Seven Huge Reasons Why the Factory Farming Industry is Seriously Flawed

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Seven Huge Reasons Why the Factory Farming Industry is Seriously Flawed

[Ed. Note: Or...Seven reasons to go vegan! Read articles about The Meat and Dairy Industries.]

By Elizah Leigh on This Dish Is Veg
June 2011

This system has proven to be ideal in terms of yielding high profits, but it significantly compromises our environment, the quality of life that animals bred for food ultimately experience, and the end product which in many cases is sub-par and prone to contamination.

1) Genetic Modification
2) Inappropriate & Sub-Par Diet
3) Excessive Exposure to Pesticides & Hormones
4) Lack of Access to Pasture
5) Extreme Confinement/Inability to Engage in Social Behaviors
6) Perpetual Stress
7) Haphazard Processing

Some strive to live a healthful lifestyle, and though they may exercise with consistent dedication and consume copious amounts of fruits, vegetables and dietary supplements, they may still not be entirely immune to ailments as the years progress. There are also the lucky few who can seemingly eat and drink whatever they want, and will somehow still manage to get a clean bill of health whenever they visit their doctor. While the general state of wellness for the majority of us may seem heavily weighted on randomness and the sheer luck of the draw, throughout the last decade alone, thousands upon thousands of studies have zeroed in on how paying attention to both diet and exercise positively impact longevity.

For myriad reasons, one of the foods that has received its fair share of negative health press has been meat, but it’s far more complicated than merely just labeling it as a ‘bad food’ that should be avoided entirely. There are actually several positive nutritional attributes that make lean cuts of animal-based protein valuable to the human body. However, things have gotten pretty sticky with regard to the modern methods used to produce animal-based protein, and that has directly impacted the quality, nutritional content and safety of the final product. Today’s big fat juicy steak may taste good to mainstream eaters, but it comes at a much larger price than most people realize.

The meat industry has evolved into a multi-billion dollar business designed to accommodate high consumer demand as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. In an effort to continually supply budget-friendly selections to shoppers, a combination of science, technology and mechanization are employed to bring animals from the field to the plate in record time. In the real world, however, ‘the field’ is a euphemism for overcrowded containment systems (otherwise known as factory farms) where animals exist in highly unnatural, often inhumane conditions that become a breeding ground for illness.

This system has proven to be ideal in terms of yielding high profits, but it significantly compromises our environment, the quality of life that animals bred for food ultimately experience, and the end product which in many cases is sub-par and prone to contamination.

Unlike the nutritional profile of wild game -- which contains beneficial, unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids and far less fat overall -- factory farmed meat contains very high levels of the very same type of saturated fat that “is implicated in many of the chronic degenerative diseases” that plague our society, such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and prostate/breast/colon cancer. There is a particularly strong correlation between the consumption of animal fats derived from meat, eggs, milk and cheese and increased mortality rates from heart disease.

Another concern revolves around highly processed offerings such as sausage, delicatessen meats, hot dogs and bacon. Typically treated with potassium nitrate and sodium nitrate -- two curing ingredients that help retard the growth of certain microbes in products while helping them to retain a desirable, fleshy tone -- both agents happen to be toxic in high amounts. While a lethal dose of 22 milligrams would require that a 150 pound adult consume “18.57 pounds of cured meat product containing 200 ppm sodium nitrite” in one sitting, they would more than likely die from acute salt toxicity first. Nevertheless, a Harvard University research team analyzed the findings of 20 global health studies involving a total of one million participants and determined that the nitrate preservatives found in a modest 50 gram portion of processed meat are a significant risk factor for coronary heart disease and diabetes.

The good news, relatively speaking, is that cutting one’s consumption of both red and processed meat is associated with a reduced incidence of multiple types of cancer -- such as lung, esophagus, bowel, and liver. In the interest of offering unbiased information for This Dish Is Veg readers, it's only fair to note that the medical community still seems to acknowledge that meat can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle, particularly when the leanest cuts of unprocessed, grass-fed buffalo, venison and beef tenderloin are consumed (such as top sirloin, top-round, eye-round, and bottom round) in portion sizes that are no larger than 6 ounces, roughly three times each week. They also concur that grass-fed meat is an ideal option since it possesses a heart-healthy blend of conjugated linoleic acids and omega 3 fats, as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants compared to its grain-raised counterparts.

Nevertheless, the decision of whether one should or should not consume animal-based products is a highly personal one, and should be motivated by a number of factors, including education, ethics and environmental concerns. There are seemingly countless aspects to both arguments that require a great deal of time and commitment to explore thoroughly, but it's almost impossible to do either justice within the confines of this space. Nevertheless, you'll definitely want to make a date to revisit this site tomorrow because seven different glaring factory farming flaws will be examined in great detail -- and whether you've been a long term vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or your know anyone who appears to be enamored with meat, you'll definitely want to share this eye-opening information.

Like so many other concerned citizens out there -- you're not terribly thrilled with the factory farming system that supplies the majority of the world with its animal-based edibles. Maybe you've caught a few headlines in the last several years and have begun to suspect that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Are you feeling as though there are far too many red flags? Join the club.

Perhaps you're wondering what the real deal is and above all else, you simply want to make an educated decision regarding where you stand on the matter. That's what this article is all about. There are always multiple aspects to every story and given that this is a very sensitive topic, I've tried to offer a comprehensive, unbiased and thoroughly researched perspective that will ideally educate and illuminate all This Dish Is Veg readers.

The following 7 points specifically address the connection between factory farming and the questionable safety/nutritional value of the animal-based protein sources that are typically available for purchase in the United States.

1) Genetic Modification

Animals are engineered at the genetic level to fit automated processing machinery easily, to rapidly achieve their optimum slaughter weight, and to taste uniformly palatable. They are also fed genetically modified (GM) grains and other plant crops that have never been tested for long term safety.

2) Inappropriate & Sub-Par Diet

Chickens, turkeys, pigs and various types of cattle achieve optimum health when they graze on pasture land, however intensive feed operations offer them grain instead, because it is subsidized by the government, far more cost-effective, and it fattens them up faster. In fact, 40% of the grain that is produced globally is earmarked specifically for animal agriculture.

Depending on the type of species, diets are also typically augmented with various animal by-products (including fecal matter, skin, feathers, hair, hooves, bone matter, poultry litter, etc.), garbage, and expired human junk food, many of which take a toll on their digestive systems and lead to illness. It is not uncommon for chickens – which naturally thrive on a diet of plants and insects -- to be fed mercury-laden shark by-catch.

It is worth noting that animal by-products incorporated into cattle feed, including “compressed spinal cord and paraspinal ganglia,” were ultimately responsible for the emergence of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (also known as Mad Cow Disease) and its human equivalent, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

3) Excessive Exposure To Pesticides & Hormones

In light of the deplorable conditions that factory farmed animals exist in – including overcrowding, abuse, very poor diet, consistent exposure to disease-breeding waste products, etc. – they are given ‘preventative doses’ of antibiotics, pesticides, growth hormones, as well as arsenic-based drugs and antiparasitics, so that they can tolerate their unnatural diet, become somewhat immune to pathogens, and be kept alive long enough to reach slaughter. These assorted compounds are then passed on in the food chain to humans.

4) Lack Of Access To Pasture

Allowing livestock consistent access to open fields seeded with various types of high-protein, vitamin and mineral-rich grass, legumes and plants, “decrease(s) animal stress and remove(s) unnecessary burdens on the immune system,” yielding healthier stock. On the other hand, industrial farming operations frequently keep large animal populations within very small indoor containment systems, often made of metal and concrete, offering them high-calorie, grain-based meals that support rapid growth. This process is beneficial for streamlined production and profit, but it comes at the cost of animal wellness and the ultimate health of the end consumer.

5) Extreme Confinement/Inability To Engage In Social Behaviors

Highly mechanized factory farms focus on maximum yield using minimal space -- typically in indoor facilities rather than out in the field -- failing to allow for the display of natural animal behavioral patterns and instinctual grazing. This compromises the general wellness level of animals, both mentally and physically, resulting in patterns of aggression, depression, illness and even death.

6) Perpetual Stress

Inhumane living conditions, the inability to move around, physical duress due to incessant reproduction requirements, and the burden of chronically uncomfortable or even painful genetic traits all contribute to a consistent level of fear and anxiety. The immediate result of this sustained fear is that factory farmed animals regularly end up possessing higher levels of pheromones such as adrenaline in their muscle tissue. A lack of food and proper hydration during transportation to the slaughterhouse along with the trauma of milling through the actual facility similarly results in the production of corticosteroids which compromise the quality of meat via the acidification process.

7) Haphazard Processing

Throughout a typical work shift, slaughterhouse workers are commonly expected to perform one repetitive action at their station -- such as stunning cattle with an air-compressed gun, sawing carcasses in half or removing specific organs -- every ten seconds. As they process roughly 400 animals per hour, each employee is subject to constant stress while trying to fulfill exceedingly rapid-paced performance expectations. This can frequently result in human error, particularly with regard to improper knife blade treatment and accidental intestinal perforation, both of which yield carcass contamination and potential food borne illness outbreaks.