For the past week or so the Surviving The 21st Century team of Mannie Barling, Ashley F. Brooks, and Simon Barrett have been exploring the world of Factory Farming, the technical term is CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). One thing has become very clear, this is a, like other aspects of the modern food industry is a very political arena. In a recent article we explored the role of the FDA and USDA in the grand scheme of things. I highly recommend that you read it. Here is the link.

The publication of two other articles specifically on the subject of Factory Farming seems to have some industry wonks with their panties in a knot! If you missed these articles, you can read them here and here.

The employment of CAFO techniques does pose many questions about food safety, and also health concerns. So important is the subject of Factory Farming that we decided to focus on it during our last broadcast of Surviving The 21st Century.

It was a wide ranging discussion that covered many aspects of CAFO and its inherent dangers. A great example is excrement. At first the the subject seems more like the target of schoolboy humor, what do you do with the number ones and number twos of 10,000 cows or pigs that live in close proximity? Actually it is far from a joke, it is a deadly serious subject. The industry answer has been to store the waste is large man made lagoons. Potential and reported problems include build ups of explosive methane gas, and also ground water contamination should the lagoon be breached in some way.

For me though the most chilling aspect of our discussion was some research conducted by Ashley F. Brooks. She found much anecdotal evidence of health problems encountered by both CAFO workers and residents who live in the proximity of these operations from what appears to be airborne contaminates.

There are also many questions about the health of the animals themselves. Living in such close proximity the opportunity for a problem to spread is huge. The industry has attacked the issue by the use of antibiotics. The FDA in their infinite wisdom have regulated this practice in a most deregulated way. In my simplistic mind the directive is ‘only use this solution if you want to, but we trust you, so we are pulling a page out of the military play-book, don’t ask, don’t tell’.

Of course my cynical view is that the CAFO lobbyists should start a TV ad blitz. Stay Healthy Eat A Steak Today – our antibiotic laced meats will fight whatever ails you!

Another subject that was dissed was the very disturbing egg recall in 2010. Over half a billion (500,000,000) eggs were yanked from the store shelves because of health concerns. I am sure that I was not alone in thinking that these eggs were destroyed. That was not the case. In actual fact the FDA permitted the re-purposing of them. If you eat packaged bake goods there is a sporting chance that you have enjoyed these tainted eggs. While deemed unfit for people to use in their homes, apparently they were just fine for Big Food to use. I was stunned and shocked. So should you be!

If you missed our original broadcast you can listen to the recording.

Simon Barrett

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