In 1970, the average Iowa hog farm housed fewer than 200 hogs. By 2000, the number increased up to 1,500 tightly packed pigs. Today, CAFOs can hold up to 10,000 hogs or more in the same general area. In Iowa, livestock pass an estimated 50 million tons of excrement each year. And, this represents only one state.
In California over a ten-year period, the number of pig CAFOs decreased by 50% but the density per farm increased 200%. As a result, Californians passed a ballot initiative that phases out battery cages for egg production by 2015 and is working on another ballot initiative that will phase out CAFOs for other animals entirely.
In a nutshell, unhealthy cows mean unhealthy meat. The thought of eating a sick or diseased animal should make you ill. If you think that the industrial cattle industry is willing to throw away the cattle that become ill and lose a profit on the animal, you are sadly disillusioned. Profit always comes first over health. This was never more true than when the Wright County Egg farm shipped more than 500 million eggs after they knew the eggs were contaminated with Salmonella. Even after the recall, the eggs were resold for use in baked goods as “safe”.
But the real issue is whether factory farmed meats are healthy for you to eat or cause weight gain, obesity, illness and disease. The following are the negative points raised against factory farmed meats by independent researchers, scientists and organic ranchers.
If you want to read the industry propaganda, it is easily found at industry websites or through their non-profit advertising fronts and government policies made by their lobbyists and former employees serving in key positions in the current administration, FDA and USDA. The industry spends millions of dollars every day to drowned out its competition and anyone who disagrees with the profit-oriented agenda.
In no particular order of importance, consider the following and research each issue if you either don’t believe what you read or disagree. If you are a member of the factory farmed meat industry, fasten your seat belt, the truth about industry practices is going to be a bumpy ride.
- The polluted air containing dangerous particulates and gases, including methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, are inhaled by the animals and humans alike. These putrid pools of liquid fecal waste causes nausea, headaches, diarrhea, runny nose, sore throat, excessive coughing, burning eyes and even life-threatening pulmonary edema – and even death.
- Manure lagoons pollute the land, air, creeks, lakes and affect rural farms located near the pollution producing factories. It also decreases oxygen in lakes and streams causing fish to die. If they live, they contain too many chemicals for Americans to eat safely.
- Excess nitrates, heavy metals (zinc, copper, arsenic, nickel, manganese, and selenium) and other contaminants also pose a risk to humans, wildlife and migratory birds. Factory farms harm about 20% of endangered and threatened species.
- For every new CAFO, ten family farms are eliminated or forced to enter into contracts with the factory farm. Dr. Francis Thicke says the farms become “serfs of corporate Agribusiness”. CAFOS’ split communities, neighbors and destroy the fabric of traditional farming. Promised local employment is a myth that vanishes when low-paid workers are imported to save money.
- CAFOs increase public expenditures and increase social conflicts in schools, increase crime and cause more family problems. Any tax benefits resulting from increased economic activity are more than offset by increasing public expenditures for schools, law enforcement, health and social services.
- More than 24.6 million pounds of antibiotics used annually on factory farms is causing Americans to become antibiotic resistant. A similar amount of rBGH used on factory farms is passed on to the consumers in their meats leading to weight gain, obesity, illness and disease in our society. Both are banned in Canada and in most countries in Europe.
- Concrete floors and damp conditions often lead to laminitis or hoof disease causing of lameness in cattle requiring spraying the cattle with antibacterials. Laminitis leads to inflammation and infections requiring more antibiotics and in many cases, Formalin and Cu sulphate, which are toxic to humans and water.
- The force-feeding of cattle corn, GMO corn and GMO soy cause the cattle to experience acidosis within 180 days. Corn-fed cattle are also prone to serious health conditions such as bloat, diarrhea, ulcers, liver disease, abscesses and a weak immune system.
- Most independent scientists and researchers agree that a grass-fed diet would eliminate 80% of the E. coli in the cow’s digestive tracts. Feeding cattle corn causes E. coli. The problem is so severe that fast food chains like McDonald’s buy hamburger containing ammonia to stop the spread of E. coli from sick animals.
- Grass-fed beef is significantly higher in calcium, magnesium, beta-carotene, omega-3 and potassium than corn-fed beef. Corn-fed cattle have been found to contain only 15 to 50% as much omega-3 as meat from grass-fed cattle. Grass-fed beef is also four times higher in vitamin E and lower in polyunsaturated fats. Corn-fed cattle are high in bad omega-6 which leads to cancer and heart disease.
- Current research tells us that Omega-6 fatty acids are the cause of many of our Western diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
- Corn and soy fed to animals causes an antithyroid effect causing the animals to be fattened at low cost as well as toxicity and acidosis. This leads to cancer. Ranchers have known since the 1940s that when pigs are fed soybeans and corn, their lard changes from saturated fat to the cancer causing unsaturated fat.
- Unsaturated fat change hormones. Unsaturated oils block thyroid hormone secretion in animals, its movement in the circulatory system, and the response of tissues to the hormone. The thyroid hormone is required for using and eliminating cholesterol in humans. Cholesterol is likely raised by anything which blocks the thyroid’s function.
- Cancer and cirrhosis of the liver cannot occur unless there are polyunsaturated oils in your diet. Heart disease can be produced by unsaturated oils, but prevented by adding saturated oils to the diet.
- At many factory farms, animals that are too weak, sick or injured to move are tied to the backs of trucks and dragged to areas where they are piled on top of each other (still alive) so that they can be easily killed and butchered. They are called downed animals, and they may suffer for days without food, water or medical attention. These sick animals are often rejected for human consumption and wind up in your pet’s food.
- Of the 10 million dairy cows in the U.S., at least half spend their entire lives in crowded milking pens or barns with concrete floors.
- Cruel living conditions that make the meats less flavorful because of the affect of stress, injury in pens and a loss of sunshine. Would you rather eat a cow that is happy wandering around the range eating grass or an imprisoned cow pumped up with antibiotics and hormones while being treated cruelly every day of its life?
- Male calves are sold to veal producers within two days of birth. Then they are chained inside dark, tiny crates for 12 to 16 weeks before slaughter. They are also denied mother’s milk in order to produce the pale veal color.
- Factory farmed dairy cows, cattle, pigs and chickens are sprayed with pesticides and doused with antibiotics, hormones and tranquilizers. It leads to illness and disease among employees and later on concumers.
- Almost 10 billion chickens, turkeys and ducks are slaughtered under even worse conditions than cattle each year for their meat. Then, Tyson Foods for example, pump up their chickens with salt brine containing MSG to make them plumper and taste better.
- An additional four hundred million egg-laying hens live five to a cage only 18 inches in width (a chicken’s wingspan is 32 inches). Broiler chickens are raised in buildings with up to nine birds per square foot. Because of their political contributions, factory farms are rarely inspected by the USDA or FDA leading to even more abuses.
- Egg producers suffocate or grind up (alive) 280 million male chicks per year.
- Chicken processors kill about 5,000 chickens per hour and are forced to disregard hygiene because of lack of time and often just return bodies dropped on the floor to the processing line.
- Pigs spend their short lives in stacked crates or barren cement pens with iron bars that require the heavy use of antibiotics (a total of 26 million pounds per year) to avoid illness and disease.
- Mother pigs are immobilized and confined to crates so small that they are unable to turn around again leading to the heavy use of antibiotics (a total of 26 million pounds per year) to avoid illness and disease.
- Thousands of turkeys are crammed into filthy sheds after their beaks and toes are burned off with a hot blade. Many are still conscious when they are plunged into the scalding water of the de-feathering or hair-removal tanks. This degrades the quality of their meat.
- Turkeys are debeaked and desnooded. Debeaking is the practice of cutting off part of the beak of a bird, often a third of the upper and lower beaks one to chickens, turkeys and ducks. Desnooding is the removal the snood ( skin from the forehead lying over the upper beak) of a turkey.
- Cattle and cows are disbudded. Disbudding is destroying the buds on top of the heads of dairy and beef calves and young goats to prevent the growth of their horns – usually done with a hot iron.
- Animals are tail docked. Tail docking is amputating a tail, often of sheep, pigs and sometimes dairy cows.
- Pigs and sheep have their teeth cut or ground away to make it easier to force-feed them GMO Bt corn and/or GMO soy.
- The loss of more than two-thirds of our Nation’s top soil. There is no crop rotation as a result of the use of GMO Bt corn as feed. Most independent scientists, researchers and traditional farmers assert that the erosion of top soil will have catastrophic effects on our farms and ability to grow food in the future. However, Monsanto uses its IP rights to control who tests their biotech products and to squash any negative research and studies by independent farmers and researchers.
Whether you agree with PETA’s goals or not, PETA has become an outstanding investigative organization backing up their positions with audio, video and whistleblowers to prove many of their points. For example, PETA obtained a video called Mother Pigs and Piglets Abused by Hormel Supplier that shows workers at a hog farm beating pig’s heads with a metal rod while the pigs are continuously screeching from the pain. Two men, including a supervisor, were witnessed jabbing clothes pins into pigs’ eyes and faces.
In this same video, a supervisor kicked a young pig in the face, abdomen, and genitals to make her move and told the undercover investigator, “You gotta beat on the bitch. Make her cry.” More examples of the abuse that effects the quality of the food you eat can be seen in photos shown in The Virtual Battery Cage, which can be found at www.animalvisuals.org/empathy/virtualbatterycage/
Another investigative video titled Behind the Mustache shows a cow giving birth and within a minute of the calf being born, it is dragged away by its fragile back leg by a worker. According to Ardeth Baxter, a Michigan farmer, many of the frail calves, some nearly dying, are rounded up by “calf jockeys” and are thrown into a pile on top of one of another in the back of a truck. Calf jockeys can make a quick buck selling day old frail calves to slaughter houses that process them into leather, pet food or even low grade quality meat for human consumption.
During transport most cows are deprived of food, water and rest for over two days, and frightened when prodded. Starving cattle and cows only makes the animals more stressed and results in poorer quality meats.
These are the bad and ugly issues that the industry tries to hide. Along with others, we are being criticized for bringing these issues to the public’s attention. Our goal is to improve the health of Americans by improving the quality of food that we eat. The only way to change this is to ban factory farming and return to the tried and true traditional forms of ranching that fed this nation for two centuries.
Please do not buy into the industries mantra that they have to do this to feed the world. Our meats are not accepted in Mexico. Mexico? When Mexico rejects an American product, there is something to be concerned about.
USDA-funded research through University of Wisconsin involving 5,000 non-genetically engineered plants and 3,000 genetically engineered plants in eight states, found the genetically engineered crops yielded on average 6% to 8% less than non-modified crops and have less nutritional value, as will be discussed in Part 3 along with references for all of these statements.
There is no evidence that the factory farming of cattle, pigs and chickens is any cheaper than free range ranching. The simple fact is that it is far more costly when you factor in the collateral damage to our environment and the health of our nation. Certainly evidence clearly establishes that free range ranching has a lesser impact on our environment, provides higher quality and better tasting meats and does not add to the causes of weight gain, obesity, illness or disease.
And, if you want a really, really good steak like our grandparents ate, then organic, free range meats are five-star eating at home. If you change for no other reason, then enjoying the taste of real meat is sufficient cause to avoid the health hazards.