My sister wrote this for one of her classes. It’s a good paper and I wanted to share it. Being that half of my life was spent in northern Indiana/southern Michigan farm country, where the animals are free to roam on big farms, this information is heartbreaking.
More and more, people are returning to grass fed animal meat, which, by far, is healthier for everyone…..
by Katelin Moreen
When we think of farms we typically think of waking up to the rooster crowing at dawn, family owned and run, hand tilled fields filled with hand planted crops and cows grazing in open pastures. This fairytale farm story is far from the reality of what is really going on in today’s farming industry. In the early 1920′s farmers discovered when vitamins A and D are added to the animal feed, they would no longer require exercise and sunlight in order to grow (idausa.com). This made farmers realize there was no need for room to graze, and from this point on farmers began keeping more and more animals on that same plot of land, slowly eliminating any space outside for grazing. As time has gone on, farmers have cultivated numerous ways (many inhumanly) of producing more animals, in a shorter amount of time, while also finding ways to make them even meatier. This concept of merging the farm with the factory has appropriately been dubbed ‘factory farming.’
Factory farming is defined as a system of rearing livestock using intensive methods, by which poultry, pigs, or cattle are confined indoors under strictly controlled conditions as well as the process in which animals are no longer treated as animals but as food producing machines, produced for the soul purpose of revenue (dictionary.com). By no means am I a vegetarian, but the idea of forcing animals to live like this makes me consider the idea. Since the dawn of time people have killed and eaten animals, but these are living beings. How dare we treat another living thing in such a manner. Killing something for consumption is one thing, but is treating animals in such a way even ethical?
For any topic like this there will always be a debate for the pro as well as the con. Around the world this clashing of opinions produces many different views on what is the right, the moral or the most ethical approach to this topic. The farming industry believes in their process of large-scale farming or big business production. In their defense, there is a larger population on our earth, with more starvation than ever before. They look at is as simply doing their best to produce as much as they possibly can, and at a faster rate. Large farms have become one of the world’s largest industries. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, “farming has grown into a $15.6 billion dollar industry world wide.” Though it is on the decline, there is still an estimated 1.91 million farms in the United States alone (mercola.com). Many of the small mom and pop farms have found it nearly impossible to compete with these large farms. That is until recently, the U.S. public has begun to take notice to these injustices and promote the idea of organic and sustainable farming. Though this helps, taking on these mega industries will prove to be nearly impossible, a modern day David and Goliath (hopefully with an ending just as triumphant). To this date, 90% of the nation’s poultry production is controlled by 10 companies (mercola.com)so we still have a ways to go.
Another debate for the pro is the regulations the FDIC is able to put on this industry’s product. Meat and poultry qualities are graded on a scale of A through D, grade A being the highest quality possible. Having so few companies involved in the nations poultry production, as well as in all other types of meat production, makes it much easier to regulate the quality of the product. It is much easier to regulate a small group of farming companies, rather than thousands of small family farms. In turn with such a limited number of farms supplying the entire nation, you can be sure of what exactly you are getting. Beyond knowing what you’re getting, you are also able to get it at a cheaper price. “Large farms receive nearly twice as much in government payments [subsidies] as do small farms” (mercola.com), this means they can charge less for their product. This obviously, however comes at a price, which is essentially taking that money out of the small-scale farmers pocket. So this point could be considered both good and bad, almost any person in the United States can find it possible to eat a steak if he or she chooses. This is not the case around the world. In fact, in some countries it is nearly impossible to eat meat at all.
Another argument for (or against) factory farming is the support a large scale farm can bring to a communities economy. When a large farm moves into an area, the benefits can be seen immediately. “Farms are vital to the economy,” explains Rosset. From the time a large farm begins jobs are available. When establishing a large farming industry in a rural community you need workers from day one. Whether it is to build the barns, silos, prepare the fields or design plans for the building, jobs are created from the start. Not to mention in most cases these industries develop a new town, which can potentially create hundreds of jobs due to the lack of supply and increased demand. A community begins to develop in all aspects as a result of one company needing hundreds of employees. However, this new mega farm can very easily drive the other local smaller mom and pop farms out of business. Family farmers are being forced out of business at an alarming rate. According to Farm Aid, every week 330 farmers leave their land. As a result, there are now nearly five million fewer farms in the U.S. than there were in the 1930′s. Of the two million remaining farms, only 565,000 are family operations (Sustainable Table).
There are benefits that can come from large-scale farming. Supporters place their values in supporting the global economy, quality regulation, dependability and the creation of jobs in areas where there are none. However like I stated earlier, for every pro, there is a con. Activists of factory farming have quite different values. They value animal rights, human safety and environmental conservation. With these values in mind, people and organizations that are opposed to large-scale farming believe factory farming should not continue.
As society’s view of what is “appropriate” changes, so does the idea of what is politically correct. Animal rights is one of the “hot topics” of today’s culture, especially now with the Green initiative becoming more and more vital to our planet. The opponents of factory farming feel that one of the most important reasons why this needs to stop is because the animals in these factory farms are being treated in such an inhumane manner. Rather than the farms we are conditioned to expect, these animals are being raised in metal cages stacked to the ceilings. Numerous chickens are kept in cages with dimensions no larger than a sheet of paper. Pigs and calves are kept in pins so small they are unable to turn around, sometimes for their whole lives. These animals are living in conditions unsuitable for any living thing, and denied the essentials that they need most like fresh water and sunshine.
The problems only worsen when you take hygiene into consideration. When such a high volume of animals are confined to a small space, it becomes nearly impossible to keep the space clean. Beyond the removal of carcasses, these places aren’t cleaned in their entirety, more than once every few years! Eventually the build up of feces and other bodily waste can, produce extreme levels of ammonia and other hazardous gases. The methane emitted when they chew their cud and belch, and nitrous oxide and ammonia their manure gives off is one of the top “two or three” most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems we face today (abcnews.com, 2006).
To put the tremendous amount of waste produced by these animals, into perspective; large-scale commercial livestock and poultry operations produce an estimated 500 million tons of manure each year, this is more than three times the sewage produced by the entire U.S. human population. Factory farm waste is stored in manure pits or lagoons, and ultimately it is applied to farm fields as fertilizer. However, being that they produce so much waste in a concentrated area, it must be applied to the land in quantities that exceed the soil’s ability to incorporate it. The vast quantities of manure can – and do – make their way into the local environment where they pollute the air and water (Food & Water Watch, 2010).
To make matters worse, studies have found that much of the meat on grocery store shelves today is contaminated with different types of bacteria, which cannot be killed with conventional antibiotics. That means that if you eat meat tainted with these super-germs and become ill, many antibiotics that doctors rely on to treat infections will be less effective or even useless (PETA). In this country, roughly 29 million pounds of antibiotics, about 80% of the nation’s antibiotics use in total, are added to animal feed every year to speed livestock growth (NRDC, 2011).
Through this over-crowding, unnecessary antibiotics and other foreign chemicals and gases, these animals are not only contracting diseases much easier, but in some cases to spreading them to humans through consumption. An example of this is documented in the movie Food.inc. Kevin, a 2-year-old boy, contracted E coli O157:H7 from simply eating a cheeseburger on a family vacation. He was diagnosed with hemolytic-uremic syndrome, and died just days later (Kenner, 2008). If it seems like epidemics like this are becoming more and more prevalent, that’s because they are, the first cases weren’t reported until 1991.
The problem we face in defeating this issue is that factory farms are designed to make money, not to raise healthy and happy animals. Through crowding as many animals into one space, while feeding them as inexpensively as possible, the farm should have no trouble making a profit. And when something can be profitable by [legally] cutting corners, persuading them to doing the right thing isn’t going to be easy if that means spending more money. That’s why we have to do our part.
Many of the activists opposed to factory farming, continuously lobby congress in an attempt to provoke change. The Humane Society of the United States has an extensive website devoted to factory farming (HSUSA). They have made it one of their [many] missions to do everything in their power to stop this cruel abuse and help to educate others on how they can get involved. There are small ways you can do your part to make a difference. By eating local, organic, sustainable foods you are making sure that you are eating meet from an animal raised on a local self-sufficient farm that was never fed any sorts of harsh chemicals or antibiotics. Though the terms “local, sustainable and organic” have become related to new age hippy jargon, it is really doing things the old fashioned way. More and more grocery stores are offering food guaranteed to be all three of these things, and it has become easier than ever to know what you are getting, guilt free.
abcnews.com. (2006, 12 13). Global Warming Culprits: Cars and … Cows. Retrieved 04 26, 2012, from abcnews.com: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/GlobalWarming/story?id=2723201&page=1#.T5nrl-0lbFI
dictionary.com. (n.d.). factory farming. Retrieved 04 12, 2012, from dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/factory+farming?s=t
Food & Water Watch. (2010). How Factory Farms Impact You. Retrieved 04 25, 2012, from Factory Farm Map: http://www.factoryfarmmap.org/problems/
HSUSA. (n.d.). Working to reduce the suffering of animals raised for meat, eggs, and milk. Retrieved 04 20, 2012, from Farm Animal Protection: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/campaigns/factory_farming
idausa.com. (n.d.). Factory Farming Facts. Retrieved 04 20, 2012, from In Defense of Animals: http://www.idausa.org/facts/factoryfarmfacts.html
Pearlstein, E. (Producer), & Kenner, R. (Director). (2008). Food, Inc. [Motion Picture].
mercola.com. (n.d.). Waste Pollution and the Environment. Retrieved 04 25, 2012, from Benefits of Grass Fed Beef: http://www.mercola.com/beef/benefits.htm
NRDC. (2011, 1 13). Facts about Pollution from Livestock Farms. Retrieved 04 26, 2012, from nrdc.org: http://www.nrdc.org/water/pollution/ffarms.asp
PETA. (n.d.). Meat Contamination. Retrieved 04 20, 2012, from Vegetarian Living: http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/meat-contamination.aspx
Sustainable Table. (n.d.). The Issues – Family Farms. Retrieved 04 23, 2012, from sistainable.org: http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/familyfarms/