When imagining a farm, most people picture happy animals wandering around open fields, living healthy lives until they pass and eventually end up on our plates. However, this idealistic image is far from the truth. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), our meat consumption has increased from around 24.2kg per capita in the mid 1960s to 41.3kg per capita in 2015. To keep up with this high demand, the process of producing meat has been simplified and shortened. As a result, factory farming has resulted in negative effects on our health, planet, and workers.
In the last few decades, the quality of the meat being generated has deteriorated because of increased production. There are now more risks in consuming meat than ever before, considering it is not uncommon for illnesses like E-Coli to be distributed through the fecal matter found in meat. Independent organization Consumer Reports conducted a study in 2015 that yielded shocking results. Researchers found that out of all the beef they studied (almost 500lbs), all signified traces of fecal matter. Most meats also contain bacteria that thrives when the animal it came from releases stress hormones. When the animals we consume are crammed into small cages, beaten, and forced to stand in overcrowded spaces in their own waste, meat-eaters are much more likely to be infected by these bacterias.
Another health problem with consuming meat is what these animals consume first. The Food and Drug Administration has very loose rules regarding what can be considered protein in cattle feed. Legally speaking, this can include “cattle blood, brains, and spinal cords of cattle not older than 30 months, restaurant plate waste, and used poultry litter” (Pluhar). Illnesses contracted from the bacteria and waste in food can result in not only vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, but also death. When it comes down to it, we are what they eat.
In addition to the havoc wreaked on our bodies, meat-eaters have also taken a toll on the planet. It has been proven time and time again that raising livestock in massive numbers is one of the leading causes of air and water pollution, as well as being a driving force behind deforestation. A study in the Climatic Change journal concluded that, “reducing the intake of meat and other animal based products can make a valuable contribution to climate change mitigation” (Scarborough). Despite this overwhelming evidence, many still continue to use animals as their main food source.
While it is clear that the meatpacking industry causes more harm than good, we cannot blame the base-level workers for these atrocities. The people working these farm-factories are often abused and taken advantage of by higher powers. “Meatpacking’s human toll,” chronicled the horrors of these workplaces (Compa and Felner). Employees in meatpacking plants do not have unions, and if anyone expresses support for unions, he/she can be fired. This is a surefire way to ensure that individuals do not have rights in the workplace; as a result, it is nearly impossible to receive workers’ compensation for any injuries sustained while on the clock. Some employees recount being told to say that they were injured at home instead of where they were really hurt- in the unsafe environment hundreds of thousands are forced to work in.
Since the dramatic increase in meat consumption and production, our world has begun reaping the negative effects. It has become clear that our health, our environment, and our workers are suffering due to the negligence of the meatpacking industry. The first step to solving this problem is to educate others on the truth behind factory farming. From here, it is vital to prevent further damage by protesting companies like Perdue and Tyson. It is also important to register to vote and support politicians who value environmental protection. The first step to change is recognition of our human error, but the next is finding solutions that benefit our society and environment.
Rock, Andrea. “How Safe Is Your Ground Beef?” Consumer Reports, 21 Dec. 2015. 26 Nov. 2017 < www.consumerreports.org/cro/food/how-safe-is-your-ground-beef>.
Compa, Lance, and Jamie Felner. “Meatpacking’s Human Toll.” Human Rights Watch, 2 Aug. 2005. 26 Nov. 2017. < www.hrw.org/news/2005/08/02/meatpackings-human-toll>.
Pluhar, E. B. (2010). Meat and morality: Alternatives to factory farming. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 23(5), 455-468. 26 Nov. 2017. <http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10806-009-9226-x>.
Scarborough, P., Appleby, P.N., Mizdrak, A. et al. Climatic Change (2014) 125: 179. 26 Nov. 2017. <https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1169-1>.