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Country Living, Factory Style - the Detrimental Effects of Industrialized Farming

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Country Living, Factory Style - The Detrimental Effects of Industrialized Farming

He is a carefree two year old boy who likes to play and get dirty, as any boy his age would do. Two weeks after a family vacation he became ill and was hospitalized. The diagnosis came in as E.coli O157:H7. The next eight days brought failing kidneys and dialysis treatments which required his arms and legs to be secured in order for him to remain still. He threw up black bile, had sunken eyes, and had the appearance of being malnourished. He was not allowed any water. He was eventually sedated and placed on a ventilator. Eleven days after becoming ill, this free spirited little child lost his battle and died (Kowalcyk).

His name is Kevin Kowalcyk and his death was a result of eating hamburger which was contaminated. After several years of searching, which involved lawyers and threats of lawsuits, Kevin's family learned the PFGE pattern, a meat DNA fingerprint, matched a PFGE pattern registered in a meat recall the same month Kevin died. In order to prove Kevin's death was a direct relation to this same recall, the burden of proof relied on proving consumption. To prove consumption, you must prove where the consumption took place, the retailer the meat was purchased from, and the meat producer which supplied the retailer. In Kevin's case, the meat recall, which matched his PFGE pattern, could not be definitively linked back to the specific meat producer. There is privacy and protection given to the meat producers in regards to their records. The USDA will not supply the records and there are no laws in place which require the producer or the retailer to allow public access to their records. In the end, the Kowalcyk family hit red tape and brick walls in their efforts to make someone accountable for the death of their son (Kowalcyk). This is a tragic and heart wrenching story and the real truth is it is only one case out too many to count.

The consumer meat supply standards are severely degraded because of how the meat is being produced. Factory farms have the capabilities to produce large amounts of food at extremely low costs. These cost savings are passed down to consumers in the form of detrimental effects to our health and environment. Consumers must take a stand and demand higher standards and regulations if these factories are to continue operations. The choices we make everyday determine our path and quality of the life we lead. Consumers must choose to become educated to make informed decisions regarding the food we consume and ultimately live longer and healthier lives.

Future generations will look back in the history books and learn about farming. Unfortunately, the traditional ways of farming are becoming a thing of the past. Traditional farms are the small family operated farms which have approximately one hundred head or less of cattle, a few pigs, and a couple dozen chickens. The green rolling hills of pasture where the cows graze, the pen where momma pig is nursing her babies and chickens are free to roam around wherever they choose. These scenes are being replaced with factory settings where mass production means more profit on the bottom line.

Industrialized farms consist of medium and large scale operations. Medium size operations can house up to 999 head of beef cattle, 699 head of dairy cattle, 2,499 hogs, and 124,999 chickens (Factory Farm Nation). Numbers exceeding these are considered large scale operations. According to data from the UDSA, the total number of animals on factory farms in the United States increased from 23.7 million to 28.8 million from 2002 to 2007. A breakdown of this increase include beef cattle increasing from 11.6 million to 13.5 million, dairy cows increasing from 2.5 million to 4.8 million, hogs increasing from 46.1 million to 62.8 million, broiler chickens increasing from 583.2 million to 1 billion, and egg-laying hens increasing from 215.7 million to 266.5 million (Factory Farm Nation).

The numbers of animals are increasing while the numbers of small traditional farms are decreasing, due to mass production and higher concentration of animals in industrialized settings. For perspective of this, there are five main states which have the highest concentration of beef cattle, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Colorado. "Combined, these five states held 10.3 million head of beef cattle on feedlots in 2007 - about three-fourths (76.4 percent) of all factory-farmed beef in the country" (Factory Farm Nation).

Industrialized settings view the animals as a commodity for sale. They are not recognized as piece of life which should be respected. Most of the animals are confined to extremely small spaces which creates a breeding ground for disease and sickness. Cattle are kept in dirt pastures as opposed to the traditional grassy meadows. Chickens are housed in stacked cages without enough room to spread their wings. Hogs can spend their entire lives on concrete floors. Pregnant pigs are kept in crates, unable to even turn around for months at a time. These conditions are unsanitary, unhealthy, and unacceptable for any living thing.

Animals are fed mostly grains as a diet. Here are the simple basics. Cows naturally eat grass. Chickens naturally eat grass, bugs and worms. Pigs naturally eat plants and anything you put in front of them. Traditional farmers will also grain feed, but in moderation. Industrialized farms feed grain continuously by systematic mechanical methods. The manufactured grain products are used to bulk up the animal as fast as possible. These grains are cheap for the industrialized farms due to government subsidies for corn and soy. This cheap grain consumption leads to lower products costs, but ultimately lower quality of products. These grains are genetically engineered and contain high levels of pesticides and antibiotics. (The Issues - Feed)

Industrial farms have been mixing antibiotics into livestock feed since 1946. Today, nearly 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed to industrial farm livestock to promote growth (Layton). But more importantly, the drugs are used to compensate for the unsanitary conditions as animals in close confinement are often standing in their own filth and the constant stress inhibits their immune systems. An estimated 90 percent of all antibiotics given to animals are not fully digested and pass through the body and enter the environment (The Issues - Antibiotics). In contrast, small sustainable farms only use antibiotics to treat a sick animal which are far and few between because of the healthier living conditions.

Resistant bacteria are bacteria which are continually exposed to small amounts of antibiotics. These bacteria have adapted to where antibiotics can no longer kill them resulting in loss of effectiveness against specific



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