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Consumer Beware: How Factory Farms May Affect Your Health

Posted Aug 23 2012 12:00pm

cows pasture Consumer Beware: How Factory Farms May Affect Your Health Even the name, factory farm or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) as they are called, sounds unappealing. As it turns out, factory farms may affect your health. As a smart cook, this kind of information is important so you can make good choices at the grocery store, like choosing sustainable seafood .

How Factory Farms May Affect Your Health

One of the primary problems with factory farms boils down to one thing–antibiotics. These operations use about 80 percent of all the antibiotics manufactured in the United States to keep livestock and poultry disease-free. According to the Worldwatch Institute, the global livestock population grew by 23 percent from 1980 to 2010. Cramped living conditions set up the perfect environment for disease, hence, the use of preventive measures.

You probably know that there was a time when doctors were admonished for over-prescribing antibiotics for kids. It was easier to pick up a prescription than haul Johnny to the doctor only to be given the same meds. The end result was resistant bacteria, which made fighting that infection harder. The same applies to livestock.

The bacteria that affect animals can also adapt to antibiotic use and produce more virulent strains. This mechanism explains in part why there is a new flu every year, though of viral origin. The problem with using antibiotics on livestock is that it can lead to more serious strains that can, in turn, be more harmful to people.

Staying Informed

A report by Consumer News found that it can be difficult for you to make good choices simply because of a lack of labeling. Many products don’t indicate one way or another if antibiotics are used. It is a hot issue, so a scrutiny of a manufacturer’s website may offer some information.

One way you can be ensured of a good choice is to buy organic. Yes, it is more expensive, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing to cut back on the meat in your diet. Americans over-consume protein as it is. Besides, it also adds to your carbon footprint. There’s also the humane factor.

We humans can’t help it. We may eat meat, but we don’t want animals to have a horrible life leading up to the trip to market. Animals grazing in pasture are under less stress than those crowded in factory farms. They naturally need less antibiotics due to this fact and because they are not overcrowded. They’re free to roam.

So, next time, when you’re shopping for steak or chicken, choose free range or grass fed products. You’ll be helping the environment and doing your part to help your family. That’s what being a smart cook is all about.


Consumer News. (2012). ’ Overuse of antibiotics in farm animals is a global issue ‘.

Worldwatch Institute. (2012).  Rising Number of Farm Animals Poses Environmental and Public Health Risks  antibiotic use as in with people; resistance develops .

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