Monday, September 13, 2010

CAFOs and American Greed

Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.
--Albert Schweitzer

It all kind of starts with corn.

The subsidization of corn, to be more specific.

The current price of corn is artificially low, thanks to outdated government policies. And corn is a grain with the power to fatten up livestock more quickly than the grass they're meant to consume. Since time is money, it's obviously more attractive to get livestock up to market weight as quickly as possible. This is the starting point for greed.

And while we're considering the easiest ways to make fast cash, it's logical to assume that space is also money. And this is where the CAFOs come in.

CAFO: Confined Animal Feeding Operations, also known as factory farms and feedlots. Feedlots are depressing, to put it mildly -- part of the definition reads: "there is no grass or vegetation in the confinement area"(emphasis mine). Animals are confined in as little space as possible, crammed in amongst each other to the point where natural behaviors cannot be expressed. It is important to cattle, for instance, to spend the majority of the day resting, foraging, and chewing their cud. There is no room for these behaviors on a feedlot and stress runs rampant. 'No room' in CAFOs means 'standing room only'.
Pigs, subjected to these cramped quarters, tend to bite the tails of the pigs around them out of frustration and boredom. Instead of giving them more room (and relieving their stress) the solution instead is to dock the tails of all pigs, without anesthesia and rarely without follow-up treatment.

I suppose it's unfair to say that the pigs (or any other CAFO animal) receive little medical care. As a matter of fact, the majority of factory-farmed animals are grossly over medicated. There are a few reasons for this:
1. Stressed animals are usually sick animals.
2. Within such cramped conditions, if one animal is sick, it stands to reason that the rest will follow suit quickly. Sick animals lead to dead animals, and you can't get rich off that.
3. Antibiotics also happen to promote rapid growth, and, as I said earlier, time is money.

When we eat medicated meat, we ingest the medications the animal ingested. These antibiotics are not meant for direct human consumption, at the very least. This is why I've been stressing the importance of organic animal products -- you don't have to worry about antibiotics that weren't meant for your health entering your body.

Here's something you certainly need to worry about, though:
The deputy director of the FDA has admitted that no one is monitoring the use of antibiotics in factory farms.

NO ONE is sticking up for your right not to consume antibiotics meant for livestock! And if no one is sticking up for you, no one is sticking up for the animals.

Please, please, PLEASE do not search for videos concerning factory farms. That is a one-way ticket to nightmares and temporary vegetarianism*.

Who knew corn could lead to such cruelty?

*There is nothing inherently wrong with eating animals, and nothing 'elitist' or 'demanding' about being a vegetarian. The issue is changing conditions for animals, not refusing to eat them.


Anonymous said...

As far as medicated meat goes, you should not be eating any meat that has any medicine in it. Producers must follow withdrawal periods. This means once they give a medication, including antibiotics, those animals are not allowed to enter the food chain until that withdrawal period is over. The withdrawal periods are set by the drug companies.

Payton said...

I don't doubt that's what the regulation is -- I just highly doubt that's the practice. There are also regulations put into place to keep 'downer' cows out of the slaughterhouse -- if they can't walk in, they can't be killed. Cattle are coerced with prods and even forklifts to save a couple bucks. With the FDA turning a blind eye to antibiotic use, they have admitted they don't care about any potential health threats being introduced into our grocery stores. Sell now, ask questions after recalls later.

Even if producers do follow the law to the letter, they're still rinsing ground beef with ammonia, and that's enough for me to call it quits on CAFO meat.

Wade The Rascal said...

Thanks for this post. It's an important topic. Actually, I suppose there's two topics: Greed in business; and the topic of medicated meats.
That's what's wrong with capitalism. Greed is what drives the system. And greed is allowed to drive the system when regulators sort of look the other way.
It can be seen in probably any major industry.
I've thought about organic meat versus store-bought meat before. I stopped hunting 15 years ago. And I just haven't felt like starting back up, though I'd rather eat wild elk meat, instead of beef, likely feedlot beef.

Payton said...

Eating wild is a whole different ball game, and comes with many other benefits than simply eating organic or locally. It's also a topic I don't know terribly much about, but that can change =)