Have you ever walked down the meat section of the supermarket and noticed that most the cuts of meat are almost identical to each other? Have you ever wondered why every time you have a cheeseburger at a fast food chain restaurant it tastes just like the last one you had there? How is it possible that every chicken breast, hamburger and pork chop looks exactly alike?
Big companies need excess amounts of meat to supply to their customers, and by supplying such high demands they end up representing a large portion of the meat market. They are controlling more and more of the meat packing industry, since the 1970’s the top meat packing companies have raised their control of the market from 25% to 80%. Fast food chains, which are typically the highest purchasers of meat, want all their products to look and taste the same. Supermarkets may look like it’s scattered with different brands and options the truth is most of these products are owned by the same company. These companies make contracts with farmers to raise their animals a certain ways, so the animal becomes as big as it can and as fast as it can to produce more meat quicker. They are looking to be as efficient as possible with the ‘Production’ (not raising) of their meat.
It all begins with what the companies (Not the farmers) decide feed the animals with. Most animals are being fed corn (which says something about corn products) to be fattened up and gain the most amount of weight in the shortest amount of time. Why corn you might ask? Because it’s extremely easy and cheap to produce! The problem with feeding cows, chickens, pigs, and in some cases fish corn is that they do not naturally eat corn, which is a carbohydrate rich and very starchy food that can increase weight if eaten excessively. Animals gain so much weight that their bones are unable to keep up with the development. An example of this is with chickens, they gain so much weight so fast that they are only able to take a few steps (if any) and have to immediately sit down or they’re bones will break and they will be unable to move or feed themselves. Also with chickens there is such a demand for breasts and thighs that they have almost been engineered to carry most their weight in these parts of the body! This increases the difficulty of breathing and stop chickens from breathing at all.
It’s not just the animal’s diet which is causing the gain in weight it’s their living situations as well. Most of the chicken coups, pig pens and cattle pastures are significantly over crowded so the animals can barely move. Chickens are kept in coups that are always dark, keeping the chickens subdued and easy to harvest. Cattle and Pigs are given very little room to even move; many times they have to overlap each other. As most of you may know a high carbohydrate diet and little to no physical activity is almost the recipe to gain weight. This over populated habitat isn’t just adding weight to the animals; it’s a breeding ground for diseases. Such an overcrowding of the animals leads to very unsanitary conditions since there are little opportunities to clean the pens/animals.
With such massive over population of the animals pens the farmers are unable to continuously clean the pens of any feces or even in some cases other dead animals. Since they are unable to clean up the mess and there are such restrictive movements, some of the animals have resorted to eating the feces and carcasses of the other dead animals. These animals are highly subjective to death and diseases. Even if they don’t get contaminated from what they eat, the hygiene of the animals is very poor, which can also lead to contaminated meat. Even in meat packing factories they barley clean the carcasses of the dead animals which can be covered in feces and other toxic substances. In some cases Ground beef can contain up to 100 different cows meat to produce, and if just one of those cows had a sickness that was detected then all meat is contaminated. Some companies go as far as spraying down their ground beef with ammonia to prevent the E.coli virus (Go ahead and think about that for a second or two!). These are just a few of the reasons why there have been more breakouts of E.coli, Mad Cow Disease, Salmonella and other food related diseases in recent years.
While there are regulations and food inspectors, they don’t have nearly enough power over the major food companies who have lobbyist protecting their interests. These processes are inhumane and are leading to sicknesses in animals and humans. It affects the nutrients in some of our favorite foods; ones we once thought were healthy and safe to eat. So what can change these practices? We can, with everything we eat, just use your wallet! When at supermarkets buy organic foods or grass/grain fed meats. Go to your local farmers market or butcher shop and support the farmers in your area that produce grass/grain fed animal produces. Look for free range animal products as well; these animals were allowed to roam free during their life. Consumers have the power to change these practices every day at the supermarket. The choice is ours.
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