Secrets of the Meat Industry

Isabella Wartzenluft, Reporter and Editor

According to the North American Meat Institute, the meat and poultry industry is the largest sector of agriculture in the United States. With 321 million Americans to feed, it is no wonder that production is constantly in motion. However, the meat and dairy that Americans buy in grocery stores does not tell the full story. Where is our food really coming from?

The answer is factory farms. According to PETA, animals on these farms endure horrific conditions. They are shoved into small spaces and cages, fed antibiotics to increase growth rate, and genetically manipulated to produce more [eggs, milk, meat] than they naturally would. Their throats are slit, bodies immersed in boiling water, and they are skinned while alive.

I want animals to be treated kindly, and that’s not always what happens… factory farms tend to be very cramped and do not have optimal conditions for animals,” says Olivia Bastien, a senior at Arrowhead High School.

According to Farm Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization, the meat and dairy industry has negative effects on the environment. Animals produce more than one million tons of manure each day. This manure contains various gasses including methane and carbon dioxide which, two greenhouse gas, which can both contribute to global warming.

The antibiotics that animals are fed in order to not contract diseases and grow abnormally fast often end up in their waste. This can run into rivers and streams close by, contaminating water and crops that may be ingested by people.

In 2009, Food, Inc., a documentary created by filmmaker Robert Kenner was released. This film includes gruesome clips from slaughterhouses and factory farms as well as shocking facts that, according to Takepart, changed the way that millions of Americans eat. Today this documentary can be viewed on Netflix.

A few of these new ways of eating include vegetarianism and veganism. According to Harvard Medical School, vegetarianism, otherwise known as lacto-ovo vegetarian, is removing all meat from one’s diet, though eggs and dairy are still consumed. Veganism is cutting out all animal products, including dairy and eggs.

In regards to going vegetarian or vegan, Greyson MacLean, an Arrowhead senior, says, “It seems environmentally and morally and sustainably supported. Unfortunately, I have found that a high-protein diet is what works best for me, and varied proteins of meats have been very helpful. I know there are protein-rich plant products, but many have other nutrients that must be accounted for, that is, high fat content or high in simple carbs.”

According to Harvard Medical School, these diets can have many advantages including lower body mass index (BMI), less risk for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes as well as an overall longer life.

“I have gone vegetarian and was consistent for seven months. I started to become very unhealthy because I was not able to focus on my diet like a vegetarian should. If at some point in my life I am able to spend the time to focus on my diet, I will happily become vegetarian once again. Overall I am rather uneducated about the meat industry, which I think is true of most people. I would love to learn more,” says Bastien.