Factory farming is not new. It is however, often denied, dismissed, or ignored completely in this country. It’s time that we, as the strongest nation on the planet, did something about these health risks by encouraging sustainable farming.
Most of us are aware that our meat, fish, and poultry contains hormones. Primarily used to enhance flavor, color, and improve nutrition, these hormones may create larger animals who age faster. But it also exposes humans to certain health risks.
For example, two years ago, over 80% of our shrimp were imported. Most of it came from Asian countries where the majority are raised in farms and fed antibiotic resistant bacteria that can cause anemia or leukemia in humans. Because of the devastating effects of last year’s hurricanes, local shrimpers are finding it more difficult than ever to compete with overseas farms. The importation figure is up now to 90%.
A similar method is used when raising beef, pork, and poultry. Because of unsanitary conditions and crowding, animals who are factory farmed are also fed low doses of antibiotics. This is particularly apparent in rural communities where (according to Farm Aid) up to 330 small family sustainable farms are being swallowed up every week.
Many large factory farms overseas also irradiate their meat so that it can be imported from longer distances and have longer shelf life. Health officials avow that not only does this deplete vitamins and make the meat a potential health risk to humans (i.e. mad cow disease and avian/bird flu), it also increases toxic waste. Even worse is the mutilation of animals on these factory farms. Tails are “docked”, birds are “de-beaked”, and cages are grossly restricted.
Even one of yuppie America’s favorite companies, Starbucks, uses milk from cows on factory farms injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) which is not only hazardous to the animals, it may also be a health risk to humans.
Much of our produce undergoes genetic engineering. While advocates claim it makes them hardier and more disease resistant, it still has not been proven to be safe. They are also sprayed with pesticides, exposing both animals and humans who eat them to a wide variety of health risks. Animals on factory farms are often fed grains created by genetic engineering and will soon become victims themselves.
The solution to this problem is sustainable farming. This takes us back to the traditional method of raising animals on outdoor pastures. This is obviously not only better for farm animals, it is better for our health and environment.
At present, the only way to know for sure whether your meat, produce, eggs, or dairy products come from a factory farm or sustainable farm is to buy organic. Regulated by the USDA, organically raised animals can not be given hormones or antibiotics, meat cannot be irradiated, and plants cannot be given chemicals or undergo genetic engineering.
What else can be done? Visit websites like sustainable table to not only get more information on factory vs. sustainable farming, but to learn how to help others get on the “organic bandwagon”. Check out their “Webby Award (the online Oscar) winning Meatrix.com site and watch “The Meatrix I” and “II”, then pass them on to others.
Go to not-for-profit sites such as Food & Water Watch and the Organic Consumers to find out how you can take steps to encourage companies like Starbucks to stop using milk derived from harmful hormones given to factory farmed cattle.
Contact the USDA and your local politicians to pass legislation which would increase disease surveillance and food safety enforcement programs on factory farms and demand proper labeling on all meat, produce, etc.
Question your neighborhood grocery store to find out if they know where their products originate. According to a Consumer’s Union press release, 71% of store-bought chicken contains harmful bacteria. Read labels when you purchase frozen meat, poultry, fish, or seafood to see if they are imported.
Support your local sustainable farms by buying directly from them or from local meat markets and produce stands. Not only can this be often less expensive and better for you, it will encourage others to do the same. We owe it to our health, as well as to the well-being of future generations.