25 February 2011

7 huge reasons why the factory farming industry is seriously flawed (part two)

Ah-ha! You're back for part two of this expose, which probably indicates that 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.


Rewind to part one of this article here.

Elizah Leigh | @elizahleigh
Elizah Leigh's master's degree in education combined with her passion for the written word and deep-seated interest in environmental issues has proven to be the ideal trifecta for her present status as a green journalist. Currently commissioned to write a reference book on vegetarianism, Elizah hopes to inspire people through her words. Follow Elizah on Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/joost-ijmuiden