Many United States citizens don’t understand where the meat that we eat comes from and the processes that it goes through before we consume it. Many people also don’t understand that there are many health risks directly related to the meat that they consume on a daily basis due to the inhumane, and hazardous practices of the U. S meat industry. In addition, the destruction of the environment that is caused by the meat industry is monumental. The issues concerning this topic are becoming larger and larger and it’s up to us to take action to control the quality and length of our individual lives.
Let me start off by saying that over 10 billion animals a year are slaughtered in the United States. This number is so great that it’s no wonder animals are being treated inhumanly. Tens of thousands of animals are packed into single sheds and forced to live in horrible conditions. This causes the risk of infectious diseases to be much greater and to spread much faster to a very large amount of animals. Remarkably, about 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States go to nonorganic farm animals to help speed livestock growth and counteract filthy, stressful, housing situations that debilitate the animal’s immune system.
Chickens and turkeys are selectively breed so they grow twice as large in half the amount of time. Many even become crippled under their own weight. In addition, many of these animals are forced to live in cages that are so small they cannot do anything that is normal or natural to them. Likewise, pigs, which are fairly intelligent animals, become so stressed living in unbelievably filthy conditions and given a lack of mental stimulation, many, go insane. Thousands of pigs are also forced to suffer grueling, painful deaths each year.
Cows, which naturally eat grass for which their stomachs were designed, are forced to eat an unnatural grain diet of soy and corn in order for them to grow much faster. This causes these animals to be constantly bloated and in pain. Furthermore, this unnatural diet changes the natural chemistry of a cow’s gut, causing large amounts of beef to harbor deadly E. Coli germs. The meat also has a better chance of having higher levels of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories.
Many animals raised on this diet also have lower levels of Vitamin E and C, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, compared to their grass-fed counterparts. A large amount of these cows are kept in congested sheds in much the same way chickens and pigs are. Many of these animals never see sunlight in their entire lives. In 2010, meat companies produced 26. 4 billion pounds of beef, 22. 5 billion pounds of pork, and 37. 2 billion pounds of chicken. Given these enormous numbers, it is also a fact that 84 percent of the slaughter is controlled by only four companies in the beef industry.
In the case of pork, four companies control about 70 percent of the processing, while for poultry it’s nearly 60 percent. With the amount of market power that these companies have, abuse and correction is bound to take place. These large corporate meat powers hold massive amounts of power over small and mid-sized ranchers. These ranchers are forced, contractually, to invest large amounts of money in these ranch houses, take on the majority of the risks, and gain little reward from it.
On top of inhumane practices as well as health risks attributed to this meat, the industry is also negatively affecting the environment. With regards to global warming, nearly 1/5 of all greenhouse gas is generated by livestock production. Furthermore, the United States estimates that all of U. S agriculture accounts for approximately 7 percent of total national emissions. Another concern with livestock production pertains to our water. Contamination becomes a threat when lagoons leak or burst and runoff and manure from these fertilized fields enter nearby streams, lakes, oceans, and other drinking sources.
There are many nutrients found in manure that can cause very serious health risk to humans as well the water that it pollutes. Overuse of water is this industry is also a major problem. It is estimated that it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat. Lastly, land derogation is also a direct result of livestock production. Millions of acres of land and rainforest are converted each year to pasture and cropland for livestock feed. Not only does this lead to the loss of native habitat, but it also contributes to increased carbon emissions.
With all of these issues arising due to the meat industry, which include impacts on the environment, public health, and animal welfare, it is up to us to become aware of these problems and take the necessary actions to living healthier lives. Hiding under our desks is not going to help. One of the simple steps we can take is eat less meat and eat more fruits and vegetables. Most Americans eat almost twice the USDA recommended amount of servings of meat each day. Food related diseases are far more prevalent in the United States than any other country and this is the direct result of eating a western diet.
Evidence is clear, it’s not animals that promote health; it’s plants. So next time you go to the supermarket, instead of purchasing meat every shopping trip, try to plan some meatless meals that include organic foods or vegetarian protein sources. Another solution to eating healthier is by consuming larger quantities of locally grown food if possible. You can check Local Harvest. org to find antibiotic-free meat from local farmers in your area who use smaller processes. Also check to make sure there is an organic seal on the meat, which ensures that animals were raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones.
In addition, question claims like “natural”, on products, and don’t always trust logos that depict happy farm scenes. Legit labels include “organic”, a certification program, which synthetic drugs are banned. It is very important to weigh in on issues that will affect our health. We must take it upon ourselves to pay attention when bills related to livestock production and sustainable agriculture in general come up. We can make our voices heard and support legislation that will help reduce antibiotic resistance, global warming, and support appropriate labeling of various food products.