Factory farms can be cruel to animals, pollute the environment, treat workers very poorly and be bad for our health. I like to think that most of us have at least a vague understanding of why factory farming is wrong, and details to put it all into perspective is a good way to motivate us to vote with our food dollar.
I’ve recently started reading Food, Inc., the companion guide to the film. It’s a really great book (and documentary!). Here is a quote specifically on what goes on in our food system, which might be enough for you to choose “happy meat” the next time you’re at the grocery store!
In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency that regulates animal feed, instituted a “feed ban” to prevent the spread of disease. Although this ban provides some protection for consumers, it still allows risky practices. For example, factory farm operators still feed “poultry litter” to cattle. Unfortunately, poultry litter, the waste found on the floors of poultry barns, may contain cattle protein because regulations allow for feeding cattle tissue to poultry. And cattle blood can be fed to calves in milk replacer – the formula that most calves receive instead of their mother’s milk. Finally, food processing and restaurant “plate waste,” which could contain cattle tissue, can still be fed to cattle.
In 2004, after the discovery of BSE in the United States, the FDA had the opportunity to ban these potential sources of the disease from cattle feed. But instead, officials proposed a weaker set of rules that restricted some tissues from older cattle. A safer policy for consumers would be to remove all tissues from all cattle from the animal feed system, regardless of their age, and also to ban plate waste, cattle blood, and poultry litter.
Isn’t that disgusting? Unless you buy your meat directly from the farmer, the meat you eat every day is very likely part of this system.
What can you do about this? There are two main things you can do to avoid factory farms (visit the Food, Inc. website for more information):
1. Buy directly from a local farmer – make a point of visiting the farm first to see for yourself what conditions the animals live in.
2. Shop at a nearby farmers’ market or a local grocery store, and make a point to research the meat they provide to ensure that it is from a NON-factory farm.
How do you feel about factory farms? Do you know how your meat was grown? Does knowing this kind of information make you want to never eat factory farmed meat again? Share in the comments section below!