Corporations have turned family-farming methods into cost-saving, mass-production strategies, which endanger public health and treat animals cruelly.
Also known as large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), factory farms treat animals like production units, and the result is poor food quality for you, and inhumane conditions for the animals.
Consider some of the ingredients commonly used in factory-farmed animal feed:
- Excessive grains, fed to animals designed to eat grass
- Plastic pellets, fed to animals as "roughage" because the factory diet doesn't contain natural fiber
- Meat from their own species, turning farm animals into cannibals (this practice has also been linked to the spread of mad cow disease)
- Animal byproducts, such as feathers, blood, intestines, euthanized cats and dogs, and road kill
- Drugs and chemicals, including antibiotics (an estimated 13.5 million pounds each year) and antimicrobials (which promote the accumulation of arsenic in chickens)
Meanwhile, according to this NewsTarget.com article, "Approximately 95% of factory-raised animals are subject to deplorable conditions such as overcrowding, hunger, thirst, and sometimes-fatal weather extremes. Many times, they are kept conscious or even skinned alive during the process of slaughtering."
NewsTarget.com October 8, 2007 The methods used to raise and grow most food in the United States will not support your health, or the health of the environment. Factory farms attempt to mass produce animals to have the most profit value, with little regard for the life of the animal or the final quality of the meat.
What the factory farmers don’t understand, or perhaps do understand but just don’t care about, is that raising animals in this way leads to major imbalances in the environment (agricultural runoff of animal waste is the major reason why 60 percent of the rivers and streams in the United States are impaired) and in the health value of the meat.
Since nearly all factory-farmed cattle are grain-fed before slaughter, if you eat most factory-raised beef it will typically worsen your omega-6:omega-3 ratio.
According to a study published in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, livestock that are fed on grain have more omega-6 fat (which may promote heart disease), and less omega-3 fat (which is beneficial for cardiac health), than both wild animals and grass-fed livestock.
There is also the issue of additives. Because factory-farmed animals are raised in such poor, overcrowded conditions, they are extremely vulnerable to becoming ill. So the farmers use huge quantities of vaccines, antibiotics, and other chemicals as a preventative measure, because they assume that without artificial intervention, the animals will become sick.
One such additive, Roxarsone, is fed to about 70 percent of broiler chickens raised in the United States every year. It’s used to promote growth, kill parasites, and improve the color of chicken meat.
Folks, Roxarsone is an arsenic-based additive that can be converted into arsenic, which has been linked to bladder, lung, skin, kidney, and colon cancers. Even low-level exposure to arsenic can lead to partial paralysis and diabetes.
Further, many of these animals are also given synthetic hormones and protein supplements to make them gain weight quickly (and therefore bring in more money, faster). Measurable amounts of hormones in factory-raised beef are transferred to humans, and some scientists believe that human consumption of estrogen from hormone-fed beef can result in:
- Premature puberty
- Falling sperm counts
It is because of the reasons above that I often discuss the importance of choosing humane, socially responsible sources for your food (not only meat but also raw dairy products and produce).
Your best choice for finding such sources will always be small local farmers that, ideally, you can speak with in person and see for yourself what type of conditions their food is raised in.
I’ve compiled an excellent list for you to find sustainable agriculture groups in your area, and many of them even hold annual meetings for you to meet local farmers. If you search and are unable to locate a source for local food in your area, your next best option would be to purchase grass-fed, organic beef and other free-range organic meats and produce at a health food store.
However, even then you need to be careful, as many stores will advertise beef as grass-fed when it really isn't. They do this because ALL cattle are actually grass-fed most of the time, but the question is: what they are fed in the months prior to being processed? You will need to call the person who actually raised the cows, NOT the store manager, to find out the truth.
Many people choose not to eat organic meats and produce because they believe it is too expensive. However, if you find a local source you’ll be able to cut out the middleman, and I think you’ll find the prices to be only slightly higher than your supermarket’s.
And, surely, you will make up that extra cost in saved health care bills later on, because you and your family will be much healthier eating naturally raised food.
Please be sure to read the first link below by Michael Pollan. He is the same New York Times author who wrote brilliantly about the perils of factory-farmed beef. He also wrote the book Omnivore's Dilemma this year, which is a great work.