No Animal Deserves Factory Farming, and Neither Do You
by Evan DeMarco on May 20, 2022
Eating sustainably and healthily isn’t just good for you: it’s also better for the environment and better for the animals, too. Factory farms are known for cramped conditions and relentless production, costing animals their health, overall welfare and often, their lives.
The good news is that you don’t have to give up meat and dairy to promote animal welfare. While no animal deserves factory farming, there are plenty of meat and dairy options you can buy. Best of all, humanely treated animals actually taste better. Everyone wins.
What happens on a factory farm?
On some level, factory farms aren’t much different than other factories. The goal is to efficiently and quickly produce as much product as possible, on a continuous basis. The more product, the more potential profit is available. On its face, that’s not necessarily a bad thing: there is indeed a huge demand for meat and dairy products in the United States.
The problem is that factory farms are so focused on profit, they cut corners wherever they can. Animals are crowded into tiny cages—some hens aren’t even able to spread their wings. Even “cage free” animals may not ever see the outdoors, even once, in their lifetimes.
Not only are these uncomfortable and depressing conditions, but they can stress the animals. Bored, cramped and packed side-to-side with thousands of other animals, they are more prone to disease and aggression. In turn, factory farms use antibiotics to combat the spread of disease, rather than addressing the terrible conditions themselves.
Factory farmed animals don’t lead a great life. For instance, the average chicken on a factory farm weighs so much that they can’t even walk around—if they had the room—without pain. Again, the factory farms are more interested in profit than sustainability or animal welfare.
It doesn’t stop when the animals leave the farm, either. Transporting live haul turkeys and chicken has to be done within four-hour stretches. The trucks aren’t climate-controlled, and the animals don’t have access to food or water for that entire time.
Even organic meat products aren’t great. Poor transportation conditions, separation of mothers and babies and forcible insemination are all regular practices, and mutilations like beak clipping and tail docking are encouraged, so long as it’s in the “best interest” of the animal.
Fish aren’t any better off, either. Aquaculture, which is the underwater equivalent of factory farms for fish, is responsible for significant portions of our fish supply. Their slaughter practices are equally unpleasant: fishmongers still use live gutting, which takes an hour before the fish dies. Fish who are left to suffocate may suffer anywhere from one to four hours.
It’s a staggering problem—but choosing the right meat and dairy helps create change.
How factory farming can affect your food’s flavor
It’s not just the terrible conditions. Factory-farmed meat can affect the flavor, too. Humane slaughtering practices helps preserve the quality of the meat: the least one can do for the animal who produced it.
Slaughterhouses stun animals before they’re killed. This renders them insensible to pain and what’s happening. Without stunning, the animal’s fight, flight or freeze response may be triggered. When a calm animal dies, muscle glycogen is converted into lactic acid. This helps keep the meat tender, flavorful and preserves the pink color. If the animal is flooded with adrenaline, however, all that glycogen is used up before death. There isn’t enough lactic acid after death to preserve the flavor, color and texture. Instead, you’ll get tough and tasteless meat, which spoils faster as well. Pig meat becomes acidic and crumbly, while turkey meat can turn dark and dry. Worse, sometimes meat producers will sneak that tough meat into better batches of pork and turkey. (Leave no source of profit unchecked.)
The chronic stress and horrible conditions factory-farmed animals experience is upsetting. When you consider that most farm animals only live about 20 percent of their natural lifespans, it’s even worse. That factory-farmed chicken you just ate for dinner likely led a painful, boring, frightening and abnormally short life.
What to eat instead
No animal deserves factory farming, but you can find better, ethical sources of animal products. Whether you visit local farms and farmers’ markets, research sustainable farms online or raise your own livestock, you don’t have to give up meat entirely.
Before you head to the grocery store, make sure you understand what “humane” food labels mean. Once you can identify how the animals were raised, kept and slaughtered, you can make healthier choices for yourself and the planet.