This is a guest article by Mannie Barling and Ashley F. Brooks – Simon

We have been asked over and over again, “Do the factory farms really mistreat their animals as much as the photos on the Internet show?” and “How much factory farmed meat do Americans eat a year?”

We have also been criticized by the factory farming industry for what they term exaggerations and blaming an entire industry for a few bad apples.  These criticisms read like a man denying that he beats his wife.  Everyone sees the bruises but the industry continues to deny the truth much like the old nursery rhyme about the naked Emperor who insists that he is wearing new clothes.

The manure lagoons, E. coli, Salmonella and livestock ankle-deep in urine soaked manure are very real.  They say a picture says a thousand words.  If so, what do the thousands of photos, multiple videos on the Internet and movies such as King Corn and Food, Inc. say?  How many recalls of factory farmed meats does it take?

For the record, we are both meat and poultry lovers.  We are not members of PETA or any other animal rights group.  Our politics would not be considered liberal by even a Tea Party member.  We are just two people who became critically ill eating factory farmed meats stuffed with chemicals, hormones and antibiotics (a total of 26 million pounds per year) and found that, by giving up these tainted meat choices, our health returned.

What we want is for the meat we eat daily to be raised on ranches as ranchers have for the 5,000 years before the creation of factory farms.  Our views represent those Americans who want and expect the highest quality foods to be stocked in their grocery stores and served in restaurants and fast food chains.  Basically we just want to eat the same foods our grandparents prepared and served.  Is this standard too much to ask the meat processing industry to conform to?

In response to all of the questions and industry criticism, this is a two-part series on CAFOs and factory farms – the unvarnished truth laid thread-bare on the table for all to see.

Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs, or factory farms) are terms referring to the process of raising livestock in confinement at high stocking density. A CAFO operates as a factory.  Its sole purpose is to produce meat, milk and eggs as quickly and as profitably as possible.

Only the media and general public use the word “factory farm”.  The official industry name is “factory operations” – known as AFO’s (animal feeding operations) and the largest ones known as CAFO’s (confined animal feeding operations).  The people who manage these CAFOs are called operators, not farmers.

Why do CAFOs affect so many Americans?  It is undisputed that confinement at high stocking density requires antibiotics and pesticides to mitigate the spread of disease and pestilence caused by these crowded living conditions.  The more animals confined, the harder it is to keep the confined areas clean.

Ardeth Baxter, an environmental and animal advocate based in New Mexico, notes that factory farmed dairy cows, like beef cows, “Are sprayed with pesticides and doused with antibiotics, hormones, and tranquilizers. The chemical residue is passed on to all those who consume their milk, taking over and effecting the health of everyone, including our young children.”

Laura Rogers, Project Director of the Pew Campaign says that, “Most consumers don’t realize that upwards of 70% of all antibiotics used in this country are fed, in low doses, to food animals.  And what this does is it creates the perfect situation for antibiotic resistant bacteria to grow and spread into the environment, and it reaches us through our food supply.”

On a typical factory farm you no longer see bright red barns or children milking cows.  Instead, you see dull, large prison-like buildings.  The animals have only cement to walk on – if they can walk at all.  They are never exposed to sunlight which is important to all animals and humans because of their need for vitamin D.  This alone reduces the nutritional value of factory farmed meats.

According to the U.S. National Pork Producers Council, 80 million pigs (out of 95 million) were killed each year on factory farms as of 2002.  According to the Worldwatch Institute, 74% of the world’s poultry, 43% of beef and 68% of eggs are produced on factory farms.

The numbers are even higher in the U.S., where, as of 2002, four companies produced 81% of cows, 73% of sheep, 57% of pigs and 50% of chickens – all factory farmed.  That number has risen steadily each year thereafter.  If a package is not marked organic or free range, you can assume that the meat comes from a factory farm.

Cows normally have a life span of 20 – 25 years, but a factory-farmed dairy cow is totally spent by the time it is two to three years old.  It is then slaughtered and sent to your grocery store meat section. Corn-fed cattle are prone to serious health conditions such as bloat, diarrhea, ulcers, liver disease and a weak immune system.  Their lives are shortened even more by the forced-feeding of GMO Bt corn and the illness and diseases fostered by crowded animal pens.

Confined cattle live even shorter lives.  Most critics assert that cattle have a life span of between 140 and 160 days caused by acidosis after being force-fed GMO Bt corn.

According to Dr. Francis Thicke, formerly of the USDA State Technical Committee and the Iowa Food Policy Council, cattle lack the enzymes to breakdown the corn that causes acidosis.  The industry argues otherwise but, even by their standards, the life span of GMO-fed cattle and cows is far less than their previously recorded normal life span.

Seventy-five years ago, it took a cow 4 or 5 years to reach a weight of 1,200 pounds. John Robbins, author of The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World, points out that “cattle can be slaughtered at just 14 – 16 months of age, thanks to massive amounts of corn, protein supplements, antibiotics, and growth hormones.”

In simple terms, an organic or natural range-fed dairy cow will yield milk for up to 15 years longer than its GMO-fed factory farmed cousins.  For example, Japanese-style Kobe beef raised in Texas are fed for up to nine years before slaughter while confined cattle live far less.  One beef is aged and tender while the other beef is tough and unhealthy.

Observers tell of cows in such poor health that they were unable to stand up.  These cattle are called “downers” and slaughtered for profit.  There are no funerals or cemeteries for sick cattle.  So, why does the government permit these sick and dead cattle to be placed in our food chain?  According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, “we do not have enough staff to monitor all of the factory farms”.

Why is monitoring cattle so important?  According to FDA records, in 2005 the average American consumes 63 pounds of beef, 60 pounds of chicken, 48 pounds of pork and 14 pounds of turkey – a total of 185 pounds annually.  Once you factor in the meat-less diets of infants and vegans, the annual consumption rises well over 200 pounds.

According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, “each year about 10%, or 900 million, of the animals raised for food never reach the slaughterhouse because they die on the farm due to stress, injury and disease.”  Most observers and critics contend that these dead cattle are sent to the slaughterhouse anyway.  If not, where did they go?  Could it be that sick animals contribute to the repeated E. coli breakouts in the U.S.?

According to Lisa Marie Tabor, an author who lives near a factory farm in Michigan, “During transport most cows are deprived of food, water and rest for over two days, and frightened when prodded.”  The poor handling of livestock does not improve either the taste or quality of the meat you eat.  Quite the contrary.

The substandard conditions on factory farms often result in anemia, influenza, intestinal diseases, mastitis, metritis, orthostasis, pneumonia and a long list of other ailments plaguing animals in factory farms.  Many employees become ill and antibiotic resistant from the chemicals, pesticides and antibiotics used on factory farms.  Just imagine what it is doing to you.

Critics say that, “By ignoring basic needs such as exercise, fresh air, and proper veterinary care, factory farms are a breeding ground for stress and infectious disease.”  See our blog on Salmonella at http://www.gather.com/viewImage.action?fileId=3096224746499077

Other experts opine that, “The antibiotics given to veal calves are passed on to consumers in the meat” and “physicians warn that the routine use of antibiotics in veal and other farm products is resulting in antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. These virulent bacteria render formerly life-saving antibiotics useless in combating human disease.”

According to the American Dietetic Association, “vegetarians have lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer and that vegetarians are less likely than meat-eaters to be obese.”

Not every American farmer is a factory farmer.  Their efforts to produce quality meats in the traditional manner should be applauded.  If you buy your meats from organic or natural farmers – ones who care about what Americans eat — then you can avoid most, if not all, of the consequences of eating factory farmed meats from diseased or sick animals.  One suggestion for safer meats is Eat Wild, source for safe, healthy, natural and nutritious grass-fed beef, lamb, goats, bison, poultry, pork, dairy…and other wild edibles, located at http://www.eatwild.com/

Factory farming has proved to be a disastrous example of “for profit” motives trumping what’s best for our society.  If you are what we eat, then eating factory farmed meats will turn Americans into chemical dump sites.  In the long run, we are just another profit center for American businesses to the detriment of our health.

In Part 2, we will set forth a list of all of the negative aspects of factory farmed beef, pork and poultry from the major scientists, researchers and critics of CAFOs that the industry chooses to either deny or confuse by attacking its critics with industry-generated “smoke screens”.

Mannie Barling and Ashley F. Brooks, R.N., are the authors of award winning books – Arthritis, Inflammation, Gout, Crohn’s, IBD and IBS – How to Eliminate Pain and Extend your Life (Books and Authors 2010 Best Books in the Health, Diet & Reference Categories) and Mannie’s Diet and Enzyme Formula – A Change of Lifestyle Diet Designed for Everyone (Blogger News Net 2010 Best Health And Nutrition Book Award winner) available at HowToEliminatePain.com, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other booksellers around the world.

The authors’ latest book, It’s Not Your Fault – Weight Gain, Obesity and Food Addiction is now available at HowtoEliminatePain.com, Amazon and booksellers everywhere.

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