Factory Farmed vs Grazing Animals
There is a staggering number of animals that are slaughtered each year in the United States: 9 billion chickens, 36 million cows, 100 million pigs and 250 million turkeys, and meat consumption is expected to double by 2050. In 2005 alone Americans ate an average of 200 lbs of meat per person as well as consumed about 200 eggs. In order to handle this huge number of animals we have created a system of factory farms, which can process these animals in the most cost efficient and deplorable way possible. Currently 80% of the beef produced in this nation is produced by only 4 companies. They have been appropriately named “factory farms” because that is what they are: factories which handle a commodity with the main objective of producing meat as quickly and cost effectively as possible.
Animals in this system are mainly fed diets of corn, with 80% of the corn harvest going directly to feeding livestock. Corn fattens cattle up in a swift 14-month period of time as opposed to letting them graze naturally and taking about 3 years to mature. Other ingredients include soy, rendered beef fat, (being un-natural for herbivores), protein supplement derived from urea (a synthetic nitrogen substance made from natural gas, similar to chemical fertilizer). This feed may also include litter from chicken factory farms which consists of chicken waste, feathers, dead chickens and whatever else that is in leftover from the factory floor to help them deal with their own waste materials.
As you can imagine, animals feeding on this unnatural diet become very sick, very fast. They also suffer from a myriad of diseases such as diarrhea, ulcers, rummenitis and liver disease. In a revealing quote from his book, ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals‘ Michael Pollan writes about an interview with a veterinarian on a factory farm who states that ‘the diet would eventually blow out their livers and kill them.’ Over time, the acids eat away at the stomach wall, allowing bacteria to enter the animal’s blood stream. These microbes end up in the liver, where they form abscesses which impairs the liver function. Between 15- 30% of feedlot cattle are found at slaughter to have abscessed livers. He also states that in some pens the figure runs as high as 70%. To prevent the animals from dying from disease BEFORE their slaughter antibiotics are used liberally. In fact, factory farm’s use of antibiotics EXCEEDS all other usage throughout the United States.
A 2001 report, by the Union of Concerned Scientist states that 25 million pounds of antibiotics are fed to chickens, pigs and cows for non-therapeutic purposes like growth promotion. For these reasons consider stopping your consumption of beef, chicken and pork coming from these factory farms. One way to do this is by limiting your consumption of fast food restaurants as their meat is coming directly from this system.
WHAT THE ANIMAL CONSUMES IS ULTIMATELY WHAT YOU WILL CONSUME
What is rendered fat- another diet component for factory farmed animals is “rendered fat.” When a cow is slaughtered, about half of its weight is not eaten by humans: the intestines and their contents, the head, hooves, and horns, as well as bones and blood are dumped into giant grinders at rendering plants. Also included are the entire bodies of cows and other farm animals that are known to be diseased. During the rendering process, carcasses are then decomposed in large vats by boiling at atmospheric temperatures and pressures, producing an aqueous slurry of protein under a layer of fat. After the fat is removed (rendered fat), the slurry is desiccated into a meat and bone meal product that is packaged by the animal food industry and distributed to owners of livestock and other captive animals. Rendering is a $2.4 billion dollar-a-year industry, processing forty billion pounds of dead animals a year.
Animals are being fed chicken litter- chicken litter is another ingredient in the diet of cattle. For example, in Arkansas the average farm feeds over fifty tons of chicken litter to cattle every year. One Arkansas cattle farmer was quoted in ‘U.S. News and World Report’ magazine as having recently purchases 745 tons of litter collected from the floors of local chicken-raising operations. After mixing it with small amounts of soybean bran, he then feeds it to his 800 head of cattle, making them in his words, “fat as butterballs” He explained. “If I didn’t have chicken litter, I’d have to sell half my herd. Other feeds are too expensive.”
OMEGA 3 AND OMEGA 6 IN THE MEAT –Along with the aforementioned list of feed additives, the animal’s diets also consists of genetically modified corn and soybeans (high in omega-6 fatty acids) which are producing meats higher in omega-6. However, animals which have been naturally pastured will produce meat that is higher in omega 3.
The meat and eggs of mass produced chickens which have been de-beaked, living in small cages with 6 other birds, once again feeding on unnatural diets of genetically modified grains, and cattle bone and blood meal are not going to be as healthy as their counterparts who are free-ranging on natural diets. Furthermore, eggs produced by chickens eating a naturally pastured diet will be higher in omega-3 fatty acids than their counterparts being fed grains.
You may be aware that salmon raised on a fish farm is not as nutritious as salmon caught in the wild. This is because farmed fish also eat a diet consisting of genetically modified ground corn, soybeans flakes and ground fish meal, which will produce meat which is high in Omega-6. The wild fish, at the top of its food chain which started with plankton, produces meat which is higher in Omega-3 fatty acids. Look for pasture or grass-fed in a natural food store or by shopping at farmers markets.
The web site: www.eatwild.com has a state by state index to look for animals which are free-ranging, living on diets consisting of open pastures for them to graze upon. As an added benefit, they are being raised without the use of hormones, pesticides and antibiotics and this is reflected In their meat as well. They are not sickly and stressed from being confined in stalls where they cannot turn around, or penned up with thousands of other cattle in a manure wasteland where sickness and disease flourish.
Mark Bittman; what’s wrong with the foods we eat?
Food Inc (trailer only)
A preview of the documentary Modern Meat
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