The process in which we obtain food in modern times is quite the adventure. Villains, mad scientists, politics, a hope for a happily ever after- really, the stuff of fairy tales. Many companies rely on the old homage to the farm to table life style, with cheery red barns and laughing cows on the wrappers. In-reality, the picture painted by modern day industrial farming is a far cry from tractors and family farms.
No grass, just a large mass of cattle- the typical sight of Industrial Livestock Production. Profits are number one. The safety and welfare for the animals and the local community are overlooked for an increase in production. The effects on water quality, soil preservation, pollution, acres occupied for the growth of grain to feed the millions of livestock – these things are all outweighed by the bottom dollar. Must maximize the profits, at all cost!!! This is the process of Factory Farming.
In factory farming, labour saving technologies are used in the form of pesticides and medical inputs. These places are no longer considered by the government as farms, but as “Animal Feeding Operations” (AFO’s). The long drive through a rural society no longer looks like green rolling hills, with scattered families of livestock gnawing on the vegetation spread out with in the boundaries of the family farm. There’s a big red barn that has the family name plastered on the front. Fourth generation farmer, running and managing the animals and the property. Guess what? That red barn is gone – all that is left is a land mass covered with barren ground and a LARGE bundle of cattle – white, brown, black, multi-coloured, some standing, some laying. The barn has been replaced by large buildings – a family name no longer exists, replaced by a prosperous, proud corporation.
So how do we feed all the cattle? Farmland is taken over by millions of plots of cattle corn and soy. Human mouths grow with hunger, but the animals’ mouths never do. Cows aren’t even meant to digest corn, only grass- yet another feat of bio engineering. Yet another sacrifice. Precious land could be used for grain for human consumption. Instead our resources are depleted; excessive fresh water use, degrading soil, pesticide use contaminating ground water, no sustainability.
Improper land use, pollution, mistreatment of animals, those are the sacrifices for feeding our overpopulated planet. Large quantities of food for human consumption must be made available, while the corporation increases their profits. Seems like a minor sacrifice for an exponential problem. The high costs of running an AFO is reflected in the prices at the grocery store. No longer can you get a pound of beef for a dollar. Now the cost is much more steep.
After the herd is “fully” grown, they head off to slaughterhouses, now called food processing plants. The animals are transported off the AFO for thousands of kilometres to the preferred processing plant. Many beef processing plants from before 1980 could not survive the reduction in beef consumption, or the American packers, as they dominated the market. Many were sold to larger corporations and converted over to specialize in pork or chicken. In Canada, on average, 25,000 chickens are processed per hour. That works out to 219 million chickens a year. That indicates one type of species, in one country. Imagine world wide the detrimental effects.
Large-scale meat processing plants typically specialize in one specific type of livestock. Same sex, age and species. However, small-scale farmers provide a wide variety of products, including organic, and all are government regulated. These meats are sold privately at farmer’s markets and a specialty food stores. This special line of food processing is considered organic and sold for a premium price.
(Aguilar, R, 2011)
Several groups have lobbied against food processing planets and AFO’s over the mistreatment of animals. Those groups believe that animals have rights too, similarly to human beings. Furthermore, we must consider the rights of human beings, specifically the rights of farmers in connection to major companies.
It’s not surprising that over the year’s cross pollination occurs naturally. Cross pollination only occurs between members of the same species. For example, a squash and a pumpkin could cross pollinate since they belong to the same species. This had been the only way cross pollination occurred until 1980, when a genetics engineer received the first patent on a living organism. Since then it seems that engineers have not stopped trying to make “better” product.
Fast forward to the present time, when Monsanto has become a household name. It has gotten to the point where if their patented product cross pollinates with a local organic farmer’s crop, that farmer may be legally required to start buying seed from Monsanto. Even though it isn’t the farmers fault, it’s up to the farmer to take all necessary precautions to not cross pollinate. This has started to become a huge concern, since the more product that is cross pollinated, the more rights Monsanto possess to the product. (Product that hasn’t been fully tested, making sure it’s safe for human consumption) If this continues, we won’t have any non-GMO foods left in the future. Now that may not seem like a big deal at first, but once this occurs, Monsanto will own rights, dictate costs, and ultimately be in control of our health and future. This makes it almost impossible for farmers to maintain their own seed stock, and in the event they fight these companies, they are dragged through years of costly litigation that often does not end with a win on their side.
One can clearly see the impact that industrial farming takes not only on the planet, but on our perception of morality. Whether it be beef or corn, the agriculture industry has turned farming and produce in factories that might as well be churning out the latest hatchback. How many more sacrifices must we accept, at the expense of the exponential growth of our planet. Sustainability is a daunting goal; we must strive for it. The next generation is depending on it.
Picture (Alberta Feed & Consulting Ltd., 2016, retrieved from http://albertafeed.com/)
Picutre (Blue Sky Family Farms, 2015, retrieved from http://www.blueskyfamilyfarms.com/)
GMO-Awareness.com, 2011–2014, GMO Timeline – A History of Genetically Modified Foods, retrieved from https://gmo-awareness.com/all-about-gmos/gmo-timeline-a-history-of-genetically-modified-foods/
Grace Communications Foundation, 2016, Industrial Livestock Production Animal feed, retrieved from http://www.sustainabletable.org/859/industrial-livestock-production
IAC Publishing Labs Company, 2016, What are some example of cross-pollination?, Retrieved from https://www.reference.com/science/examples-cross-pollination-8752812583a9687f
MacLachlan, I, 2006, Meat-Processing Industry, retrieved from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/meat-processing-industry/
Picture (University of Nabraska Lincoln,retrieved from http://passel.unl.edu/pages/informationmodule.php?idinformationmodule=1075412493&topicorder=9&maxto=12)
Picture (courtesy William James Topley/Library and Archives Canada/PA-026094)