Posts Tagged ‘factory farming’

Jun11

The Raw Campaign: An Interview with Jonty Whittleton

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Nourishing the Planet’s Carol Dreibelbis spoke recently with Jonty Whittleton, senior campaign manager at Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), a U.K.-based organization working to end factory farming and promote animal welfare, about his involvement with the Raw campaign. The Raw campaign focuses on exposing the true cost of factory farming and building a movement for alternative food and farming solutions.      

Jonty Whittleton, senior campaign manager at Compassion in World Farming (Photo credit: Jonty Whittleton). 

I jumped at the opportunity to join Raw. The campaign is well-aligned with my interests and presents a unique opportunity to create positive change. Fighting factory farming lets you tackle a host of environmental, social, and ethical challenges at the same time. Plus I love food, so championing tastier, healthier, higher-quality food is second nature to me!

What, in your opinion, are the most serious impacts of factory farming?

Factory farming has an impact on animals as well as on people and the planet, at a local, national, and international scale. The primary impetus for Compassion in World Farming is to end animal cruelty, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Factory farming is a chronic, worldwide problem: it is linked to antibiotic resistance, obesity, devastated communities, and choked, polluted waterways.

This is the beauty of Raw. Whether you’re an environmentalist, a humanitarian, or both, the fight against factory farming concerns you.

What strategies does Raw use to improve the global food system?

Raw is a long-term movement with an ambition to stamp out factory farming. We recognize that we won’t achieve widespread change overnight. Our first goal is to convince a critical mass of decision makers and the public that factory farming is a failed system of food production. Our work can be broken down into three distinct areas:

  1. Campaigns aimed at communicating critical food and farming issues in compelling ways, with the objective of capturing minds and encouraging focused action;
  2. Networking with relevant opinion and decision makers, and finding opportunities to collaborate; and
  3. Recruiting famous individuals who believe in the mission of Raw and are interested in spreading inspirational messages.

In the future, we would like to expand our networks into other countries where we see a real need for Raw. Compassion already has feet on the ground in the United States, France and the Netherlands. We would also like to broaden the Raw supporter base and deepen the level of interaction.

Raw is working toward a food and farming revolution. What would the global food system look if this were achieved?

Factory farming prioritizes maximum production at the expense of the welfare of animals, people, and the planet. Our vision is a world where all have access to sufficient, nutritious food produced by humane, sustainable farming systems. These systems would protect the environment, support livelihoods in developed and developing countries, and meet our needs without wasting precious resources.

What agricultural innovations have you seen in your work that are making food production more sustainable?

One innovation that we have been following is lab-grown meat, which is in fairly early stages of development and remains controversial. We believe that lab-grown meat has the potential to feed the world’s meat eaters while massively cutting the number of animals farmed worldwide and, therefore, diminishing the impacts associated with factory farming.

And if we provide farmers—some of the greatest innovators known to man—with the right policies and incentives, they will surely find more sustainable and humane ways to do business.

How can our readers help make the food system safer, fairer, and greener?

It’s easy to feel despondent given the vast scale of the task as hand, but we all have the power to help kick start a food and farming revolution. We can vote for better food three times a day, sending a clear signal to retailers and producers that we believe in better food and farming. I have tried cutting out meat, but my  current mantra is to enjoy smaller amounts of higher quality meat. That way, you often don’t have to spend any more and you get to truly enjoy and take pride in your food. There are also a vast number of organizations fighting for a better food system—whatever your interest, now is the time to get involved. And you can always choose how involved you want to be; whether you want to lobby decision makers, donate a few dollars, or just watch a video, the choice is yours. Here’s to a food and farming revolution!

For more information on Raw’s work to end factory farming, please visit www.raw.info. What steps are you taking to work toward a humane, sustainable food system? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Carol Dreibelbis is a former research intern with the Worldwatch Institute’s Food and Agriculture Program.  

 

Nov21

A Tale of Two Farms: Industrial vs. Sustainable Meat Production in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic

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By Carol Dreibelbis

Most food in the United States comes from industrialized, intensive farms. Meat and dairy are no exception: nationwide, 40 percent of all U.S. food animals are raised in the largest 2 percent of livestock facilities. And these large-scale facilities, commonly referred to as factory farms, continue to grow. Between 1997 and 2007, the U.S. factory farming industry added 4,600 hogs, 650 dairy cows, 139,200 broiler chickens, and 1,100 beef cattle each day. On a global scale, industrial animal production now accounts for 72 percent of all poultry production, 43 percent of egg production, and 55 percent of pork production.

Pastured broiler chickens feed on grass and grain at Virginia-based Polyface Farm. (Photo credit: Polyface, Inc.)

Although factory farms provide large quantities of relatively inexpensive meat, the associated environmental, social, and human health costs are high. Factory farms rely on massive inputs of water, fossil fuel energy, grain-based feed, and other limited resources. Feed production alone accounts for an estimated 75 percent of the energy use associated with factory farming; growing animal feed also requires the input of water, fertilizers, and pesticides, and it occupies arable land that could be used directly to grow food. An estimated 23 percent of all water used in agriculture goes to livestock production.

Industrialized meat production also creates huge amounts of waste, contaminating nearby air and water and threatening the health of humans and wildlife. Some large factory farms produce more waste than large U.S. cities. The livestock industry is also responsible for approximately 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—more than the entire global transportation sector. By contributing to climate change, factory farms affect people both locally and around the world.

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Oct24

Global Meat Production and Consumption Slow Down

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By Danielle Nierenberg and Laura Reynolds

Global meat production rose to 297 million tons in 2011, an increase of 0.8 percent over 2010 levels, and is projected to reach 302 million tons by the end of 2012, according to new research conducted for our Vital Signs Online service. By comparison, meat production rose 2.6 percent in 2010 and has risen 20 percent since 2001. Record drought in the U.S. Midwest, animal disease outbreaks, and rising prices of livestock feed all contributed to 2011’s lower rise in production.

Record drought in the U.S. Midwest, animal disease outbreaks, and rising prices of livestock feed contributed to the lower rise in meat production (Photo Credit: AZ Green Magazine)

Also bucking a decades-long trend, meat consumption decreased slightly worldwide in 2011, from 42.5 kilograms (kg) per person in 2010 to 42.3 kg. Since 1995, however, per capita meat consumption has increased 15 percent overall; in developing countries, it increased 25 percent during this time, whereas in industrialized countries it increased just 2 percent. Although the disparity between meat consumption in developing and industrialized countries is shrinking, it remains high: the average person in a developing country ate 32.3 kg of meat in 2011, whereas in industrialized countries people ate 78.9 kg on average.

Pork was the most popular meat in 2011, accounting for 37 percent of both meat production and consumption, at 109 million tons. This was followed closely by poultry meat, with 101 million tons produced. Yet pork production decreased 0.8 percent from 2010, whereas poultry meat production rose 3 percent, making it likely that poultry will become the most-produced meat in the next few years.

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Aug14

Hidden Cost of Hamburgers

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By Caitlin Aylward

The “Food for 9 Billion” project recently released a video highlighting the “Hidden Cost of Hamburgers” as a part of a new YouTube investigative reporting channel, The I Files.

The video uncovers the true price of a hamburger, revealing the environmental and social costs of factory-farmed meat.

The average American eats around 3 hamburgers a week, which adds up to 156 burgers per person each year. As a nation, Americans consume more than 48 billion burgers annually.

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Aug01

CDC Reports Rising Rates of Foodborne Illness

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By Caitlin Aylward

The most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that that the frequency of foodborne illness outbreaks have not improved over the past decade, despite the passage of the most recent Food Safety Modernization Act.

Eating grass-fed meat is one way to reduce your chances of contracting a food-borne illness. (Photo credit: American Cattlemen)

According to the CDC, an estimated one in six Americans became sick last year from foodborne pathogens. Of the 48 million Americans who contracted foodborne illnesses, 128,000 were hospitalized and 3,000 people died.

The most recent statistics from the CDC report that outbreaks of salmonella, vibrio, campylobacter, and listeria have all remained steady or increased in prevalence since 2007. Only incidences of E. coli have declined within this time period, and only marginally so.

Salmonella and E. coli are both foodborne pathogens that can lead to illness if contaminated fecal matter comes into contact with food. Poultry is the food most commonly associated with salmonella outbreaks, whereas E. coli bacteria are typically found in ground meat products. Both pathogens, however, are linked to the standard grain-based diets, as well as the factory farm conditions, in which cattle and poultry are raised.

Grain-based feeds can encourage the growth of dangerous E. coli bacteria in a cow’s stomach, whereas grass-based diets eliminate the potential development of these dangerous pathogens.

Moreover, livestock and chickens raised in factory farms are often packed tightly into feedlots, where animals stand in pools of manure, allowing foodborne pathogens to circulate throughout the facility and contaminate the feed. In modern slaughterhouses, the animals’ hides are also often covered in manure, making it difficult to keep contaminated fecal matter from coming into contact with an animal’s flesh. If farmers use raw manure for fertilizer, foodborne pathogens, such as E. coli or salmonella, can even contaminate produce.

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Mar05

Antibiotic Overuse in Animal Agriculture

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Antibiotics, a class of drugs used to treat bacterial infections, are becoming less and less effective in human medicine because of the emergence of resistant bacteria. An estimated 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are for livestock, not humans.

An estimated 70 percent of all U.S. antibiotics are used nontherapeutically in animal agriculture. (Image credit: Keep Antibiotics Working Coalition)

Factory farms, or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), use antibiotics to help animals increase weight quickly and to keep them alive in crowded, stressful, unsanitary conditions.

When bacteria are routinely exposed to antibiotics, they become resistant and harder to treat. As a result, drug choices for treatment of common infections are diminishing and becoming more expensive. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 38 Americans die each day from hospital-acquired antibiotic-resistant infections.

This month, the Keep Antibiotics Working Coalition, along with Pew Charitable Trusts and the American Academy of Pediatrics, launched a “We the People” petition to voice concern to the White House that there is widespread overuse of antibiotics in industrial animal farming. The campaign is collecting signatures to compel members of the White House to address this critical issue. After the petition gets 25,000 signatures by March 16th, the White House will be obligated to review the petition and issue a response to the public.

To sign this petition urging the Obama Administration to end antibiotic overuse in animal food production click here.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

May21

What We Eat Matters

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In this video, produced by Plate to Planet, Nourishing the Planet co-project Director, Danielle Nierenberg, explains that factory farms have profound effects, not only on our own health, but also on the environment.

Nierenberg suggests that consumers need to know where their food comes from, and that starts by creating awareness at a young age. By adding more vegetable-based protein to our meals and cutting back on meat consumption, we will not only improve our own health, but the health of our environment.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIJkEVGjNpA&feature=relmfu

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.