Eating for Health

Published on April 30th, 2008 | by Beth Bader

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Study Confirms the Need for More Sustainable Livestock Farming

cows.jpgThe Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, a two-and-a-half year long study by a non-profit organization, calls for urgent and major reform of confined animal operations.

“One of the most serious unintended consequences of industrial food animal production is the growing public health threat of these types of facilities,” the report said. “There is increasing urgency to chart a new course” in agriculture, which has been shifting over the last 50 years from family farms to large livestock meat producers.”

The studies primary focus assessed four areas of impact by industrial farms:

  • Impact on public healthy by overuse of antibiotics on food animals, primarily the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria
  • Impact on the environment from animal waste
  • The need for humane treatment of animals
  • The impact on family farms from lack of competition and the consolidation of the agribusiness entities

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Phasing out and banning antibiotics and other antimicrobials that are used to promote growth but not treat illnesses. To understand more about this issue, visit the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Health Observatory.
  • Improving animal disease monitoring and tracking. Currently this issue is a source of debate. Check out the discussion at Ethicurean.
  • Creating regulations for farm waste, making the farms responsible for the costs to clean up and prevent pollution. This unpaid cost by industrial farms is one of the key factors in the artificially low price of meats. For more insights on these real costs, visit The Meatrix.
  • A ten-year deadline to phase out all “intensive confinement” practices such as gestation crates, birthing crates, battery cages for poultry, and individual confinement of calves for veal.
  • A call for enforcement of antitrust laws to bring fair practices and competition back to the livestock industry.

There will be a battle ahead on these points, particularly the antitrust laws. It is refreshing to see independent studies like this surface in the media and call for urgent changes. Making sure our representatives hear that call and hear it from us is a great next step. Here is how to find your Representatives and your Senators.

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About the Author

Beth Bader is co-author of the book, The Cleaner Plate Club. She is a passionate "Local Food" advocate and an author for the Eat Local Challenge. She loves creating healthy, family-friendly, seasonal foods, family dinners, cooking for friends, and cooking with her child. You can her at The Expatriate's Kitchen.



One Response to Study Confirms the Need for More Sustainable Livestock Farming

  1. last night, boston legal, had a story line about cloning animals for food production – beef, pork, etc. i fell asleep in the middle of it, so i don’t know where the argument went. the show usually tries to bring in some very real issues to raise awareness (or sometimes just to capitalize on controversial issues, of course). before i passed out, i heard one of the arguments against cloning of cattle was that the animals born from cloning have seriously compromised immune systems and need large amounts of anti-biotics just to survive – enough that they feel it could start raising pharmaceutical anti-biotic levels in humans who consume the meat from these animals. i’ve heard and read some of this stuff, but reading your post this morning just underscored my reason for being a very cautious carnivore – i used to be vegetarian. i only eat meat when i know exactly where it came from and how the animals were raised and treated. when i’m out at parties or restaurants, if i don’t know where the meat came from, i revert to vegetarian style. great post.

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