Our beef cows eat grass and cost $30 per pound at an artisanal butcher shop. Antibiotics and hormones have never touched the beaks of our free-range, egg-laying chickens. We call it happy meat, because the animals have supposedly only had one bad day in their lives.

If only our toys were as happy. They're not. Our tablets, smartphones and computers are assembled by hundreds of thousands of people working in Chinese factories that have killed some of them.

A New York Times report in January revealed two Chinese factory explosions run by Apple's vendor Foxconn killed four and injured 77 workers. The explosions were caused by combustible aluminum dust from iPad cases, despite earlier warnings about the problem.

Dozens of workers from a Foxconn factory that made Microsoft's Xbox 360 threatened to kill themselves by jumping off a roof because of lack of severance pay when a factory closed, according to an Associated Press report in January.

Our kale is more sustainable than our Kindles.

While we worry whether the iPhone 5 can fit into the pockets of our skinny jeans, workers on the other side of the world worry about surviving a day's work.

We are uber conscious about the sustainability of our food, energy sources and transportation choices. But Microsoft and Amazon.com have yet to take a leadership position on sustainable electronics.

More workers than ever are getting sucked into these factories to produce the mind-numbing array of new devices going on sale this holiday season. You can choose tablets from 7 inches and 10 inches, from $149 to $499, which is slightly more than what the average iPad factory worker makes in a month ($459 at a Guanlan factory).

A Fair Labor Association audit said Foxconn employees at three factories that make Apple products worked an average of 56 to 61 hours a week. More than half of workers surveyed had worked 11 days in a row without a day off.

Foxconn employs more than 288,000 workers to make Apple products. Think about our accouterments: cellphones, laptops, keyboards, mice. It's not hard to imagine more than a million people working in conditions that rival those of the Industrial Age textile mills. To (sort of) quote "Portlandia," the dream of the 1890s is alive in China.

As of August, Apple was making progress on changes, according to the Fair Labor Association, which the company joined after The New York Times report. The company now permits unannounced inspections by outside inspectors, and their reports are publicly posted.

Microsoft and Amazon should be embarrassed that they have not matched Apple's commitments. Neither company invites outside auditors to publicly post reports. They are not participating companies in the Fair Labor Association, although Microsoft says it works with the group on private projects.

It's like relying on Microsoft to abide by its own antitrust settlement without the oversight of a judge and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Microsoft and Amazon audit vendors, they say, to ensure workers are paid fair, legal wages in a safe workplace. This year, Microsoft reported that child labor was used at two vendors, and Microsoft restricted work with the suppliers until the children stopped working and were sent home. That's good, but they can and should be more transparent and accountable.

By ignoring how workers get treated, we deny their humanity. We risk the dystopian future in the book and movie "Cloud Atlas," where cloned assembly-line workers known as fabricants perform low-wage labor and are disposed of like old horses when their usefulness expires.

My mobile device is my constant companion. It knows where I am at every moment. It told me when my brother became a dad. It was the first to hear that my dog died. It is the first thing I pick up upon waking and the last thing I check before I go to sleep. I want it to be happy.

Sharon Pian Chan is a columnist for The Seattle Times. Her email address is schan@seattletimes.com.

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