Factory farming is a system of raising animals indoors that exploits them for profit. Major fast-food chains, such as McDonald’s, have been identified as major perpetrators of factory farming since they require large quantities of meat and poultry to be served at their restaurants.
The vast majority of animals raised for food in the U.S. are raised in factory farms, which are hidden from public view and control behind chicken wire or other opaque enclosures. The negative consequences of factory farming are too numerous to go into here, but let’s take a quick look at some of the main reasons why this type of agriculture is detrimental to the environment and our health.
Factory farming is inefficient
Factory farming is not efficient for harvesting crops. As it stands, conventional farming is a wasteful process. Crops are grown on fields that have to be continually cultivated. This is because the nutrients in a given area are not evenly distributed.
If a field is left fallow or cultivated without fertilizing the soil, the nutrients will be evenly distributed in the soil and the same yield will be achieved. But if the same crop is cultivated in the same soil, the yield is lower because some of the nutrients are depleted.
This is the reason why farmers need to continuously cultivate their fields. This practice of cultivating fields is wasteful. Crops require sunlight, water and nutrients to produce a profit. If a field is left uncultivated, the nutrients in the soil are evenly distributed, and the same yield will be produced.
But if the same crop is cultivated in the same soil, the yield is lower because some of the nutrients are depleted. Thus, the process of growing crops is wasteful.
Factory farming is a leading cause of climate change
Conventional animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. This is largely due to livestock production: feed crops for livestock production are grown for feeding the animals, and are not used for human food production.
Factory farming also requires a lot of water. One California study showed that an average factory farm uses more than four times as much water as a vegetable operation. The result is not only a shortage of fresh water in many areas of the world, but also the contamination of fresh water supplies.
Factory farming is linked to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
Overuse and misuse of antibiotics has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Because the use of antibiotics in conventional agriculture is linked to the overuse of these drugs in humans, these superbugs are one of the consequences of factory farming.
Antibiotic resistance has become a progressively greater risk factor in human medicine, since it heightens the chance of life-threatening infections and contributes to a growing hospital-acquired infection rate.
These superbugs can be found easily in the environment, in livestock, and in humans because of factory farming. Agriculture is a major source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), bacteria found on meat are more likely to be resistant to antibiotics than bacteria found on non-meat products.
Factory farmed animals are subjected to cruel, inhumane treatment
Conventional animal agriculture is based on the exploitation and abuse of animals. Just as humans are not meant to be treated as machines, animals are not meant to be raised for food. In conventional factory farming, animals are subjected to cruel, inhumane treatment.
A pig factory farm. A side effect of this type of farming is the spread of animal diseases and the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the environment. Pig farmers are notorious for confining sows in small spaces.
The 21 million pigs raised in factory farms in the U.S. produce over 21 billion pounds of pig manure, which is stored in open-air lagoons, pits, or sprayfields, or in poorly designed or constructed structures that are prone to collapse.
These lagoons and sprayed fields often fail, releasing a cloud of swine waste into the environment. Manure created in factory farms has been linked to a host of environmental and health problems, including water pollution and the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Factory farming is an unsustainable way to raise animals for food, and it causes a variety of problems for the environment and for human health. These problems include the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the water pollution caused by the manure that results from factory farming, and the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria among humans and animals.
Fortunately, there are many alternatives to factory farming that are more environmentally friendly and less cruel to animals. These include raising animals on small family farms, raising animals in pastures, and raising animals on a vegetarian diet.