Desire for low-cost food has modified food establishments today, as its production focuses on the capacity to produce more for less. This mentality has its effect to animal and human health and the environment as well.
About 65 billion animals worldwide are placed into limited and inadequate animal feeding operations called CAFOs. Animals, including cows, chickens and pigs are ill-treated in an unhealthy, unsanitary and brutal condition.
As noted by the Cornucopia Institute,1 the price of chicken has dropped dramatically over the past few decades, becoming the cheapest meat available in the US. As a result, consumption has doubled since 1970.
Seeing how chicken is supposed to be a healthy source of high-quality nutrition, the fact that it has become so affordable might seem to be a great benefit. But there's a major flaw in this equation. As it turns out, it's virtually impossible to mass-produce clean, safe, optimally nutritious foods at rock bottom prices.
CAFOs Are Hotbeds for Disease
A typical poultry CAFO measuring 490 feet by 45 feet can hold at least 30,000 chickens or more. Animal Welfare Guidelines permit a stocking density that gives each full-grown chicken an amount of space equivalent to an 8.5-inch by 11-inch piece of paper.
An example of a poultry CAFO can be seen in the video above. It's a short clip from the film Food Inc. Sickness is the norm for animals raised in these CAFOs—the large-scale factory farms on which 99 percent of American chickens come from.
These animals are also typically fed genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans, which is a far cry from their natural diet of seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.
This unnatural diet further exacerbates disease promulgation. Processing byproducts such as chicken feathers and other animal parts can also be added to the feed.
To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding, lack of vitamin D (as CAFO chickens may never see the light of day), and an unnatural diet, the animals are routinely fed antibiotics (hormones, on the other hand, are not permitted in American-raised chickens).
Those antibiotics pose a direct threat to human health, and contaminate the environment when they run off into lakes, rivers, aquifers, and drinking water.
Research shows that you have 50% possibility of purchasing meat contaminated with drug resistant bacteria in local grocery stores. And in cases like this, the risk is at high. However, in spite of researched and recorded health and environmental threat, consumers are still unconscious or unmindful that more than 90% of all chicken meat and eggs sold in the US come from CAPOs. A lot of consumers are also innocent that these CAFO foods may cost less but are very different compared to those animals properly raised on grassland and its nourishment as well. These foods may be cheap but remarkable hidden costs are related with this kind of food production.
Last year, using data collected by the federal agency called NARMS (National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System), the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in:
- 81 percent of ground turkey
- 69 percent of pork chops
- 55 percent of ground beef
- 39 percent of raw chicken parts
The Hidden Cost of Cheap Chicken
As discussed in the featured article,3 the hidden costs of cheap factory farmed chicken can be divided into three categories:
- Ethical costs: Research has shown that chickens are not only quite smart, they experience suffering just as animals higher up in the food chain—including you.
Chickens have similar nervous system with humans. And when they are hurt, they also display the same behavioral and physiological reaction. And when they are stressed and tedious, they show continuous vain and pointless movements, just like caged animals who steps back and forth.
- Environmental costs: CAFOs are notorious for producing massive amounts of offensive waste that disturbs and pollutes the local ecosystem.
The featured article references a number of areas in which residents are battling nauseating odors and infestations of flies, rats, mice, intestinal parasites, and other disturbing health effects. As stated by Cornucopia:
“Tyson produces chicken cheaply because it passes many costs on to others. Some of the cost is paid by people who can't enjoy being outside in their yard because of the flies and have to keep their windows shut because of the stench. Some is paid by kids who can't swim in the local streams. Some is paid by those who have to buy bottled water because their drinking water is polluted. Some is paid by people who want to be able to enjoy a natural environment with all its beauty and rich biological diversity.
These costs are, in the terms used by economists, ‘externalities' because the people who pay them are external to the transaction between the producer and the purchaser… In theory, to eliminate this market failure, Tyson should fully compensate everyone adversely affected by its pollution. Then its chicken would no longer be so cheap.”
Human health costs: Besides the health ramifications suffered by those who happen to live near a CAFO and are exposed to the environmental contamination caused by these factory farms, cheap CAFO chicken and eggs are also taking a hidden toll on your health when you eat them.
In part because their nutrition is inherently inferior; in part because they're contaminated with antibiotics; and in part because they raise your risk of contracting a foodborne illness. Most recently, Foster Farms and Kirkland chicken brands issued recalls4 for Salmonella contamination that has affected hundreds of consumers across America since March 2013.
Follow Safe Handling Instructions for Raw Chicken
Your danger of foodborne ailment is increased especially if you are unable to observe proper and safe handling instructions. Cleaning and washing of the chicken increases the chance of food poisoning, because bacteria called campylobacter can spread.
When washed, said bacteria can be transmitted into water droplets, which may smudge onto adjacent areas and surfaces, hands, clothes and on utensils. If campylobacter bacteria are swallowed immediately or by means of unwashed utensils, they can cause campylobacteriosis. It can be distinguished through symptoms like diarrhea, stomach pain, cramping and fever.
Other important reminder is to use different cutting boards for meat and vegetables. By doing so, you keep away contamination from your chicken or other meats. It is certain that you carefully cook your chicken and kill away possible dangerous and harmful bacteria.
The Case Against Factory Farmed Foods
CAFOs represent a corporate-controlled system characterized by large-scale, centralized, low profit-margin production, processing, and distribution systems. It's important to realize that the factory farm system is NOT a system that ensures food safety and protects human health. On the contrary, it makes the food system far more vulnerable to pathogenic contaminations that have the capacity to kill—both the livestock, and the people who eat them.
For example, over the past year, nearly 10 percent of the entire swine population in the US has been wiped out by a highly lethal virus called Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), which has been—at least in part—traced back to pig's blood used in piglet feed. In this case, the virus does not affect humans. But it's a valuable demonstration of how fragile the system becomes when you veer too far from the natural order of things.
Besides everything mentioned already, the factory feeding model also involves the mixing of animal parts (in this case, blood) from a large number of animals, which is then fed to large numbers of animals—the meat from which in turn are again mixed together in large processing plants, before it's ultimately sold in grocery stores across the nation. All this mixing and cross-contamination allows for pathogens to contaminate huge amounts of food products, and is the reason why a single food contamination can spread so far and wide, affecting people across multiple states.
Processing plant (i.e. plants where meat is cut or milk is pasteurized, for example) are primary culprits when it comes to the spread of pathogens. Due to regulations, traditional farmer-to-consumer practices have been outlawed. Now processors run the show and cut out the farmer's share, which has decimated small farmers and created this industrialized, disease-promoting mess.
Small-Scale Farming Makes for Far Safer Food
The weaknesses of the factory farm model are usually overlooked during food safety discussions. Instead, small-scale raw food producers—and raw dairy producers in particular—are targeted and vilified as sources of dangerous pathogens that threaten human health. Such attacks are completely out of order and do nothing to improve food safety on the whole, as the PRIMARY sources of pathogenic contamination actually originate in CAFOs, large-scale butchering and processing plants, and processed food manufacturing plants, where multiple ingredients are mixed together.
Meanwhile, a small organic farmer will notice a health problem with an animal in his herd long before it gets sent for slaughter, and he can then treat that individual animal as necessary. And, should a pathogenic outbreak occur on a farm, the risk of public exposure is limited by the fact that the animal products are sold locally; they're not shipped long distances and mixed in with others. This is why a food borne outbreak on an organic farm may affect one or two people, whereas an outbreak originating from a processing plant can affect hundreds, or even thousands.
Organic, Pastured Chicken Is Your Best and Safest Alternative
If food safety, optimal nutrition and disease prevention really matters, the way forward is to shift into a socially responsible, small-scale system where independent producers and processors focus on providing food for their local and regional markets. This alternative produces high-quality food, and supports farmers who produce healthy, meat, eggs, and dairy products using humane methods. And it's far easier on the environment.
True free-range chickens and eggs come from hens that roam freely outdoors on a pasture, where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms. Keep in mind that when it comes to labels such as “free-range” and “natural,” there are loopholes that allow the commercial egg industry to call eggs from their industrial egg laying facilities “free-range,” so don't be fooled.
It would be excellent to evade purchasing from traditional raised livestock, including chicken. In that way, you are assured of the safety of your food. You make sure to buy only from those we know and trust. Change is possible and here are some recommendations to know how to take favorable actions to safeguard you and your family’s health:
- Buy local products whenever possible. Otherwise, buy organic and fair-trade products.
- Shop at your local farmers market, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or buy from local grocers and co-ops committed to selling local foods. The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a humane, sustainable manner:
- Local Harvest — This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
- Farmers' Markets — A national listing of farmers' markets.
- Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals — The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
- Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) — CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
- FoodRoutes — The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
- Support restaurants and food vendors that buy locally produced food.
- Avoid genetically engineered (GMO) foods. Buying certified organic ensures your food is non-GM.
- Cook, can, ferment, dry, and freeze. Return to the basics of cooking, and pass these skills on to your children.
- Grow your own garden, or volunteer at a community garden. Teach your children how to garden and where their food comes from.
- Volunteer and/or financially support an organization committed to promoting a sustainable food system.
- Get involved in your community. Influence what your child eats by engaging the school board. Effect city policies by learning about zoning and attending city council meetings. Learn about the federal policies that affect your food choice, and let your congressperson know what you think.
Who does not want a low-cost food? Sometimes, the price of the food is our priority. We just usually do groceries and stuff depending on how much a certain product is. Knowing this, we should educate ourselves, especially our children, for the awareness of our food’s safety. We should not compromise our health just because the food that we should intake should be cheaper. With this, it is best to buy locally produced products to be sure it is cheaper and we are confident for our health and safety’s sake. That is what should be our top priority, health and safety food, at a reasonable and affordable price.
Please read the rest of the article at Mercola.com