Friday, June 11, 2010

CAFOs: Why You Eat So Much Meat

I mentioned yesterday that 3 out of every 5 kernels ends up on a farm factory, otherwise known as a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). Michael Pollan, continuing in his desire to follow our food chain, purchased a calf to follow closely because "the short, unhappy life of a corn-fed feedlot steer represents the ultimate triumph of industrial thinking over the logic of evolution." His calf was named 534, just like all the other steers birthed from his mother, 9534. He came to reside at Poky Feeders, a CAFO in Kansas, where it's $1.60/day for room and board, food, and medicine.

America's food animals have undergone a radical transformation since World War II. While they once grazed on grass on farms, many animals have since found themselves being shipped off to CAFOs. Because of the subsidies, farmers couldn't compete with the CAFOs simply because it cost a farmer more to grow feed corn than it cost CAFOs to buy.

CAFOs hold a very large number of animals at very high densities, aiming for the highest output at the lowest price.

Traditional animal farms make biological sense because nature accounts for everything. You can feed the animals with waste from the crops, and you can feed the animals' waste to the crops as manure. However, when animals are moved to factory farms, new problems arise. The animals must be adapted to eat corn, and the CAFOs must solve fertility problems (remedied with chemical fertilizers) and pollution problems.

One very large outcome of the CAFOs is that meat is no longer considered to be a special occasion treat; in fact, most Americans now eat meat with every meal. Of course, there are other consequences, including "environmental and health problems, polluted water and air, toxic wastes, novel and deadly pathogens."

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