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Beef For Your Buck

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“I’ll take the hamburger, please. Medium rare.”
Have you ever thought about what exactly you’re consuming when you order a hamburger, or the effects one lunch can have on your health? The answer to these questions is distressing, disgusting, and surprising; it will make a vegetarian out of anyone.
It makes sense that with the development of new technologies, educational advancements, and modernization, the meat packing industry would be directly affected. It’s unreasonable to rationalize that farms should be identical to the ones portrayed on “Little House on the Prairie” and illustrations of 1800s America in History textbooks. But did the industry really have to succumb to such horridness, such awful treatment of animals and fellow humans, such cupidity that nothing is considered anymore except making as much money as possible? What role does morale play in the development of factory farming? Obviously, not a large one. There are a few main issues with modern “farming”: substitutive animal feed, greater possibility of pathogen development, and animal welfare. These problems stem from one umbrella flaw in humans: greed.
In an attempt to save money, many “farms” have been adapting the diet they give their livestock. Firstly, a diet consisting of excessive grains can cause sickness, specifically liver abscesses and acidic digestive systems. This can be particularly detrimental to cattle, whose bodies are not accommodating to large amounts of corn. Furthermore, farmers are resorting to plastics as food supplements. These pellets cause for faster digestion when there isn’t “enough” fiber in the feed. Even worse, the factory farming industry is feeding meat to the same species-essentially cannibalism. This can lead to mad cow disease (BSE) and avian bird flue. Additionally, manure and animal waste, animal byproducts, (road kill, euthanatized dogs and cats, hair, skin, blood, internal organs, feathers) and drugs are being force-fed to these tortured animals. When did America come to this?
According to the 2008 report from the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, factory farms are teeming with lethal diseases. The rise of industrial farm animal production has resulted in issues regarding public health, environmental repercussions, and animal health. Factory animal farming has been significantly increasing over the years, and, no coincidence, so have the rates of new types of infectious diseases. The goal of factory farmers is to have as many animals as possible crammed into as small a space as possible. Picture yourself in a very crowded area; now multiply that crowd by five. Then picture living in that space. Combined with the substitutive feeding methods, an industry like this is bound to cause severe health consequences, increasing the likelihood of pathogens and possibility of human infection. Since antibiotics are now essential to keeping animals alive in such horrid conditions, antibiotic-resistant microbes are now present, which can create a possibility of harm to both the animals and humans.
After the discovery of penicillin in the 1950s and the conquering of polio in the 1960s, most people believed infectious diseases had been completely wiped out. This belief was proved untrue, however, when new diseases became common; a new pathogen found almost every year for the last three decades. Of these pathogens, 64% are zoonoitic, meaning they can be transferred between humans and animals. This has been extremely influenced by the inhumane methods executed in modern day factory farming.

The health of the animals is also tremendously affected by what has become the food production industry. In 1965, there were over one million pig farms in the United States, and a total of 53 million pigs in the country. Today, there are over 65 million hogs in the United States, and they are crammed into about 65,000 farms. Think about those numbers for a minute; an extreme increase in number of pigs, and an extreme decrease in the number of farms to house them.
This confinement is not limited to pigs, but spreads across to all species of farm animals. In 1945, there were 366 million chickens. In 2001, there were 8,400 million chickens in the United States, and, no surprise, an insufficient amount of space to hold them. This kind of treatment goes beyond pure discomfort. Animals are refrained from performing basic life functions, like walking around, excreting, in some cases, even turning their heads. The resulting anguish can lead to a weakened immune system, and ability to catch disease, which, in these conditions, will flourish.

Though not a particularly omnipresent topic for debate, individuals are bringing it upon themselves to raise awareness to the cruelty of factory “farming”. Christine Stevens, author of the book Factory Farming: The Experiment That Failed, says, "Factory farming has taken the joy out of the lives of millions of calves and pigs, and billions of hens; it has driven countless family farmers off the land; it has polluted streams and rivers; it has injected massive amounts of antibiotics and other drugs into the public food supply resulting in serious health risks. It has lowered food quality. ”With evidence too overpowering to ignore, it’s hard not to think, Was Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle too far off?

The truth is that no one is unaffected by this cruel industry. It is not just animal rights’ activists, not just health-conscious people; this problem affects any and everyone in at least an indirect way. Now, we are not only unnecessarily torturing innocent animals, but also endangering our own health and well being. Why, you might ask? To save a few extra bucks, that’s why.

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