Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Some Facts About Factory Farming

One of the biggest concerns on the part of my doctor is the foods we eat from factory farms. We talk about those farms putting the family farmer out of business, but do we really know what factory farming is?

It actually began back in 1920 when Vitamins A and D were discovered. Add these two vitamins to animal feed and they don't require sunlight or exercise for growth. This allowed large number of animals to be housed indoors in smaller spaces without sunlight or movement year round. Since the animals were so closely confined, it also insured quick spreading of diseases which was dealt with in the 1940's by the development of antibiotics.

Todays animals raised on factory farms are pumped full of antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals to increase productivity. They are confined to small cages with metal bars with artificial lighting, or no lighting at all. They are no longer animals, they are food producing machines. Chickens get their beaks seared and their toes cut so they are unable to fight. Other animal's tails and ears are docked, their teeth are cut with pliers and, of course, they're castrated. Without benefit of pain killers.

The chicken industry alone generates 6 billion whole chickens annually from 60 producers. Animals are genetically altered and bred selectively to produce bigger thighs and breasts. This creates birds so heavy that their bones can't handle the weight. They are bred to grow at such a fast rate that they reach the market weight of 3.5 pounds in just over 7 weeks. Laying hens don't have it any better.

Between 5 and 8 birds are placed in a 14 square inch cage. This, of course, causes aggressive behavior. To combat that their beaks are seared off. Chicks are separated at birth and most newborn males are suffocated in trash bags. The layer hens are subjected to constant light to encourage more egg production. At the end of their laying cycle they are either slaughtered or forced to molt by water and food deprivation, which shocks them into another layer cycle. Many birds become depleted of minerals because of this excessive egg production and either die from fatigue or can no longer produce eggs and are sent to the slaughterhouse.

Pigs, veal calves, dairy cows, you name it, the factory method will apply. Pigs kept in cages that are not large enough for them to turn around in. Veal is actually produced from the dairy industry more than from the beef industry. Bulls born to dairy herds are sent to veal crates where they're pumped full of growth hormones and the ubiquitous antibiotics. If they become upset enough to fail to eat, they're pumped with appetite enhancers like steroids to force them to eat. In the US almost 50% of the antibiotics produced is administered to animals destined for our dinner table. That scares me due to all of the super bugs we're learning about now. They mutated from over use of antibiotics.

All this animal suffering is doing is producing a food supply that isn't safe. Cage cleaning is done by automation since the animals can't be moved. How effective is that automated cleaning? Not overly effective since 51% of tested meats were found to harbor staphlococcus aureus bacteria. In the words of my doctor..."We still have to consider the food source; highly processed animal or plant source with GMO’s (genetically-modified organisms), hormones, antibiotics, fecal-laden, caged environment, saturated with herbicides, pesticides, etc." Yeah, it's not just our meat supply. It's everything we buy in the grocery stores across the US.

It's enough to make me ask myself if the increase in child behavioral problems like ADD, Autism or Aspergers Syndrome has anything at all to do with vaccines and everything to do with antibiotics in our food. How much of all of the chemicals in our food adds to our own health concerns? Is there any evidence that all these chemicals are contributing to obesity? I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me a bit if it did.


  1. Sherry, You have it exactly correct. There are few family farms raising chicken or hogs now, and the number of cattle coming off family operations is headed lower. The problems of kids you list are due to the chemicals in our foods probably, and some of them are outlawed in foreign countries, but not here, corporations will not allow it. It is not impossible to find healthy food, but it's a job getting it done.

  2. Sherry, I am sure that the issues you raise are all valid and contribute to the overall declining health around the world....

    The sad fact is with the world's population growing and the ever decreasing available land mass for raising animals and food stuff's the industrial food farms are the only alternative to feeding the worlds populations without going to "Soylent Green".

  3. YF,

    Heartbreaking, isn't it?

    It's going to take a lot of work and probably I will spend more money than I can afford, but I will find sources of healthy food. I've all ready found grass fed beef and free range chicken eggs less than 3 miles from my house.

    I've also possibly found a pork source, I just need to investigate his methods a bit more.

  4. TAB,

    That is partly true. which is why most produce farmers do the herbicides, chemical fertilizers and Monsanto seeds. However, have you ever taken a good look at the waste most Americans create? They buy too much, don't consume it and throw it out.

    My Grandmother suffered for nearly a month from E Coli poisoning. And then she died. Every year we find something recalled due to listeria, salmonella or e coli. That is entirely due to fecal laden cages these animals reside in, and the practice of factory produce farms where irrigation happens from contaminated wells.

  5. Sherry:

    Makes me want to confine my meat intake to fish. But then I would have worry about mercury poisoning.

    My maternal grandparents lived on a farm and had happy free range chickens. They could establish a pecking order, scratch in the dirt for food, and do all the other things that happy chickens do. And when you had a chicken for dinner, you enjoyed the flavor of happy meat.

  6. Whit,

    I am finding just such places locally. We have family farmers with happy animals who are selling the meat from those very animals. I have found beef and pork and am still looking for poultry. If it exists in my area, I will find it.

  7. Sherry -

    Mmmm mmmm good....nothing like factory raised food to wet your appetite.

  8. Joram,

    GEEZE! That's just bad!

    Back when we had to buy produce in season, fruit tasted much better than it does now. I remember when we could make a nice rich chicken stock from the bones of 1 chicken.

    I remember Sunday pot roasts at grandma's in the 50's. You can't find any cut of beef that tastes that good now.

  9. Didn't know about that 50% antibiotic statistic. I'm starting to buy organic milk thanks to Fringe, and I think chicken will be the next item. Fruits and veggies to follow.

    I kinda think there is a link to ADD and autism from chemicals or food issues, although part of ADD may be from lack of physical activity and exposing kids to TV and other devices at too young an age. We probably won't find out for another 5 or 10 years.

  10. Sherry,
    Somehow your post did NOT make me want to run right out and order the steroid main dish with side orders of antibiotics, fertilizer, and pesticides. In fact, I seem to have lost my appetite.

  11. Skinny,

    I'm looking into as many organic products as I can afford. Some of the meat is beyond my means. Seriously expensive. So, I'll just buy a little and find ways to stretch it.

    I have a friend with a daughter who has ADHD. Both parents are extremely active and eat a lot of meat.

  12. Mr. O.

    I lost my appetite when my doctor sent me the links to the sources for this post.