Why We Should All Steer Clear of Factory Farms

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A plea to prioritize local, organic, small-farm-raised, antibiotic-free meat 

Not to sound dramatic, but sometimes it feels like everything in life today is toxic. As consumers, we’re always on the lookout for a growing laundry list of harmful ingredients included in everything from packaged food products, to body lotion to home cleaning supplies. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that there are also things to look for when purchasing animal and animal-based products.

Behind the neat packaging and fluffy marketing, large-scale factory farms have one goal, which is to produce food fast and in extra large quantities. By definition (and design), industrial ag is all about the numbers. As a direct result, other very important factors, like quality control, environmental impact, animal health and worker safety, fall to the wayside.

Now, if this feels like a plea to go vegan, rest assured it is not. This is a plea to be more thoughtful with the meat you consume; to think about the conditions the animals you’re consuming grew up in, what they were fed, the quality of their health and how their production contributes to large scale issues of climate change and global warming.

Though it sounds like a lot, doing the right thing really isn’t that big of a deal. In fact, when it comes to meat, the clearest (and cleanest) route is always the same and it’s fairly straight forward: go to the source. Unlike packaged foods riddled with five different synonyms for sugar and chemical compounds you couldn’t pronounce if your life depended on it, deciphering meat quality is comparatively more straightforward. The hardest part is finding a small, sustainable farm or organic meat purveyor near you. Another option is to go online and place an order (or recurring order) with one that delivers.

Admittedly, taking this thoughtful step does require a bit more effort than eating the first option you see at the store but I promise you, it’s one-and-done! Do it once and never think about it again. To make it even easier, I’ll list some of my favorite resources below, too so all you have to do is scroll down.

What’s Up with Industrial Ag?

At the end of the day, what’s most important is that we recognize with clear and conscious eyes that the majority of animal products today are not raised in a healthy, sustainable or humane way. Factory farms raise an estimated 99% of livestock animals in the United States in what’s commonly referred to today as CAFOs (aka concentrated animal feeding operations). Factory farms and the CAFOs within them are specifically designed to maximize profit and minimize costs. This leads to appalling conditions for both the animals and the workers, and regulation that is nearly impossible to track, let alone enforce.

To paint a fuller picture, it’s not just that factory farmed meat is bad for you and your health. It also largely contributes to rising greenhouse gases, global warming, antibiotic resistance (from the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms), air pollution and surrounding water quality, animal cruelty, worker exploitation, continuation of needless government subsidies, monocropping, intensive farming practices, destructive soil practices, deforestation, overreliance on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides among other things.

Now, I know that sounds like a lot but it may help to think of it in terms of energy. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When the focus is quantity, the product is quantity. When the focus is quality, the product is quality. So, in terms of animal health, human health and the health of our planet – our focus needs to shift towards quality. This means investing more in smaller farms and regenerative farming practices. It means paying more for better quality product, albeit perhaps “less” volume. This will not be easy for Americans who live by the “more is more” mentality but it’s a lesson we could all benefit from; and not just in terms of food.

Remember, not all meat is created equal. When eaten thoughtfully, from ethically and sustainably raised farms, meat can be an incredible part of the human diet. Your average factory farmed meat however, is a much different story. So, the next time you’re at the grocery store or thinking about what you’ll eat this week, think about quality. Think about the quality of conditions the animal you’re eating was raised in, the impact that process has had on the environment, the impact it will have on you, as well as what the animals ate while they were alive.

Questions to ask your local farmer:

  • What do your animals eat?
  • What are your animals’ living conditions?
  • How are your animals treated for illnesses and pests?
  • Who processes the meat; where and how?
  • Are customers permitted to tour the farm or facilities?

More Resources:

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