Factory Farms…Yuk.

By: Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

Factory farms dot the landscape throughout the United States. Some argue that we need to farm in this fashion to feed the billions of people in the world. I understand the concept behind this argument, but wonder at what cost are we churning out more and more poor quality meat/food in the name of combating hunger?

Factory farms are proven to be devastating to the environment. The pig farms of eastern Virginia and North Carolina have been in the news a good deal the past few years because of the havoc they’ve wreaked on the wetlands along the east coast, due mostly to vast pools of animal waste. There is also substantial data to support the theory that cattle create more methane gas emissions than the entire US transportation system. Methane gas is one of the leading contributors to global warming.
Factory farms are also a breeding ground for bacteria. The animals of factory farms live in their own waste. They are in horribly crowded conditions. These factors alone create an atmosphere much more likely to pass on the potential for food borne illness such as E.Coli & Salmonella. The recent egg recall of 2010 is a perfect example.

Then there’s the ethical questions surrounding factory farms. Factory farms are notorious for cruelty, abuse and neglect. In my opinion, they are the method of choice primarily to make money for the meat/cattle industry. Organic and pasture-raised cattle farms prove that animals can have quality of life before making the ultimate sacrifice so that we can eat. I know it costs more to raise animals this way, but I for one would much rather pay for meat raised in a humane, sustainable, healthy manner than be able to go to my local drive through and pay less than $1 for a burger.

Let’s talk a little about that $1 burger. With the growing obesity epidemic, I wonder about a society that places so much value in a food system that supports and promotes lots of cheap, fatty, high calorie food. The hamburger might only cost $1 at the time of consumption, but how much does it actually cost in terms of health care costs, lost work time, environmental clean-up, food recalls, global warming, etc?

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