The big names in American agriculture would like you to believe that your strip steak, salmon filet, scrambled eggs and bacon came from healthy, happy animals raised on good, old-fashioned family farms. But, as more Americans are coming to realize, behind those perfectly cellophane-wrapped meats, bright white eggs and plastic milk gallons are tales so gruesome and downright shocking that it's a surprise Hollywood has yet to make it a movie about it.
"It" is agribusiness, the term given to describe the mass production of meats, poultry, fish, eggs and milk in America today, and it's the topic of Ken Midkiff's new book, The Meat You Eat: How Corporate Farming Has Endangered America's Food Supply -- a book that absolutely every American who values their health, eats meat, believes in humanity, and/or values our environment should read!
If you've never heard about the unethical conditions and extreme environmental toll of factory farms or the many unsavory and dangerous additives to mass-produced meats and animal products, then be prepared for a huge wakeup call when you read this important book. And for those who have, this book will open your eyes to the real problem at hand-large and incredibly powerful corporations who are in control of the food supply-and offer you a solution that you can really use.
Unsavory Mass Farming Statistics ... Did You Know?
* About 70 percent of all antibiotics and similar drugs produced in the United States are given to livestock and poultry?
* Arsenic and selenium are sometimes added to livestock feed to stimulate appetite?
* Sanderson Farms, a chicken plant that is ranked 24th on the EPA's list of the largest polluters in the country, and whose Web site says, "100% Chicken. Naturally," released 2,195,343 pounds of toxic wastes into neighboring waterways?
* 3% of U.S. farms generate 62% of all agricultural production?
* An average farmed salmon steak contains nearly 10 times more toxic PCBs than a wild salmon steak?
The message of "The Meat You Eat" comes through loud and clear: Large corporations have taken over the production of food in America and, unless we get control back to the small farmers who take pride in producing healthy food from happy animals, our food supplies, our environment and our own bodies will suffer.
It is quite apparent that Ken Midkiff has done extensive homework on the topic (and, as he is the Sierra Club's Clean Water Campaign Director, has access to some "insider" facts), as this book is not a "rant" but instead is supported throughout by researched insights. Here are just a few of the examples that Midkiff cites:
* In McDonald County, Mississippi, where 13 million broiler chickens and hundreds of thousands of turkeys are produced, every stream is on a government "impaired water body" list.
* The smells coming from one hog farm, with some 80,000 hogs, in Missouri forced many residents to buy air conditioners because they could no longer open their windows for fresh air.
* School officials in an Ohio-town that's home to a chicken plant with 15 million chickens struggled just to keep flies away from students.
Clearly the environment cannot take too much more of this abuse before permanent damage sets in, but if this is the damage being done to the environment, imagine the damage being done to our bodies. Animals on factory farms -- this includes cows, pigs and fish -- are not raised to provide healthy food sources ? they're raised to make the maximum amount of money possible.
Maximum profit is why they are fed sub-par foods like grains, pumped full of antibiotics and hormones to fend of the diseases that fester in the large warehouses and make them grow quickly. Maximum profit is why they are raised in toxic environments full of animal wastes and chemicals, and then sometimes, as in the case of milk and some eggs, are pasteurized or heat treated to kill off dangerous pathogens (that are there in the first place because the conditions are so toxic).
In the end, as Midkiff makes clear in "The Meat You Eat," the animals suffer, the environment suffers, and the health of you and your loved ones suffers.
Let's Give Our Kids a Chance
At this rate, it seems that factory farms will soon make family farms a thing of the past, and our children and generations to come will not have access to the clean sources of food that many of us took for granted.
One of the best parts of "The Meat You Eat" is a resource section in the back to find small, sustainable farmers in your area. These are the types of farmers that the big corporations draw pictures of on their product labels; the real "family" farms that our society is forcing into extinction. There is a listing for every state.
Aside from being free of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and other chemicals, animals that are raised on pasture, or on small, sustainable farms are happier and healthier:
* Factory-farmed cattle fed grains are more susceptible to E. Coli and other bacterial infections
* Meat from pasture-raised animals is lower in calories and "bad" omega-6 fats and higher in "good" omega-3 and CLA fats
* Eggs from poultry raised on pasture have 10% less fat, 40% more vitamin A and 400% more omega-3
* Factory-farmed animals live in highly stressful and inhumane conditions, making them predisposed to illness and food-borne pathogens
No matter what your personal political affiliation, SixWise.com urges everyone to take the time to read The Meat You Eat -- it's a quick read (the chapters are even broken down into easily manageable sections titled Big Pig, Big Chicken and Big Egg, Big Milk, Big Beef and Big Fish), an important read, and one that can help lead to a positive transformation in both a big-picture and personal sense.
"We have given up to the agribusiness corporations a crucial part of our responsibility as human beings and we must now think of ways to take it back."
- Wendell Berry, from the Foreword
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