Thursday, May 1, 2008

Agro-Industrial Complex worse than...

...the Military-Industrial Complex? Hard to say.

I read a report today of a recently concluded study - Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America - by Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (find it here). I do admit that I didn't read the entire 124 page report, but at least a good portion. The study is essentially about the mass production of animals in Industrial Farm Animal Production (IFAP). As I said in a previous post, in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) – large scale IFAPs, hundreds of thousands of animals are kept in a building until they're fat enough to slaughter. Incidentally, if an IFAP is large enough to be a CAFO it can ditch the CAFO designation IF they state "that it does not discharge into navigable waters or directly into waters " ??! So they CAN put it into the ground where it will eventually seep into the GROUNDWATER? And if they're just under the size limit – no worries about where they put the waste? My head just blew up.

Any who… All those animals living in such close quarters pass around disease like mono at a make-out party. These animals are usually a single breed and a single genetic line, meaning if one isn't able to stave off infection it's unlikely his second cousin down in the next cage will be either. This all leads to pathogen transfer, infectious disease transfer, and food-borne infection. The industry uses massive amounts of antibiotics on the animals to treat the diseases and just to 'help them grow' in general, which leads to antimicrobial resistance. We all know that's not good.

And don't forget about those cesspools of shit. "A single hog Industrial Farm Animal Production (IFAP) facility, for example, produces manure in an amount equivalent to the sewage flow of an entire American town. Pound for pound, pigs produce four times the waste of a human. Consequently, a single IFAP housing 5,000 pigs produces the same volume of raw sewage as a town of 20,000…" all this with no sewage treatment plant. The resulting stink is actually making people who live next to these facilities sick; imagine if you had to work there.

And where does it all go? Sometimes the facility sprays the untreated sewage on their own land -at least it's not going in the water. And other times...

In a recent New York Times article about fertilizer shortages, the authors stated that U.S. farmers "have increased the age-old practice of spreading hog manure on fields". The 'age-old practice' they are referring to is from back- in-the-day when farmers used the waste from the 40 or so hogs they raised to add some nutrients back into the land – sounds gross, but a perfectly decent, sustainable practice. Those hogs were likely not sick, fairly free-roaming, and there weren't enough of them to overload the land with too much nitrogen and phosphates. That's not the situation we have today, that hog manure is coming from IFAP cesspools. Is it treated? Who's to say, these IFAPs aren't regulated very well or consistently.

I know it's depressing and I know that not everyone can afford locally produced meat from free-roaming, grass-fed animals. The report gave some very extensive suggestions that basically boil down to what the government, industry leaders, and watch-dog groups need to do. But you can contact your elected representatives, cut back a bit on your meat intake (perhaps forgo the $.98 package of Rodeo hot dogs - I know yummy yummy in your tummy), and when you can, buy responsibly raised meat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your blog has a lot of great information. Local free-ranged is the way to go.