Ask For Change! Issues:
The shift to
industrial animal production is not sustainable ›
Livestock pollution and public
Livestock opperations and water
The growth of factory farms
Ask For Change! ›
Meat production in the United
States has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Many of today's
farms are actually industrial facilities, not the peaceful, idyllic family
farms most Americans think of. These factory farms are also known
as confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) or intensive livestock operations
(ILOs). They emphasize high volume and profit with minimal regard for
human health, safe food, the environment, humane treatment of animals,
or the rural economy.
to industrial animal production is not sustainable and has dangerous consequences
for our health, environment and economy.
Giant livestock farms, which can house hundreds of thousands
of pigs, chickens, or cows, produce vast amounts of waste. In fact, in
the United States, these "factory farms" generate more than
130 times the amount of waste that people do -- about 2.7 trillion pounds
of manure a year. While a problem of this nature and scale may make good
comedy, pollution from livestock farms seriously threatens humans, fish
and ecosystems. Below are facts and statistics that tell the story.
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pollution and public health -
The FDA estimates that 5000 deaths and 76 million cases of food borne
illness occur each year. The USDA estimates that 70% of all food borne
illness in the United States can be traced to contaminated meat. There
are more examples than we have time to report here, but for example:
• California officials identify agriculture, including cows, as
the major source of nitrate pollution in more than 100,000 square miles
of polluted groundwater. In Oklahoma, nitrates from Seaboard Farms' hog
operations contaminated drinking water wells, prompting the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency to issue an emergency order in June 2001 requiring the
company to provide safe drinking water to area residents.
• In 1996 the Centers for Disease Control established a link between
spontaneous abortions and high nitrate levels in Indiana drinking water
wells located close to feedlots. High levels of nitrates in drinking water
also increase the risk of methemoglobinemia, or "blue-baby syndrome,"
which can kill infants.
• Animal waste contains disease-causing pathogens, such as Salmonella,
E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and fecal coliform, which can be 10 to 100 times
more concentrated than in human waste. More than 40 diseases can be transferred
to humans through manure. Manure from dairy cows is thought to have contributed
to the disastrous Cryptosporidium contamination of Milwaukee's drinking
water in 1993, which killed more than 100 people, made 400,000 sick and
resulted in $37 million in lost wages and productivity.
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opperations and water pollution -
One of the most dangerous practices of factory farming is the storage
and “use” of liquefied animal waste. The massive quantities
of manure generated by CAFOs are stored in sewage pits (which the industry
thinks should be called “lagoons”) and then spread onto cropland.
These manure pits often leak or overflow, releasing toxic bacteria and
excess nutrients into groundwater. Decomposing manure emits hazardous
gases that degrade air quality. Spreading waste on the ground leads to
odor problems and water pollution when more manure is applied than the
surrounding land can absorb.
• From 1995 to 1998, 1,000 spills or pollution incidents occurred
at livestock feedlots in 10 states and 200 manure-related fish kills resulted
in the death of 13 million fish.
• According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, livestock
waste has polluted more than 27,000 miles of rivers and contaminated groundwater
in dozens of states.
• Ammonia, a toxic form of nitrogen released in gas form during
waste disposal, can be carried more than 300 miles through the air before
being dumped back onto the ground or into the water, where it causes algal
blooms and fish kills.
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growth of factory farms
• During the past fifty years, the number of hog farms in the United
States has dropped from 1,000,000 to 65,000. Despite this, hog production
has grown. In 1999, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 2
percent of the hog farms in the country produce over 46 percent of the
total number of hogs.
• Ten large companies produce more than 90 percent of the nation's
poultry and 98% of all poultry is now produced by corporations, forcing
family farms out of business.
• Large farms receive nearly twice as much in government subsidies
as small, family farms.
To find sustainably raised, antibiotic-free meat at restaurants
and stores in your area, go to www.eatwellguide.org.
Urge the manager of your local supermarket to sell locally grown, sustainably
raised meat and vegetables from independent family farmers by speaking
with them and leaving an “I Care Card” that can be downloaded
Look for sustainable farming that includes organic farming;
diversity within a farm system that incorporates crops and animals; no
hormone implants or non-therapeutic antibiotics in animal feed; manure
production not exceeding what can be absorbed by the land; family-owned
and operated farms; and animals raised in an environment where they can
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Ask For Change!
The best way to take action is to vote with your dollar. Do not buy meat
raised on factory farms. To assist you in making sustainable choices,
the Husbandry Institute has designed the Ask for Change Card and fact-sheet.
By using these suggested questions, you can confidently and easily learn
and understand the important issues about the meat you and your family
eat. Most restaurant owners and retailers believe that their customers
do not care about these issues. So asking questions is a way not only
to ensure that you are eating meat that has not come from factories, but
it lets the restaurant and retailer know that you are willing to pay a
bit more to have conscientious choices in meat. If consumers vote with
their dollars and tell restaurants and retailers they care, then we can
begin to build demand for alternatively raise meat: meat that is raised
in a way that respects the environment, treats animals humanely, supports
local communities, and is economically viable for farmers.
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