Industrial Meat Production Threatens Human and Environmental Health

US - Industrial meat production began in the early 1900s when livestock raised on open ranges in the western U.S. were shipped to slaughterhouses on the East Coast.
calendar icon 31 August 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

In the 1980s, meat plants went rural, and big-time producers, led by Iowa Beef Packers Inc. (IBP), automated and accelerated the process to boost profit. Since then, factory farms, also known as Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), have become the norm, replacing small farms as the way most people get their meat and dairy. CAFOs rely on hazardous working conditions and unsanitary methods, causing health problems and environmental degradation.

Factory farming consumes resources at an alarming rate. One calorie of beef expends 33 percent more fossil fuels than one calorie of potatoes. And in the U.S., 70 percent of corn is fed to livestock, while worldwide, 80 percent of soybeans are used for animal feed. Livestock are meant to eat grass. But in the industrial system, their feed is not meant to nourish, but to cause animals to gain weight. As fisheries plummet and millions of people suffer from malnourishment, roughly one-third of the global fish harvest is fed to livestock.

Factory farming also devours and contaminates water. It takes roughly 25,000 liters of water to produce eight ounces of beef, and the meat industry pollutes more groundwater than all other industries combined. CAFOs also contribute to land degradation. In just 10 years, an area in the Amazon rainforest twice the size of Portugal has been destroyed to pasture cattle for slaughter.

Then there’s the human cost. Every year, one in three meatpacking workers is reportedly injured on the job. (Because many are undocumented immigrants, injuries often go unreported, so the actual number is undoubtedly higher.) Most prominent injuries are lost limbs and gashed hands and arms. Furthermore, animal waste emits notable amounts of ammonia, hydrogen sulfate, methane, and particulate matter from fecal dust, all of which can make its way into human lungs. A February 2002 study out of Iowa State and University of Iowa found that 70 percent of U.S. factory farm workers suffer from acute bronchitis. Mental health is also affected, due to the toxic atmosphere and the stress of having to gut 60 animals every hour.

Source: SantaBarbaraIndependent
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