Wise Meat (part 1)

The following passage is from Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (pg. 91. 2007).

The Price of Life

“Industrial animal food production has one goal: to convert creatures into meat. These intensively managed factory farms are called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The animals are chosen for rapid growth, ability to withstand confinement (some literally don’t have room to turn around), and resistance to the pathogens that grow in these conditions. Advocates say it’s an efficient way to produce cheap, good-quality meat for consumers.

Opponents raise three basic concepts: first, the treatment of animals. CAFOs house them as tightly as possible where they never see grass or sunlight, if you can envision one thousand chickens in your bathroom, in cages stacked to the ceiling, you’re honestly getting the picture. (Actually, a six-foot-by-eight-foot room could house 1,152.)

A second complaint is pollution. So many animals in a small space put huge volumes of excrement into that small space, creating obvious waste storage and water quality problems. CAFO animals in the United States produce about six times the volume of fecal matter of all humans on our planet. Animals on pasture, by contrast, enrich the soil.

A third issue is health. Confined animals are physically stressed, and are routinely given antibiotics in their feed to ward off disease. Nearly three-quarters of all antibiotics in the United States are used in CAFOs. Even so, the Consumers Union reported that over 70 percent of supermarket chickens harbored campylobacter and/or salmonella bacteria. The antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that grow in these conditions are a significant new threat to humans.

Currently, 98 percent of chickens in the United States are produced by large corporations. If you have an opportunity to buy some of that 2 percent, a truly free-range chicken from a local farmer, it will cost a little more. So, what’s the going price these days for compassion, clean water, and the public health?”

I was vegetarian for over 10 years before I introduced fish. I didn’t realize my body’s need for animal products until I became pregnant, and the demand for protein and nutrients overwhelmed my moral objectives. I now enjoy a balanced diet. I also enjoy the thought of healthy farm animals.

What do you think would happen if we simply refused to purchase unhealthy, unhappy factory animals, a.k.a the source of most people’s meat?

Eat wisely. Advocate animal rights. Conscientious consumption.