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trudacia's avatar

How do you feel about factory farming and the meat industry in general?

Asked by trudacia (2508 points ) June 23rd, 2008

Do you feel that factory farming is essential to feed the growing global human population? Are you concerned with the environmental impact and the health risks? How does animal welfare factor in?

I lived in ignorant bliss for most of my life and ignored the facts about meat in America and other countries where factory farming is prevalent. I get it…meat is yummy! What I don’t get are the people who are informed and understand these practices but still eat meat (non-organic). Perhaps I’m missing something…

Every once in a while being a vegetarian is challenging. I just had lunch with a co-worker who enjoyed the most delicious looking cheeseburger that I’ve ever seen. I’m curious to know how other people deal with the decision to eat or not eat meat.

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34 Answers

playthebanjo's avatar

I sweep the knowledge into the dusty recesses of my mind and forget about it.

iwamoto's avatar

i stopped eating meat because i didn’t think it was necessary to eat it anymore… but i don’t feel held back to start eating it again, i just don’t realy feel like it

Harp's avatar

It’s true that we can’t feed the world without having some negative environmental impact. Growing any crop on a large scale will involve disturbing ecosystems, killing lots of organisms of various kinds, and altering the chemistry of the groundwater. That’s too bad, and we should try to minimize the impact, but that’s the way it goes.

However, meat, especially factory raised meat, compounds this inherent problem tremendously. I just used this statistic in another question, but it’s a propos here, too: It takes 13 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef. About 75% of that beef is water, so in growing beef, you’re actually converting 52 pounds of grain into 1 pound of nourishment. That means that not only is there that much less food for people to eat, but that all of the environmental damage associated with growing that grain is multiplied 52 times.

AstroChuck's avatar

You should read Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser. Very sobering. I’ve been vegetarian for 18 years. Read this book and many of you may join me.

hollywoodduck's avatar

I do eat meat, however not very often, and probably less now that I’m thinking about all this. But it does make me sick to think about how much meat is “produced” for Americans each year, then to think about how much of that is thrown away because someone didn’t eat it. It’s disgusting.

wildflower's avatar

I’m not quite hippy enough to go all organic or even give up meat, but I do appreciate things like farm assured and traceability when meat shopping….....of course nothing beats a good leg of lamb from my uncle’s farm :)

trudacia's avatar

@astrochuck, I’ve read Fast Food Nation, thanks.

I just found an old question by kevbo regarding The Omnivore’s Dilemma and I’ve not read that yet.

jrpowell's avatar

I don’t like the industry but I like meat. 75% of my meat intake is from stuff I have killed or a friend or family member killed. I know people on a farm that have some cows that are treated really well until they are shot. But it is really good beef and we know exactly what goes into them. And it is about 15 cows on 40 acres right now. They have a pretty good life compared to the cows in meat-farms.

Half a cow keeps the house (5 people) in beef for about six months.

tinyfaery's avatar

I think I answered this question when we discussed cloning. To add to that…

I have not eaten beef for over half of my life, and I never, ever miss it. Quite frankly, the smell makes me ill.

Since organic meat became available, I have begun to eat poultry occasionally. Some restaurants even serve it.

I guess in theory, if you eat an animal that you know had a decent, healthy life, you are not contributing to animal cruelty or environmental catastrophe. However, I could never eat an animal that I knew, or had seen alive at some point. I guess I am just too much of animal lover. Most animals I see become my friends, and you shouldn’t eat your friends.

Babo's avatar

I so try not to think about it!!!

squirbel's avatar

To answer the original question, I believe that factory-farming is the only way to meet the demand of the populace. You can’t re-educate an entire society to not eat so much meat. Factory farming doesn’t produce high-grade meat – that much is obvious from research.

I don’t like eating meat, but I don’t consider myself a vegetarian either. I eat meat when I feel the craving for it – or if I know it’s kosher. If I had the opportunity that johnpowell has – to know the source of the meat from beginning to end – I would have much fewer qualms.

At any rate, meat isn’t a major requirement in my diet.

wildflower's avatar

Forgot to mention: I have observed the process of slaughter and butchering of sheep on (small, family) farms and cows in an industrial slaughter house. And whilst the farm scenario is heartbreaking (as a kid you can’t help but form bonds with the animals), you learn early on that this is the circle of life and what happens in order to put food on the table (and in case you’re about to suggest vegetarianism, look up vegetation in the Faroe Islands and you tell me how that would’ve been historically possible) the industrial scenario is about the most dizzyingly disgusting thing I’ve ever had to watch!

surlygirl's avatar

a necessary evil. unfortunately, traditional farming cannot support the demand. a couple of years after my family moved to the country, a neighbor put up a “small” pig factory around the corner. not long after that a company built an egg factory a county over. without experiencing it, you cannot truly appreciate how bad the conditions are at these places, for the animals, land, and people living in the area.

AlexChoi's avatar

I think the key is that “factory style” meat production is a necessary evil if everyone wants to eat meat.

I love meat, but it seems crazy the way we produce some meats like pork:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeNLyg7NB20

I’m not super keen on organic meat either… it often takes more land mass, more feed, and more carbon output to create the same pound of meat.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/263

My new philosophy is to eat less meat, and when eating meat, eat locally produced meat is possible, and eat meats that have a lower carbon footprint.

8lightminutesaway's avatar

I’ve been considering this for a while now and I’m thinking of becoming mostly vegetarian but I’ll have to step down slowly because I love meat. Poultry production isn’t as bad as beef and pork, right?

breedmitch's avatar

Poultry production can be worse. Unless you eat free range, you are regularly eating birds that might not have touched the ground a day in their lives.

AlexChoi's avatar

@breedmitch in what way is it worse? to the animal? to the earth? to the consumer? could you be more specific? I think you meant for the animal…

breedmitch's avatar

Yes, the animal.

thebeadholder's avatar

YUCKY…
<- plugging ears and saying AAAAAAHHHHHH!

Zaku's avatar

The human population needs to stop growing. It needs to decrease.

The environmental impact of all kinds of industrial farming needs to be transformed to allow non-human-controlled environments to survive in abundance.

Inhumane treatment of animals is unacceptable.

The human health risks are the least of my worries – for what we’ve done and continue to do, we deserve health risks.

AlexChoi's avatar

@zaku we deserve health risks? You tread on a slippery slope my friend

I agree that the human population probably needs to be curbed… but can you show me an efficient way to farm non industrially?

Zaku's avatar

@AlexChoi – I’m pointing out the slippery slope we’re already on. We deserve health risks because we are threatening so many species, including our own, with our out-of-control consumption, land conversion, pollution and destruction. We deserve it in the sense that such behavior violates the law of nature, in the sense that we are sinking our own boat. In the sense that someone who drives 240 mph on a wet highway deserves to crash. We deserve it because we act like we are the only species that doesn’t need to control its consumption, or else face loss of population. If we don’t see this, it will just happen to us, and the longer we wait to change our ways, the more disastrous the “correction” is likely to be. The thing to do is to reduce consumption and make room for other species to thrive.

The new philosophy you mentioned is compatible with that. The philosophy just needs to spread more quickly into organizations that control farms and land use.

Efficiency depends on what you define as the costs, and how you value them. Current corporate thinking seems to value profit above all, and animal suffering very low, so they tend to design inhumane food factories producing perceived value in attractive-looking food products with long shelf life at the expense of reduced nutrition and flavor and safety and miserable lives for the animals. GM technology may eventually have such factories producing blocks of beef with no mind at all… I suppose that might be one way to relieve suffering.

On the other hand, there are also farms which produce food more traditionally, and are efficient if you do value excellent products and relatively happy animals, and even people who enjoy working on farms, or even owning them themselves.

Given that the current truth is that we do have enormous food corporations, what makes sense is to transform their value systems by expressing values other than the ones they are used to focusing on (cheap mass-production and market dominance). Corporations are inventive and powerful… they just need to focus on different values besides ones that will end up in disaster and suffering.

dindinbaby's avatar

So called “factory farming” is the result of consumer demands for inexpensive food. The effect on the environment is hugely variant, though. All of these large farms are very closely watched. All of the waste water must be caught in basins. The ground water surrounding these facilities is tested quite often. If the general public is interested in preserving the environment it would be wise to start by drinking less bottled water and driving less. The neccesity of animal production going to confined operations is also increased by urban sprawl. Valuable land that could be used in production agriculture is being consumed by persons desiring to own 1 to 10 acres of land and commuting to their job in town.

dindinbaby's avatar

How do you know these cattle in confinement are suffering?

guesswho's avatar

I think factory farming is horribly neccesary. But I still eat meat. I would probably become a vegetarian if I could get the protien I needed from that diet. If someone has a link to some info, that would be great!

iwamoto's avatar

well guesswho, i’ve been off meat for a few years now, judging form my health (only had the flu once) i still get all the stuff i need, so why not do the switch ?

guesswho's avatar

my cousin just told me about a doctor that has developed diets based on blood type. I have yet to do research on it, but it sounds interesting….

iwamoto's avatar

there’s also other diets, for instance, i tried the pineapple, a diet where you get to eat everything…except pineapple…my point being, diets are a bit bogus, don’t follow them blindly

surlygirl's avatar

i looked into the blood type diet. it was odd and didn’t really make any sense to me. i couldn’t stick with it, because there was just too many things to remember to avoid. there are three catagories, one is food that’s good for you and actually improves your health, one is neutral that doesn’t help you but still nourishes, and the last has food that actually harms you. i think red wine was good for me, it was okeh to drink white wine and liquor, but i should always avoid beer. and tomatoes. strange!

Yetanotheruser's avatar

It used to be that a family on a few acres could raise chickens, a few cows, and about a pig a year, and all the veggies they could use.

vegelizabeth's avatar

I feel like anybody who can work on an Animal Farm Factory is a heartless individual .

Coloma's avatar

@vegelizabeth @vegelizabeth

I feel the same…BUT..don’t forget…if those are the only, or primarily, the only jobs available, then…this must be taken into consideration as well.

If you are living in say Nebraska, or Kansas, or somewhere where the farming industry is HUGE…and the predominate jobs are in feed lots or dairies or poultry farms…what solutions would you provide for those that have little or no choice of work?

josie's avatar

When I got out of the service, I smoked, ate too much shit and drank too much. I quit smoking, quit drinking, and became a vegetarian. Since then, I will drink an occasional glass or two of wine, and I am not a vegetarian any more (although I never regained my taste for heavy red meat). My point being, I understand the charm of vegetarianism.
Regarding factory farming…there is no shortage of food on earth. There is only in some places a shortage of money to buy the food. In that case, factory farming keeps prices lower, and more affordable at least to some.
I make enough money that I can buy more expensive locally raised animals that are reasonably well treated before they are slaughtered. And I do so out of respect for that fact.
But I would hate to see factory farming get regulated out of business, because that means just one more person would starve for want of money to buy the more expensive food. Like it or not, we are on the top of the food chain, in most cases.

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