By Tia Schwab, Stone Pier Press

Editor’s Note: The following article is an opinion-editorial (generally known as an “op-ed”). While many of the articles posted on the Food Revolution Network website are ones our employees have written, the op-eds we publish are completely different. Since we didn’t write them, we will’t at all times vouch for, and will even not agree with, all the things they are saying. However, we current them to you as a result of we consider they make an vital contribution to the dialog that promotes our mission of wholesome, moral, and sustainable meals for all.

Last spring, a person was admitted to Mt. Sinai Hospital in Brooklyn for surgical procedure. A blood take a look at revealed he was constructive for the lethal antibiotic-resistant fungus, C. auris, and he was shortly quarantined. After three months of intensive therapy, he died. In order to eradicate traces of the germ from his room, the hospital needed to purchase particular cleansing gear, rip out elements of the ceiling and flooring, and eliminate some therapy instruments. “Everything in the room was positive,” Dr. Scott Lorin, the hospital’s president, informed The New York Times. The germ, deemed an “urgent threat” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has to date been present in two extra states, New Jersey and Illinois.

Experts warn it’s solely going to worsen. In 2014, the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, commissioned by the UK Government and Wellcome Trust, estimated that 700,000 individuals all over the world die annually because of drug-resistant infections. Without motion, that quantity may develop to 10 million per yr by 2050. A number one reason behind antibiotic resistance? The misuse and overuse of antibiotics on manufacturing unit farms.

Animal Welfare Issues on Factory Farms

Flourishing antibiotic resistance is simply one of many many public well being crises produced by manufacturing unit farming. Other issues embrace foodborne sickness, flu epidemics, the fallout from poor air and water high quality, and persistent illness. All of it may be traced to the present industrial strategy to elevating animals, which values “high stocking density” over protected working circumstances and farm animal welfare.

Oversight for the way in which manufacturing unit farms function and handle waste is minimal at greatest. No federal company collects constant and dependable data on the quantity, measurement, and placement of large-scale agricultural operations, nor the air pollution they’re emitting. There are additionally no federal legal guidelines governing the circumstances through which cattle are raised. And most state anti-cruelty legal guidelines don’t apply to cattle.

For instance, Texas, Iowa, and Nebraska have excluded livestock from their animal cruelty statute and as an alternative created particular laws aimed toward farm animal abuse that makes accepted or customary husbandry practices the animal welfare customary. After New Jersey created comparable laws, the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) sued the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA), claiming that “routine husbandry practices” was too imprecise. NJSPCA received, and because of this, the NJDA has created extra particular rules.

Farm Animal Cruelty Practices

(Editor’s Note: Trigger Warning – The following particulars could also be upsetting to examine. We by no means search to validate or indicate condoning of the horrendous animal cruelty described.) Tail docking of cattle is solely allowed when carried out “by a veterinarian for individual animals.” And debeaking of birds is solely allowed if carried out by a educated particular person and in compliance with the United Egg Producers Animal Husbandry Guidelines for US Egg Laying Flocks.

In North Carolina, any individual or group can file a lawsuit if they think animal cruelty, even when that individual doesn’t have “possessory or ownership rights in an animal.” In this fashion, the state has “a civil remedy” for farm animal cruelty.

The common lack of governmental oversight leads to cramped and filthy circumstances, stressed-out animals and employees, and a really perfect setup for the rampant unfold of illness amongst animals, between animals and employees, and into the encompassing setting by animal waste.

Antibiotic Resistance

vet administering vaccine to pigs

The Problem

In 2017, practically 11 million kilograms of antibiotics — together with 5.6 million kilograms of medically vital antibiotics — have been bought within the US for meals animals. Factory farms use antibiotics to make livestock develop sooner and management the unfold of illness in cramped and unhealthy dwelling circumstances. While antibiotics do kill some micro organism in animals, resistant micro organism can, and sometimes do, survive and multiply, contaminating meat and animal merchandise throughout slaughter and processing.

What It Means for You

People could be uncovered to antibiotic-resistant micro organism by dealing with or consuming contaminated animal merchandise, coming into contact with contaminated water, or touching or caring for cattle, which after all makes a farmworker’s job particularly harmful. Even for those who don’t eat a lot meat or dairy, you’re susceptible. Resistant pathogens can enter water streams by animal manure and contaminate irrigated produce.


The European Union has been way more aggressive than the US in regulating antibiotic use on manufacturing unit farms, banning using all antibiotics for development promotion in 2006. But the US is making some progress, too. Under the FDA’s new guidelines, which went into impact in January 2017, antibiotics which are vital for human drugs can not be used for development promotion or feed effectivity in cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and different meals animals.

In addition, 95% of medically vital antibiotics utilized in animal water and feed for therapeutic functions have been reclassified, so they may not be purchased over-the-counter. And a veterinarian must log off on its use in animals. As a end result, home gross sales and distribution of medically vital antimicrobials accepted for use in food-producing animals decreased by 43% from 2015 (the yr of peak gross sales) by 2017, experiences the FDA.

However, the FDA nonetheless permits routine antibiotic use in manufacturing unit farms for illness prevention in crowded and confused animals, so these new guidelines aren’t practically sufficient, says Matthew Wellington, antibiotics program director for the US Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. “The FDA should implement ambitious reduction targets for antibiotic use in the meat industry, and ensure that these medicines are used to treat sick animals or control a verified disease outbreak, not for routine disease prevention,” Wellington mentioned in a press release to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

National Resources Defense Council senior lawyer Avinash Kar agrees. “We are seeing real progress, but the American meat industry continues to have a drug problem. And the clock is ticking to solve it,” she says. “Far more antibiotics important to humans still go to cows and pigs — usually when they’re not sick — than to people, putting the health of every single one of us in jeopardy.”

Water and Air Pollution

dirty sewage water pouring into drainage ditch

The Problem

Livestock on this nation produces between three and 20 occasions extra waste than individuals within the US produce, based on a 2005 EPA report, or as a lot as 1.2–1.37 billion tons of manure a yr. Some estimates are even larger. Manure can include “pathogens equivalent to E. coli, development hormones, antibiotics, chemical compounds used as components to the manure or to scrub gear, animal blood, silage leachate from corn feed, or copper sulfate utilized in footbaths for cows,” experiences a 2010 report by the National Association of Local Boards of Health. Though sewage therapy vegetation are required for human waste, no such therapy facility exists for livestock waste.

Since this quantity far exceeds what can be utilized as fertilizer, animal waste from manufacturing unit farms usually enters large, open-air waste lagoons, which unfold airborne pathogens to individuals who reside close by. If animal waste is utilized as fertilizer and exceeds the soil’s capability for absorption, or if there is a leak or break within the manure storage or containment unit, the animal waste runs off into oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater.

Extreme climate will increase the potential of such breaks. Hurricane Florence, for instance, flooded a minimum of 50 hog lagoons when it struck the Carolinas final yr, and satellite tv for pc images captured the harm. Eight years in the past, the EPA reported that 29 states establish animal feeding operations as contributing to water air pollution. To provide some thought of what that appears like, the EPA reported in 1998 that manufacturing unit farm runoff polluted 35,000 miles of river in 22 states.

Whether or not the manure is contained or unfold as fertilizer, it might probably launch 400 several types of dangerous gases, together with ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, in addition to particulate matter comprised of fecal matter, feed supplies, pollen, micro organism, fungi, pores and skin cells, and silicates into the air. Manure is additionally an considerable supply of nitrate, which seeps into groundwater and could be poisonous at elevated ranges.

What It Means for You

Pathogens could cause diarrhea and extreme sickness and even loss of life for these with weakened immune methods. And gases like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide could cause dizziness, eye irritation, respiratory sickness, nausea, sore throats, seizures, comas, and loss of life. Particulate matter within the air can result in persistent bronchitis, persistent respiratory signs, declines in lung perform, and natural mud poisonous syndrome.

The CDC has reported that youngsters raised in communities close to manufacturing unit farms usually tend to develop bronchial asthma or bronchitis, and that individuals who reside close to manufacturing unit farms could expertise psychological well being deterioration and elevated sensitization to smells. And nitrates in consuming water have been linked to beginning defects, miscarriages, and poor common well being. For infants, it might probably imply blue child syndrome and even loss of life.


It is troublesome to carry manufacturing unit farms accountable for polluting surrounding air and water, largely for political causes. Before the 2020 election, the GOP-controlled Congress and the Trump administration excused massive livestock farms from reporting air emissions, for occasion, following a decade-long push for particular therapy by the livestock business. The exemption signifies “further denial of the impact that these [emissions] are having, whether it’s on climate or whether it’s on public health,” says Carrie Apfel, an lawyer for Earthjustice. In a 2017 report from the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, the company admitted it has not discovered a great way to trace emissions from animal farms and know whether or not the farms are complying with the Clean Air Act. 

No federal company even has dependable data on the quantity and places of manufacturing unit farms, which, after all, makes accountability even more durable to determine. Two Stanford students are hoping to vary that, nevertheless. Professor Daniel Ho and doctoral candidate Cassandra Handan-Nader revealed a paper in Nature Sustainability in 2019 demonstrating how a brand new map-reading algorithm may assist regulators establish CAFOs extra effectively. They retrained an current image-recognition mannequin to acknowledge large-scale animal services from publicly obtainable satellite tv for pc photos. The researchers estimate that their algorithm can seize 95% of current large-scale services utilizing lower than 10% of the sources required for a handbook census.

Foodborne Illness

danger sign for salmonella outbreak

The Problem

The United States has “shockingly high” ranges of foodborne sickness, based on the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian. And unsanitary circumstances at manufacturing unit farms are a number one contributor.

In a research of 47 meat vegetation throughout the US, investigators discovered that hygiene incidents happen at charges consultants described as “deeply worrying.” One dataset lined 13 giant crimson meat and poultry vegetation between 2015 and 2017 and located a mean of greater than 150 violations per week, or 15,000 violations over your entire interval. Violations included unsanitary manufacturing unit circumstances and meat contaminated with blood, septicemic illness, and feces.

“The rates at which outbreaks of infectious food poisoning occur in the US are significantly higher than in the UK, or the EU,” mentioned Erik Milstone, a meals security professional at Sussex University interviewed by The Guardian. “Poor hygiene in the meat supply chain is a leading cause of food poisoning in the US.” 

Poor sanitary practices permit micro organism like E. coli and Salmonella, which reside within the intestinal tracts of contaminated livestock, to infect meat or animal merchandise throughout slaughter or processing. Contamination happens at larger charges on manufacturing unit farms as a result of crowded and unclean dwelling circumstances enhance the probability of transmission between animals. It additionally stresses out animals, which suppresses their immune response making them extra vulnerable to illness. The grain-based diets used to fatten cattle may also shortly enhance the danger of E. coli an infection. In poultry, the observe of processing useless hens into “spent hen meal” to be fed to reside hens has elevated the unfold of Salmonella.

What It Means for You

According to the CDC, roughly 48 million individuals within the US endure from foodborne sicknesses yearly, with 128,000 hospitalizations and three,000 deaths annually. Salmonella accounts for roughly 11% of infections, and kills extra individuals yearly than another foodborne sickness.


In January of 2011, President Obama signed The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the primary main piece of federal laws addressing meals security since 1938. FSMA grants the FDA new authority to manage the way in which meals is grown, harvested, and processed, and new powers equivalent to necessary recall authority. The FSMA “basically codified this principle that everybody responsible for producing food should be doing what the best science says is appropriate to prevent hazards and reduce the risk of illness,” based on Mike Taylor, co-chairman of Stop Foodborne Illness and a former deputy commissioner for meals and veterinary drugs on the FDA. “So we’re moving in the right direction.”

However, nearly ten years later, the FSMA is nonetheless being phased in because of a scarcity of skilled food-inspectors and a scarcity of funding. “Congress has gotten about halfway to what it said was needed to successfully implement” the act, Taylor mentioned.

The Flu

woman blowing nose and checking body temperature

The Problem

Both the quantity and density of animals on manufacturing unit farms enhance the danger of recent virulent pathogens, based on the US Council for Agriculture, Science, and Technology. In addition, transporting animals over lengthy distances to processing services brings completely different influenza strains into contact with one another, in order that they mix and unfold shortly. Pigs are vulnerable to each avian and human flu viruses, to allow them to function floor zero for all types of recent strains. Because of intensive pig farming practices, “the North American swine flu virus has jumped onto an evolutionary fast track, churning out variants every year,” based on a report revealed in Science journal.

What It Means for You

These viruses can develop into pandemics. In truth, viral geneticists hyperlink the genetic lineage of H1N1 to a pressure that emerged in 1998 in US manufacturing unit pig farms. The CDC has estimated that between 151,700 and 575,400 individuals worldwide died from the 2009 H1N1 virus an infection in the course of the first yr the virus circulated.

Breast, Prostate, and Colon Cancer

hands holding blue ribbon for cancer awareness Dangsungnoen

The Problem

Factory farms within the US use hormones to stimulate development in two-thirds of beef cattle. On dairy farms, 54% of cows are injected with recombinant bovine development hormone (rBGH), a development hormone that will increase milk manufacturing.

What It Means for You

The well being results of consuming animal merchandise handled with these development hormones is an ongoing worldwide debate. Some research have linked development hormone residues in meat to reproductive points and breast, prostate, and colon most cancers, and IGF-1 has been linked to colon and breast most cancers. However, the FDA, the National Institute of Health, and the World Health Organization have independently discovered that dairy merchandise and meat from rBGH-treated cows are protected for human consumption. Because danger assessments differ, the EU, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and Argentina have banned using rBGH as a precautionary measure. The EU has additionally banned using six hormones in cattle and imported beef.


USDA pointers permit beef merchandise to be labeled with “no hormones administered” and dairy merchandise to be labeled “from cows not treated with rBST/rBGH” if the producer supplies adequate documentation that this is true. Consumers can use this data to make their very own selections in regards to the dangers related to hormone-treated animal merchandise.

What You Can Do

hands holding veggie burger

You can vote for native initiatives that set up well being and welfare rules for manufacturing unit farms. But solely a tiny variety of states, together with California and Massachusetts, are even placing related propositions on the poll. Another possibility is to help any of the nonprofits which are, in lieu of efficient authorities motion, taking these manufacturing unit farms to job. The Environmental Working Group, Earthjustice, and Animal Legal Defense Fund are amongst these working laborious to examine the worst practices of those CAFOs. Another good group is the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP), which works with native residents to struggle the event of manufacturing unit farms in their very own backyards.

Buying humanely-raised animal merchandise from farms and farmers you belief is one other approach to push again in opposition to manufacturing unit farming. Sadly, merchandise from these smaller farms make up solely a fraction of the whole. In the US, roughly 99% of hen, turkeys, eggs, and pork, and 70% of cows, are raised on manufacturing unit farms.

You can help “clean” burgers, hen, and pork, by shopping for it as soon as it turns into broadly obtainable. Made from animal cells, the method utterly spares the animal and eliminates the manufacturing unit farm. “The ensuing product is 100% actual meat, however with out the antibiotics, E. coli, Salmonella, or waste contamination,” writes the Good Food Institute, a useful resource for many clear meat start-ups, which at present quantity 27. Says Paul Shapiro, CEO of The Better Meat Co., “this promising field will only continue to get bigger.”

Demanding Change

In the meantime, you may register your objection to manufacturing unit farming by doing all your bit to scale back demand for their merchandise. In brief, eat much less meat and dairy, and extra plant-based proteins. Fortunately, the times when that meant forking in soy canines and potato burgers are lengthy gone. More than $13B have been invested in plant-based meat, egg, and dairy firms in 2017 and 2018 alone, based on the Good Food Institute. And Beyond Meat’s IPO debut marked probably the most profitable one because the yr 2000.

Lest you assume that what you do by yourself can’t presumably make a distinction, think about one of many main drivers behind all this new funding: customers are demanding change. Says Bruce Friedrich, government director of Good Food Institute: “Shifting consumer values have created a favorable market for alternatives to animal-based foods, and we have already seen fast-paced growth in this space across retail and foodservice markets.”

Tia Schwab wrote this story as a News Fellow at Stone Pier Press, an environmental publishing firm with a concentrate on meals. Tia is at present working for a nonprofit in Washington, DC whereas finishing her Master’s of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy at Vermont Law School. She obtained her BA in Food Systems and Public Health from Stanford University.

Tell us within the feedback:

  • Do you eat meat from manufacturing unit farms?
  • Were you conscious of the extent of unhealthy circumstances prevalent on manufacturing unit farms?
  • What different methods are you able to consider to fight farm animal cruelty and protest manufacturing unit farm circumstances?

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