By Dr. Mercola
Last month, the restaurant chain Chipotle launched an online show on Hulu called Farmed and Dangerous, a four-part satire aimed at revealing the "outrageously twisted and utterly unsustainable world of industrial agriculture" by poking fun at it.
Each of the four episodes is being published by the Huffington Post.1 The first episode, featured above, ran on Monday, February 17.
"We're most interested in using the series to launch conversations around pressing issues in our food system," Huffington Post writes. "Is industrial agriculture the only answer to the planet's food problem? Do you support the use of genetically-modified ingredients in our food? What do you think of Chipotle's anti-industrial farming message and 'values branding' strategy?"2
All important questions to consider these days... One of the main characters in Farmed and Dangerous is Chip Randolph, a young farmer-activist who goes up against a fictional industrial food corporation that has created petroleum-based cow feed, called "petro-pellets"—with devastating results.
While adding petroleum to the feed makes for cheaper food, it also makes the cows spontaneously combust into flames. Through the calamitous twists and turns that ensue, the series indirectly highlights a number of important issues currently facing the food industry.
This includes reliance on fossil fuels, the misuse of drugs in animal farming, and food libel laws that enable the food industry to silence critics. Perhaps one of the catchiest phrases uttered in this mini-series is "Those people died from eating; not starving. That's progress."
While modern agriculture has yet to develop feed that makes cows literally explode, the phrase is still hauntingly relevant when we're talking about factory farming. People are indeed being harmed by the food they eat these days.
Values Branding vs. Product Integration
According to the New York Times:3
"...'Farmed and Dangerous,' billed as a 'Chipotle original series,' hopes to promote the company's concerns about sustainable agriculture and the humane treatment of animals used for meat. This stealth marketing strategy, Chipotle executives say, is not about 'product integration,' but 'values integration.'"
It's interesting to note that Chipotle hasn't always been 100 percent dedicated to the values of sustainable and organic agriculture, but in their defense, the chain has been fairly quick to respond to consumer pressure to remove genetically engineered ingredients, or at the very least be transparent about their use.
Last summer, I wrote about how food activist blogger Vani Hari, better known as "Food Babe," inspired Chipotle to take a closer look at its ingredients. When she began her investigation into Chipotle's food, the restaurant didn't have a list of ingredients on their menus or website, and the corporate headquarters even refused to supply her with one when she contacted them directly.4
"I said, 'But your label says "Food with Integrity."' How am I going to know that it's food with integrity if I can't know the ingredients and I can't read them for myself?" Vani said.
Shortly after publishing an article on her blog, questioning the chain's resistance to releasing a list of its ingredients for closer scrutiny, Chipotle called her. Shortly thereafter, the chain released the lists of ingredients in its meals, and even started labeling genetically engineered (GE) ingredients for full transparency.
They also swapped out some of the GE ingredients, such as soybean oil, replacing it with rice bran oil. And now, they've released Farmed and Dangerous, which may be just what's needed to give these issues some well-needed exposure among the general public.
Is Your Food Supporting or Harming Your Health?
Virtually all of the meat and poultry (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.) found in your local grocery store comes from animals raised in so-called confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). If it wasn't raised in a factory farm, it will typically bear a clear label stating it's "grass-fed" or "USDA 100% organic."
Large-scale factory farming is the cheapest way to raise meat, thereby allowing for the largest profits. But the ultimate price is high, as there's a complete disregard for human health, the environment, and the ethical treatment of animals.
Far from being what most people would consider "a farm," these massive operations are more like industrial warehouses, stocked to the hilt with animals that are quite literally crammed together. Due to the overcrowded, unhygienic conditions in these livestock factories, most of the animals end up getting sick. And whether they're ill or not, they're still routinely given antibiotics and artificial hormones to promote growth.
The natural diet of a cow is plain grass, but CAFO-raised cows are fed pesticide-laden grains and other byproducts instead. Not only does this upset their digestive systems and alter the nutritional makeup of their meat, all of the feed additives also get transferred to you when you eat that meat. The routine use of antibiotics in particular has led to the rapid rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that now threaten human life.
The factory farm model also directly contributes to Americans' increasing reliance on processed junk foods, which in turn drives the rise in obesity and chronic disease. For the past several decades, the focus has been on creating ever-cheaper foods. Well, you cannot achieve top quality and rock-bottom prices at the same time. Something has to give, and quality nutrition definitely fell by the wayside as technology overtook the food and agricultural industry...
Tainted Meat—Another Health Hazard of the Factory Farm Model
Research suggests you have a 50/50 chance of buying meat tainted with drug-resistant bacteria when you buy meat from your local grocery store. But it may be even worse than that. Last year, using data collected by the federal agency called NARMS (National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System), the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81 percent of ground turkey, 69 percent of pork chops, 55 percent of ground beef, and 39 percent of raw chicken parts purchased in stores in 2011. EWG nutritionist and the report's lead researcher, Dawn Undurraga, issued the following warning to the public:5
"Consumers should be very concerned that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now common in the meat aisles of most American supermarkets... These organisms can cause foodborne illnesses and other infections. Worse, they spread antibiotic-resistance, which threatens to bring on a post-antibiotic era where important medicines critical to treating people could become ineffective."
This is no minor concern! According to a landmark "Antibiotic Resistance Threat Report" published by the CDC,6 two million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a direct result of those infections. Even more die from complications.
Rethink Your Shopping Habits to Protect Your Family's Health
I believe the movement toward sustainable food and ethical meat is very important, both in terms of human health and animal welfare. Organic, grass-fed and finished meat that is humanely raised and butchered is really about the only type of meat that is healthy to eat. By purchasing your meat from smaller farms that raise their animals in a humane fashion, according to organic principles, you're promoting the proliferation of such farms, which in the end will benefit everyone, including all the animals. The organic industry also tends to favor far more humane butchering practices, which is another important part of "ethical meat." The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a humane, sustainable manner:
- Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
- Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
- Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
- Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
- FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.