Spring Cleaning Carnival: Get the CAFOs Out

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Please welcome Kelly the Kitchen Kop today, whose peppy self I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in real life. She dishes out on the truth of nourishing foods and busts “politically correct” nutrition, and today she’s our feature in the Spring Cleaning: Get the Junk Out! Carnival. See all the topics here.SPRING CLEANING BUTTON

The reasoning behind avoiding meat from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or “Factory Farms” began for me when I learned that the meat from animals out on pasture and treated well is not only safer, but more nutritious, too. It was only after watching Food, Inc., the Meatrix and other sad YouTube videos, that it also bothered me how CAFO animals are often treated. However, for the sake of this post we’ll focus on why you want to know where your meat comes from and how this relates to food safety and increased nutrition.

What’s a “CAFO”?

CAFO stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.

This means that animals are raised in conditions that are often downright inhumane. They may be kept in areas where they’re unable to move around freely, or where there’s no access to the outside for sunshine or fresh air, let alone to eat the natural grass their ruminant stomachs were made to eat. They’re often sick due to these conditions and then receive extra antibiotics, which are ingested by those who eat that meat. (No wonder many of us are resistant to antibiotics when we might really need them.)

“Low Cost Production” is the name of the game, growth hormones are common (or even the norm?), so they get fatter faster. (And our society becomes more estrogen dominant, causing more health issues.)  This is all very unnatural, so again, they’re often sick, and get more antibiotics. (Wikipedia says that in the European Union, growth hormones are banned on the basis that there is no way of determining a safe level.)factory farm cows

More from Wikipedia:

The number of people involved in farming dropped as the process became more automated. In the 1930s, 24 percent of the American population worked in agriculture compared to 1.5 percent in 2002; in 1940, each farm worker supplied 11 consumers, whereas in 2002, each worker supplied 90 consumers.[28]

The number of farms has also decreased, and their ownership is more concentrated. In the U.S., four companies produce 81 percent of cows, 73 percent of sheep, 57 percent of pigs and 50 percent of chickens.[29] In 1967, there were one million pig farms in America; as of 2002, there were 114,000,[30] with 80 million pigs (out of 95 million) killed each year on factory farms as of 2002, according to the U.S. National Pork Producers Council.[28] According to the Worldwatch Institute, 74 percent of the world’s poultry, 43 percent of beef, and 68 percent of eggs are produced this way.[14]

Europe has become increasingly skeptical of factory farming, after a series of diseases such as Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, “mad cow”) and foot and mouth disease affected its agricultural industries, yet despite these outbreaks there are indications that the industrialized production of farm animals is set to increase globally.”

Obviously, the fewer farms there are, the more meat that will be contaminated in each incident.

In contrast to all that, I keep thinking of the video I took recently (for my upcoming Rookie Class) at the farm where we buy our meat. When my farmer friend stepped outside and yelled, “Sheeeeeep! Sheeeeep!” they all stopped chewing the grass and came running over to him from the other side of the pasture. There’s something so sweet about that! (I was able to get a great shot, too.)  And I know that he knows what is the natural diet for his sheep (or cows or chicken or pigs), and that when they are fed that natural diet and raised in such a way that they’re content, not only is it the right thing to do, it makes for nutrient-dense “salad bar” meat (as Joel Salatin calls it).

How are pastured meats more nutritious?

From EatWild.com:

1. “Extra Omega-3s. Meat from grass-fed animals has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain- fed animals. Omega-3s are called “good fats” because they play a vital role in every cell and system in your body. For example, of all the fats, they are the most heart-friendly.”

    • Other omega-3 benefits:
    • lowered risk of high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat
    • 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack
    • Brain food: lowered risk of depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder (hyperactivity), or Alzheimer’s disease
    • reduced incidence of cancer

“Omega-3s are most abundant in seafood and certain nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds and walnuts, but they are also found in animals raised on pasture. The reason is simple. Omega-3s are formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves and algae. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass are omega-3s. When cattle are taken off omega-3 rich grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on omega-3 poor grain, they begin losing their store of this beneficial fat. Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, its supply of omega-3s is diminished.

When chickens are housed indoors and deprived of greens, their meat and eggs also become artificially low in omega-3s. Eggs from pastured hens can contain as much as 10 times more omega-3s than eggs from factory hens.”

confined chickens in cages Read more about omega-3s and the omega-3/6 balance.

2. “The CLA Bonus. Meat and dairy products from grass-fed ruminants are the richest known source of another type of good fat called “conjugated linoleic acid” or CLA. When ruminants are raised on fresh pasture alone, their products contain from three to five times more CLA than products from animals fed conventional diets.(A steak from the most marbled grass-fed animals will have the most CLA ,as much of the CLA is stored in fat cells.)

CLA may be one of our most potent defenses against cancer…Researcher Tilak Dhiman from Utah State University estimates that you may be able to lower your risk of cancer simply by eating the following grassfed products each day: one glass of whole milk, one ounce of cheese, and one serving of meat. You would have to eat five times that amount of grain-fed meat and dairy products to get the same level of protection. “

3. Vitamin E. Meat from grassfed animals is also higher in vitamin E.

By the way, EatWild.com also mentioned that grass-fed meat is lower in fat and calories, but I didn’t use those quotes because I don’t buy into the fact that saturated animal fats are a fat to be avoided.

To Be Continued…

Do you have posts or comments to share about the issue of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations? Would you like to know more about better alternatives? Head over to my Kitchen Kop blog where I’ll add a little more scoop and I’m including a couple videos that give me chills every time I watch. I’ve also got Mr. Linky ready to roll so you can add your posts to the mix or just stop over to read what everyone else has to say. I’ve even included links to other points of view. I’ll see you there, thanks Katie!

Thanks to you, too, Kelly! This week’s Monday Mission is my entry, as I’m still sifting through the evidence on good meat vs. bad meat vs. who knows what the research shows? 😉

Join us again next week when Laura of Heavenly Homemakers shares her organic gardening skills in “Get the Pesticides Out!”  My brown thumb and I will be talking about produce that you can buy, like the New 2010 Dirty Dozen Produce recommendations. See all the topics here.

WIN a copy of Kelly’s Real Food Ingredient Guide!

From fats to organic foods to scary ingredients labels, Kelly’s eBook will help you determine where to find real food, how to prioritize what you buy, and even “compromise” foods that won’t kill you too fast! She breaks down every category an eater could want and gives a simple sound byte of information to help you fill your pantry and fridge with wholesome, nourishing foods without stressing out over it (too much).

Read more about the Real Food Ingredient Guide, and then comment here for a chance to WIN one for yourself! ($5 value)

HOW TO ENTER: Just leave a comment telling me your current meat purchasing situation and any questions you have. (If you receive KS via email, you will need to click over to the site to leave a comment.) If you’d like more chances, obtain 5 extra entries by doing any of the following. Please leave each entry in a separate comment.

  1. Subscribe in a reader or via email to Kitchen Stewardship (or tell me if you already do).
  2. Visit Kelly and leave a comment there, or enter the carnival.
  3. Follow me on Twitter AND Tweet about the giveaway (just click the button at the top of this post).
  4. Stumble or Digg this post (you can use the “Share This!” icon at the bottom of the post). (What is Stumble?)
  5. “Like” me via Facebook on my new Kitchen Stewardship page!

Be sure to tell me everything you did in separate comments. I still trust the honor system. Just be honest about what you’ve done – giveaways should be fun!

I will use random.org’s integer generator to choose the winner. The giveaway is open to the whole world. Entries will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, May 9th (Happy Mother’s Day!), and I’ll post the winners by the following day.

Disclosure:  Kelly is just so great at sharing – she gave me a guide to review and will give you one, too, but nobody is paying anybody, and she didn’t coerce me to say nice things. But she might, if I didn’t. 😉

photo credit

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85 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. Tonya says

    I’m disappointed you promote such a one sided view of conventional agriculture, much the same that Food Inc does. :(

    Last I checked, there is no evidence that pastured, locally grown foods are “safer” than conventionally produced foods. In fact, farms/producers that market themselves as “safer” may be opening themselves up to lawsuits & are hopefully carrying good liability coverage. (I’m thinking in terms of producers who recommend eating grassfed beef raw or undercooked or may not be properly inspected if butchering on site.)

    Before you begin commenting on an industry that you know little about & have only looked at one side of, why not ask a farmer? For starters, check out american agriwomen’s companion to Food Inc, http://americanagriwomen.org/files/response%20to%20food%20inc.pdf & http://www.safefoodinc.com.

    From the pdf:
    According to a 2008 Time Magazine article “a worldwide Slow Food initiative might lead to turning more forests into farmland. (To feed the U.S. alone with organic food, we’d need 40 million farmers, up from 1 million today.) In a recent editorial, FAO director-general Jacques Diouf pointed out that the world will need to double food production by 2050 and that to suggest organics can solve the challenge is ‘dangerously irresponsible.'”(http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2007/1000726/index.html)

    “Food, Inc.” fails to define when a “family farm” crosses the line and becomes what they call a “corporate farm.” Perhaps they believe this transformation occurs when a family farmer acquires more land or becomes more profitable or when the farmer has a certain number of livestock. That term is simply never defined in the film.
    According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, American farms are still what most people would call “family farms.” Today 98 percent of all U.S. farms are owned by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. Just two percent of America’s farms and ranches are owned by non-family corporations.

    Is corn an unnatural diet for cattle? Is it only fed to cattle because it’s cheap?
    No. Cattle can get the nutrients they need from eating a wide range of plants, including a variety of grains and grasses. Most beef produced in the United States comes from grain-finished cattle, which spend most of their lives on pasture eating grass before going to a feedlot for four to six months. While at a feedlot, cattle are fed a combination of grain and hay formulated by a professional nutritionist to ensure a well-balanced and nutritious diet. Corn feeding isn’t new, it’s just more sophisticated. In the United States, cattle have been fed grain for at least 200 years. Cattle are fed grains like corn because they are nutritious, energy-rich, and can be stored for use throughout the year.

    Today’s American farmer feeds about 144 people worldwide.
    • Approximately 85 percent of U.S. grazing lands are unsuitable for crop production. Grazing animals on this land more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food.

    Are large farms bad for the environment?
    Manure from farm animals when used as fertilizer improves soil and increases crop yields. It can become a pollutant if it reaches water supplies.
    Farm animal production in the United States has clearly shifted away from many small farms to an increasing number of larger farms. It takes several small farms to equal the manure production of a single large farm. On the large farm, the manure management responsibility lies with only one management system instead of several.
    Research shows larger farms use more comprehensive manure management practices than smaller farms. Larger farms must comply with stricter regulations than smaller farms and are often more able to employ people or hire consultants who specialize in manure management issues.
    Research suggests that large farms as a group may practice better manure management than smaller farms as a whole.


  2. Katie says

    While I appreciate your perspective, please note that Kelly included links to some ag sites at her post, and my post yesterday is peppered with them.

    I don’t see how the numbers work out: if 1 million farmers need to become 40 million, that means each farmer only feed 3.6 people (using the stat of a farmer feeding 144 people currently and dividing by the ratio of 40:1). Seems like some extremes are being extrapolated by both sides.

    I think you’ll be interested in what Michael Pollan said to answer my question at his talk in East Lansing last month. My question was: Can Salatin-style farms feed the world? Can factory farms become more sustainable? Is there a middle ground?

    I’ll type up my notes from the talk, hopefully for this Friday’s post. Looking forward to hearing your viewpoint!

    :) Katie

        • Tonya says

          I don’t see ag links on her site either. I replied to your post from yesterday. Hopefully some people will pay attention to the other side of the story, but that’s hard to do when prefaced with some of your negative comments. While the definition of propaganda can be simply put as information presented w/ the intent of winning over the reader with your position, I feel ag presents a much fairer viewpoint than the opponents….yet no one bothers to listen to ag because they’ve already been poisoned by Food Inc, Pollan, etc.

          • Naomi H says

            Katie has presented information for people to ponder – without any negative comments. Whatever our opinion or viewpoint, it is each person’s responsibility to understand their source of food. You may not agree with the real food movement, but that doesn’t mean that everybody who follows it is brainwashed. You seem to have thought about your food sources, and while it differs from my perspective, “real fooders” need to respect that too. Both sides present “facts,” “statistics,” and “studies”, and Katie is doing a great job of helping others to sift through the overwhelming mounds of information, be it fact or fiction.

            • tonya says

              i do not agree the real food movement is right for everyone. i think we should continue to have our choices & not vilify the alternatives.

              some days when talking to real foodies, i feel like i’m beating my head against a wall when i hear comments like “cows are standing in feces” & grain fed meat is “junk/crap/garbage” & the commentor doesn’t wish to listen to the information or first hand accounts i can provide. i don’t know what anyone here’s job is, but I’m guessing lots of you are parents. what if someone continually trashed your parenting style or choices & everyone else jumped on board & ran with it? as someone who grew up & trained in ag, that’s how i feel when people are propigating these untrue, misinformed, &/or slanted statements.

              if you want to be a real foodie, fine, but don’t press it upon the world & ask a farmer before you make generalizations about their livelihoods.

  3. says

    Current purchasing situation: Currently, I volunteer at the local food co op in order to get a 20% discount and I use that specifically for buying raw milk, organic produce and grass fed beef (and coconut oil for my granola!) – and I buy eggs from the neighbor’s daughter.
    .-= Newlywed & Unemployed´s last blog ..A Dietary Realization =-.

  4. Claudia says

    I’ve been vegetarian (lacto ovo) for nearly 20 years and this only underscores my personal decision. Everyone has the right to their own food choices, but I hope that learning about CAFO’s raises awareness for those who choose to eat meat.

  5. Sarah T. says

    Oh, you would ask about our current situation, wouldn’t you? How embarrassing… I’ve always been a stockpiler, so long before I ever found your site, I had pounds and pounds of discounted ground beef and (huge) chicken breasts in my freezer. I like the “baby steps” concept, knowing that I don’t have to throw all my food away and start over from scratch. So I haven’t gone out and purchased a quarter cow yet, but I’m working to that end. As of today, I only have 3 or 4 pounds of ground beef left in the freezer (don’t ask about chicken, I couldn’t tell you). I had a 25 lb. bag of white flour from Costco as well that I’m not going through nearly as quickly now- been doing 1/2-1/2 with my whole wheat.

  6. says

    Great information! Currently I buy our meat primarily from either the local Whole Foods or a local co-op style small grocery store. I would love to get to a point where I could buy alot more “bulk” and save overall, maybe half a cow or portion of a pig :-)
    I would love to have a copy of Kelly’s book, it looks wonderful and someday I might have to succumb and just buy it :-)
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Thoughts for Today =-.

  7. says

    we purchased beef and chicken from Tropical Traditions after watching Food Inc and decided to eat less meat to afford it. since then, the Lord opened up local options for us. we are getting chickens from an Amish farm in IN and buy eggs, fresh milk, and now beef from friends who have a farm about 20 minutes away. regardless of what others say, we won’t buy meat or dairy as we had in the past. the milk & eggs, in particular, made all the difference. our daughter would vomit regular milk and drinks frest milk without ANY problem. we would not believe it had we not experienced it personally!

    also, i’m new to your site. looking forward to learning much!

  8. says

    Our current meat situation…..

    We now have grass fed beef in our freezer. Am a little stuck on chicken breast (i know!) we get from costco as well as any other meat.

    Going to start getting farm fresh eggs.

    I read Tonya’s comments and I have to say no matter what stats she provides I can’t see how treating our food with hormornes is going to do any favors for my kids.

    I also am really getting seriuos about HFCS!

    Thanks for your post.

    I could use a little help with chicken ideas.

    .-= Tina Fisher´s last blog ..What is HFCS? =-.

  9. Mia says

    We currently buy grass fed ground beef at Trader Joe’s. Waiting for our first half cow purchase in July…yay. We are so excited. Still looking for an economic way to purchase better chicken meat and eggs.

  10. Beth says

    Totally agree with the numbers issue… Plus, if people raised even a small part of their own food, (and before you say it is impossible for most folks: remember sprouting) the demand from farmers would decrease. Almost every city allows for the keeping of a few hens for eggs… patios, porches and decks allow for container gardening, not to mention what can be cultivated indoors in a variety of ways.
    Personally: we keep hens for eggs and plan to increase that to geese, ducks and meat fowl production. (And our chicken’s feed is produced locally, made with Alaska grown barley and salmon, supplemented with all our kitchen scraps and leftovers, soured milk, edible garden trimmings and free-ranging late spring through early fall) Right now we buy organic whole chickens from wherever we can find them (stores), locally produced pork, and a mix of organic beef and ranged buffalo, to supplement our subsistence salmon catch. Have a friend with a friend who just got a half an elk/half a beef/half a hog package (all locally produced)… investigating this for ourselves in the near future. Milk shares from a local farm, two shares equals two gallons a week of fresh, raw milk from grazed cows, which do, by the way, also receive grain because we live in Alaska where it is nearly impossible to completely grass feed them. Even the hay that we can grow up here is not rich enough to support them completely through the winter. My farmer said that when he tried the cows just got too skinny. I can settle for the compromise, knowing the alternative.

  11. Pat says

    I just signed up for your newsletter via email yesterday! Kelly wrote a great article and her book looks like it is filled with LOTS of info. We have been trying to eat very little meat to save us from the bad effects–I didn’t realize that just changing where we get the meat could make such a difference. I need to find out if there are farms around here that sell meat, otherwise going the Whole Foods route is SO expensive.

  12. says

    We have decided to forgo basically all CAFO meat in our house. The decision was not made lightly as it DRAMATICALLY affected our $100/month grocery bill. We are buying our beef from a farmer who raises it (grass fed, no antibiotics or hormones, etc) and will be getting a 1/4 of beef from another farmer this fall (same way of raising the animals). We currently are out of pork products (other than sausage that the farmer also sells) and will be looking to buy a 1/2 hog at some point soon. And I will not buy chicken that is processed conventionally or water/solution/brine infused. Read “Eating Animals” and you will probably avoid them as well. I almost threw up when I read about what that liquid contains.

    I grew up in a family that raised their own meat and figure it is the least I can do for my family. I want to know that the animal had a decent life before it gave it’s life for our family. I want to know that there are no added hormones or medications that could affect our health. I want to know that our animal was butchered by a small shop and that ALL the meat we get is from that ONE cow/pig. I want to KNOW and that is not possible with CAFO meat or our present system of factory farming.

    I am from an ag family. Both sets of Grandparents were farmers, multiple aunts and uncles are famers, cousins are going to be famers. I support FARMERS and know they will do their best for us when we expect that of them. I do not think that corporate farms will always do what is best for the animals or the consumers as they are too far removed from both.

    Just my two cents :)

    .-= Heather´s last blog ..Canning again! =-.

  13. Sarah says

    My current buying situation is unfortunate. I don’t know where/how to get 100% grassfed meat/eggs/milk. Is it much more expensive than the conventional products?

  14. Sarah says

    I “liked” you on Facebook! (It was my first time to your facebook page, by the way. Very nice!)

  15. Lanise says

    Well Katie, it looks like your awesome blog has caught the eye of Big Ag. Good for you. Thanks to you and Kelly for such a great post. We are currently raising our own laying hens, meat chickens, and turkeys. If we had the space we would have our own steer and hogs also. Instead we just buy it in bulk from a local rancher. I’m really surprised that anyone can justify CAFO’s as being acceptable.

  16. says

    I have been purchasing organic meats from the grocery store but always hoping to find a better option. I recently attended a local Farm to Table Conference and found a farmer who could provide us with grass fed beef and pastured chicken. I am so happy to have found a good source of meat . . .I just wish everyone could have that option!
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..Our Budding Environmentalists =-.

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