Monday, August 19, 2013

It Makes My Heart Hurt. :-(

I've had a couple discussions today that have me thinking about some things that we as a society have deemed acceptable, that are a real shame. Now, many subjects fall under that category but what is on my mind today is food, and many aspects of food that over time, we've gotten hugely wrong.

I really don't care what other people feed their families. What bothers me, more than anything is ignorance. If you're going to BUY something... give someone money in return for a product, SUPPORT AN INDUSTRY, you need to know what you're voting for. The reality of the food industry is sad, and it's not easy to see or learn about, but it's very real. And you're feeding it to your kids. You're voting with your dollars. By buying certain things you're essentially saying "I approve of this company and the ethics that went into this product." and... most people have no idea what that even means, they have no idea what they're voting for.
 I didn't for a long time! That's what the FDA is for, they're going to keep us safe! If it makes it to the shelf, it's safe to consume! That's their job. Newsflash, the FDA (like the rest of our government) doesn't work for you. They work for the big companies that keep their pockets full.
What I can't wrap my head around, and perhaps it's my own ignorance, is how someone can either
1. Not even care to learn when the subject matter is brought to their attention, or
2. How someone could possibly learn and NOT want to make changes.
Learning about the food industry the last year and a half has been literally life-changing, and it's something I've grown so passionate about, I do want to share it... but I don't want to shove anything down anyone's throats. So, take what I say with a grain of salt. A grain of real sea salt, that is. Don't be offended. And if you're still going to buy the same ol meat you've always bought because it's cheap and tastes good, that's fine. I don't care.

This post isn't even going to be about processed junk food.  That is a whole other post. What THIS post is about... is factory farming. What is it? What are the pros and cons of factory farming? What does it mean for the nutritional content of your food? What does it mean for your health? What does our overall acceptance of it say about society as a whole?

What is factory farming? 
Factory farming is how most meats readily available at the grocery store are raised. It is a business farm in which aims to produce the most meat and highest profit margin possible, which is achieved by housing as many animals as possible in whatever space they have. Most of our meat, dairy, and eggs are produced this way.

What are the pros and cons of factory farming? 
The very obvious pro here is that we have a constant food supply, which is convenient in the world we live in. Unfortunately we utilize that supply in the least efficient way possible, much of it going to complete waste while many starve, but that's a subject for another day.
The cons are plentiful. Animals are kept in conditions that are not just less than ideal, but downright cruel. The way we house and feed them leaves their own bodies weak and deficient, and those deficiencies spill over into the nutritional content (or lack thereof) in our food. Factory farming is terrible for the environment as well. I could really go on and on, but I'm trying to keep this simple.

What does factory farming mean for the nutritional content of YOUR food? 
Factory farming raises animals in such a way that is so far removed from what nature intended, that it impacts not only their quality of life, but also the nutritional content in the meat we buy. These are chickens that have never seen sunlight, pigs who have never seen mud, cows who have never felt grass beneath their hooves. ALL are vitamin D deficient, and because their diet isn't even natural (cows are NOT ment to eat grains.) they are lacking important omegas.
We see these deficiencies spill over into people. In fact, there was a study done on Omega 3's and their effect on clinical depression, a disorder that we have a very high rate of here in the USA, and is nearly unheard of in other areas, and one of the big differences in the areas is what people eat. In Iceland, for example, most people eat a lot of wild caught fish and farm raised, grass-fed beef, and depression is a near non-issue there. Here, on the other hand, not only is too much of our diet processed to begin with which lacks biologically available nutrients, but on top of that, what little "real food" most people eat is factory farmed. As a result, we see a high rate of deficiencies in people which lead to some pretty serious diseases and health problems, which would be completely avoidable on a more natural diet. People die over these things. It's serious.
Factory farming produces less nutritious foods, is the bottom line. All those things you know of beef: good source of iron, good source of Omega 3's, good source of protein, good source of vitamins B 3 & 12, good source of zinc and phosphorus.... none of that holds true for factory farmed beef the way it does for grass-fed pasture raised animals.

What does it mean for your health? 
Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies are a big deal. With nutrition being the cornerstone to good health, once you start messing with the natural makeup of your food sources, you are begging for things to go wrong. Certain deficiencies lead to: clinical depression, fatigue, muscle cramps, memory loss, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, hypertension, clotting disorders, birth defects, vision loss, headaches, nausea, digestive upset, and more.

What does our overall acceptance of factory farming say about society as a whole?
This is perhaps the more tragic part about factory farming. By accepting these practices and buying these products, we are telling these companies we are OK with it.
What kind of person is OK with living creatures being made to suffer? Have we become so disconnected from the natural circle of life that we have no respect for creatures other than ourselves? Have we become so numb to the cruelty inflicted on these magnificent animals for our benefit that we just turn the other cheek in the name of modern convenience?
It's not a secret- I'm an animal lover. But, you don't even have to LIKE animals to see that these conditions are unfair, inhumane, and downright wrong. It's cruel. The things we've done for convenience are disgusting. Profit and greed being the driving force behind the factory farming industry have put many family farms out of business, and because of the world we live in it's become easy for us, the consumer, to turn a blind eye to what's happening. We don't have big rolling farms everywhere reminding us that that little neatly plastic wrapped package in the meat section had a life at one point. We don't have to go out and milk the family cow to have milk for our cereal and butter for our bread. Now, food doesn't come from the animal in our minds, it simply comes from the grocery store. We don't have to think about it or give it a second thought. We can run in and grab a dozen eggs without having to think about the hen that lived her whole life cramped in a wire cage, unable to move or turn around. You can grab a gallon of milk without having to give a second thought to the poor cow that never saw sunlight or tasted grass and lived a short life covered in feces before being sent to slaughter. (and if you think those unsanitary living conditions don't spill over into the food supply and mean contaminated food, think again. Yes. there's poop in your food. Chew on that.) We can be as blind and ignorant as we wish, but it will never change anything.
And every time you buy factory farmed meat, dairy, and eggs, you are giving this industry your stamp of approval. You are casting your vote. You are accepting this as OK common practice.

So what, should I just be a vegetarian then? Besides, animals were put on earth to eat! Besides, they're just animals. 
Well, you COULD. I'm certainly never going that route again. The latter part is debatable, but I do agree with it. However, they were not put on Earth to be tortured. There are luckily still family owned farms who raise their animals in a humane nature, the way they're supposed to. I encourage you to seek out these places in your community and shop a little smarter. I encourage you to raise your own food if it is within your means. I encourage you to feel responsible for your choices, and to know what you're supporting. It DOES cost a little more to buy from ethical sources, because those farms aren't cutting their costs at the expense of the animals, and that is reflected in what you pay. But, even on a limited budget it absolutely positively can be done, and can be done well. Think about how many times a month you waste $10 here and $5 there.
Did you know that swine experience a range of emotion nearly as complex as humans? Fear, pain, joy, excitement, happiness, remorse... all within a pig's capabilities. A good comparison for the emotional AND mental capacity of a pig is that of a 3 year old child. That's how intelligent these animals are. That's how deep and complex they are. Think about it. Really, think about it. Are you OK with this? Are you OK with supporting this, in the name of money and convenience?
The point of this isn't to make you feel guilty, it's to get you to think about it. Where do you stand? What kind of companies do you want to support? What are you ok with?

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