Have you ever wondered what processes are involved in the meat you buy at the grocery store? Most of us buy a package of ground beef or bacon without looking past the label, perfectly content in our naive guileless ignorance.
John Goihl, an animal nutritionist, knows farmers in Minnesota who feed dead baby pig carcasses to swine in an effort to fend off diseases of a lethal virus in the offspring.
In Oklahoma, farm hands are combining feces from swine sick with the virus, known as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), into the food of healthy animals to build their immunity.
Farmers are spraying a mixture of pig manure containing the disease and water onto the snouts of hogs to create a “natural vaccine.”
All through the Farm Belt, American pork producers are going to extreme lengths to fight against the virus that killed almost 8 million pigs – one tenth of the country’s stock – two years ago, and farmers fear could resurface this year.
The infection causes acute diarrhea which can kill baby pigs; it flourishes in cold weather and a declining immunity among livestock in the U.S. has led to increased risk of the outbreak – it’s highest level since 2013.
The epidemic has already hurt food processors like Tyson Foods and JBS USA.
Veterinarians say efforts to intentionally expose pics to the disease helps reduce the risk of an outbreak, though it is unclear how many farmers are taking preventative measures.
Chief veterinarian officer for the Humane Society of the United States, Michael Blackwell, said feeding baby pigs to other pigs “seems to be pretty barbaric,” but he understands the motives behind why farmers are doing it. “It is not as inhumane as having millions of piglets killed in an outbreak,” he told Scientific American.
Besides poop, American meats also contain a plethora of unsavory ingredients. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), most meats contain diseases and pathogens such as listeria, salmonella, staph, campylobacter and E.coli. It’s estimated that up to 29.9 million pounds of antibiotics are pumped into livestock in 2011.
And overuse of antibiotics leads to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Seventy-eight percent of salmonella found in ground turkey was antibiotic-resistant, 75 percent in chicken breasts, and almost 50 percent of campylobacter in chickens were found to be antibiotic-resistant.
Active ingredients in Benadryl, Prozac and Tylenol were also found in processed meats; not to mention a poisonous substance called Ractopamine, which is banned in 160 countries throughout the world.
There seems to be a new meat epidemic every year – Mad Cow Disease, Foot-And-Mouth Disease, Swine Fever, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus are just a few of the many endemics plaguing our food industry.
Such diseases could easily be prevented by simply cutting down on the chemicals and antibiotics that are being used carte blanche to process meat and “defend” against infection. Both livestock and humans are becoming resistant to antibiotics after decades of overuse, and now we’re paying the price.
It’s not only a question of chemicals, but also density.
Grass-fed beef and free range chickens, although more expensive, are always healthier than livestock that live and die in cages. In the long run, farmers who take a more “natural” approach to stock end up saving more money.
A USDA study discovered farms with more than 100,000 birds were four times more likely to test positive for Salmonella than those with fewer chickens. It’s easier for disease to spread among larger, denser flocks or cattle.
The agriculture industry needs to adopt the “less is more” mentality if they want to thrive; because meat is delicious, but it needs to be of high quality.