CAFOs and Your Healthy Eating

This is how we picture beef cattle; the reality is far different, and probably unhealthy.

Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFO) is an industrial agricultural system for raising livestock. These operations started in the 1970s. CAFOs place thousands of animals in a confined area, with large feedlots for cattle, large houses for poultry and pork, and confined netted enclosures for fish. CAFOs pose several threats to you directly and the environment. Let’s start with beef.

In large-scale beef production, the cattle are fed corn and soy, an unnatural diet for them. Cattle should be grazing on grass in pastures. Corn is omega-6 (inflammatory) and grass is omega-3 (anti-inflammatory). Grass–fed and finished beef is healthier for you and more humane for the animal. Cows are also given bovine growth hormone to add weight quickly in order to get to market more quickly. A shorter time from birth to slaughter means more money. You probably don’t need a dose of bovine growth hormone to help you bulk up.

These same types of scenarios can be seen with pigs, chickens, and fish. We would like the animals we raise to live a natural and healthy life eating what nature intended. 

Antibiotic used in livestock accounts for 80% of antibiotic use in the U.S. An animal raised in a CAFO needs antibiotics in order to stay alive in this unhealthy environment.  Antibiotics used in this way support the emergence of superbugs. Superbugs may be antibiotic resistant. You may have heard of the growing concern in medicine over drug resistant bacterial infections. The medical community fears we may one day soon have many drug resistant infections with no antibiotic solutions. This scenario would take our world back to days before antibiotics, like penicillin.

Sweden became concerned about the increase in drug resistant pneumonia infections in the 1990s. To counter this increase, they severely restricted antibiotic use in their animal husbandry practices. By also using antibiotics only for bacterial infections in humans, the Swedes saw that antibiotics used for people drop by 43% – 74%, depending on the age of the population being studied. Would you like to live where infections were down?

The animal urine and feces generated by the animals in CAFOs is placed in liquid manure lagoons which may leak into underground water polluting drinking supplies and the natural ecosystem.

CAFOs also account for 18% of human greenhouse gas production. Greenhouse gas helps to fuel climate change that makes it harder for all the animals, plants and humans to thrive, and some even to survive. We depend on the diversity of our home, Earth, for our health and lives.

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