actually turn all vegetarian, a truly transparent look into the inner workings of CAFOs would undoubtedly raise quite a national uproar about industry practices.

Animals suffer a great deal behind the industry’s closed doors, but so do U.S. consumers. It’s time for the disconnection to end between people and their meat. Consumers deserve the right to know exactly where their food comes from.

Image source: United Soybean Board/Flickr