A recent report from the Rodale Institute took the time to summarize Daniel Imhoff’s book: CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories, in which the truth of modern animal agriculture is described in a series of essays. Contributors include Wendell Berry, Wenonah Hauter, Fred Kirschenmann, Anna Lappé, Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser.
There are three main lies perpetuated by the agriculture industry that this book succeeds in exposing: Lie #1: Industrial Food Is Cheap, Lie #2: Industrial Food Is Efficient, Lie #3: Industrial Food Is Healthy.
Lie # 1: Industrial Food Is Cheap: The “cheap” price of animal products fails to reveal many hidden costs. The retail prices overtly omit the price paid to the environment, public health and animal welfare.
The environmental destruction caused by factory farms is at a dangerous level. For example, in order to grow feed for livestock, the soil and water are routinely treated with pesticides. Second, our water bodies are compromised with animal waste. Lastly, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions emitted from the livestock industry have been cited as greater than all transportation combined.
It is increasingly becoming common knowledge that diets high in animal based foods are resulting in several serious illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and several cancers. Annual costs for these diseases in the United States alone exceed $33 billion. In addition, because animals are routinely treated with antibiotics in order to combat their unnatural living conditions, we are facing a serious public health issue of antibiotic resistance.
The biggest invisible cost is in the form of animal suffering. The animals on factory farms face unimaginable living conditions. See our page on Factory Farms for an outline of what animals raised for food endure.
Lie #2: Industrial Food Is Efficient: Indeed CAFO’s produce a large quantity of “products” for a relatively “cheap” cost. However, it is commonly misconstrued that a high level of productivity equates to efficiency. A quick glance at the output of milk, meat and eggs may help inflate the illusion of efficiency, but a closer look reveals a startling reality. Regarding protein output, eating animals is highly inefficient. Animals consume many more calories than they produce. For example, pigs convert 5.9 pounds of feed into a pound of pork. Cattle require 13 pounds of feed per pound of beef, though some estimates range much higher. To supplement that feed, one-third of the world’s ocean fish catch is ground up and added to rations for pigs, broiler chickens, and farmed fish. Adding to their inefficiency is the contribution factory farms make to pollution, waste, and public health scares such as E. coli and salmonella, which are funded by public tax money in the form of grain subsidies.
Lie #3: Industrial Food Is Healthy: Death and illness relating to diets based in animal foods is at an all time high. According to the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University, meat and dairy foods contribute all of the cholesterol and are the primary source of saturated fat in the typical American diet. We are facing staggering statistics on obesity and high blood pressure which often leads to a larger incidence of heart disease (currently the leading cause of death in the U.S.). Another hidden factor of our reliance on animal foods is the affect our consumption and lifestyle has on the global community. We are a window to many developing countries, and they are starting to emulate our destructive habits.
These reasons and more are why A Well-Fed World promotes plant-based solutions for health, hunger and environmental concerns, creating a healthy, well-fed world for all.