5 Reasons Why You Should Be Mindful Of Factory-Farmed Meat
These days, it isn't too difficult to find mass-produced items, including our food—large, factory-style farms have the ability to churn out a seemingly endless supply of meat, chickens, eggs, and dairy products. All that mass production might equal abundance and lower prices, but if those factory-farmed products are negatively affecting your health, are the savings really worth it?
Here’s what’s really going on with mass-produced meats and why you might want to steer clear.
1. Factory-farmed animals can have unhealthy diets.
To keep production costs low, animals raised in factory farms are typically fed cheap grains and feeds containing “by-product feedstuff.”
Which begs the question, what’s feedstuff? To put it simply, it can include not-so-healthy items like corn byproducts from the distilling industry, potato waste, orange peels, and even candy. So, when you eat factory-farmed animals, you might also get an unintentional serving of “feedstuff.” In short, their bad diet can become your bad diet, which can become counter-productive to your health.
2. Bad diets make for sick animals–and people too.
Cud-chewing critters such as cattle, dairy cows, goats, bison, and sheep were designed to eat fibrous grasses, plants, and shrubs—not starchy, low-fiber grains, and feedstuffs. When these animals are switched from pasture greenery to grains, many can wind up suffering from a number of disorders and painful conditions.
The sickened animals can also be given chemical additives, plus constant, low-level doses of antibiotics. Their drugs in turn can enter your system when you eat antibiotic-treated animals, which can the stage for drug-resistance in your body, particularly if you’re a heavy-duty carnivore. While more research is needed to make this correlation, if you don't want antibiotics in your food at all, it may be best to avoid factory-farmed meat.
3. Factory-farmed meat can be a less nutritious product.
It may come as no surprise that animals fed an unhealthy diet will make for a less nutritious meal. Compared to grass-fed animals, factory-farmed, grain-fed meats have less vitamin E, beta-carotene, and little of the two health-promoting fats called omega-3 fatty acids and “conjugated linoleic acid,” or CLA.
So what’s the end-result of the feed-’em-fast-and-cheap factory farmed method? It may very well yield less nutritious food with more of the unhealthy fats. It's no wonder the stuff is so much cheaper than grass-fed.
4. The animals can experience stress.
In factory farms, chickens, turkeys, and pigs are typically raised in inhumane conditions, tightly packed into cages and pens, unable to practice normal behaviors, such as rooting, grazing, and roosting. In these conditions, the animals can become stressed and wind up producing products that are lower in a number of key vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids–we know that stress can affect our physical health, so it only makes sense that these animals have a negative reaction to stress, too.
5. Factory farming can pollute the earth.
In a conventional feedlot operation, for example, confined cattle deposit large amounts of manure in a small amount of space. The manure must be collected and removed. As it costs money to haul it away, the manure is often dumped nearby, close to the feedlot. As a result, the surrounding soil can become over-saturated with the stuff, resulting in ground and water pollution. But when animals are raised on pasture, their manure is a welcome source of organic fertilizer, not a “waste management problem.” That said, raising animals on pasture can be much kinder to the environment.
The bottom line on factory-farmed meat.
In short, though factory farming enables us to have plenty of cheap and convenient food, it typically yields food with little nutritional benefit that can increase your resistance to antibiotics as it pollutes your air, land, and water.
With so little going for it, doesn’t it seem slightly crazy to eat factory-farmed meats? While some factories can produce ethical and sustainable farming practices, it might be difficult to seek those few out—there are plenty more of the conventional, harsh farming environments in our food system.
That said, I strongly suggest that if you’re going to eat meat, buy the good stuff, even if it means having to pay a bit more or buy less of it. Choose grass-fed beef, lamb, bison and poultry, to ensure that you’re eating nutritious and healthy meats, as nature intended.
To learn more about what to look for when buying meat, check out my post on meat labeling.