Sep 4, 2010

behind closed doors...

heller fellers!

how are ya? it's your resident dork checking in :)

you know that post i wrote on interpreting food labels? well, since i can't leave well enough alone, i just had to write about the other side of our food, too. what most of us don't even know exists.

ever overheard someone talking about what's in your food, only to shout "LA LA LA I DON'T WANNA KNOW!!!"?

yeah... guilty as charged. i pretty much lived that my whole life until mom got sick. funny how when your heart gets involved, your perspective on life starts to change, right?

fast forward a few years, and i'm still on the same path - researching, pondering, and learning. fortunately (and unfortunately), some discoveries have ended up really disturbing me (i'm looking at you, MSG!). i stumbled on my most recent freak-out researching factory farming techniques for the labels post, and details i couldn't shake just. kept. haunting me

all that to say, i pour my heart and soul out to you guys. anything that breaks my heart, fires me up, or makes me sing with joy, you guys hear about it. so this isn't my attempt to "convert" or guilt-trip anyone - it's simply my desperate desire to see each one of you thrive. i want you to live your BEST life!

the following practices are standard procedure at america's farms. as in, you'd be hard-pressed to find an exception in the grocery store. any exception (currently 99% of animal products in the US). this is the state of america's industry.

artificial insemination - to make more profit, farmers feed their livestock to grow as large as physically possible. one of the downsides is that farm animals can't reproduce on their own - yes, i'm telling you they can't physically have sex. almost 100% of turkeys, 85% of pork, and 75% of beef must be artificially impregnated to reproduce because of their bodies genetic modifications (and turkeys often die of heart attacks before they make it to slaughter due to their enormous breasts).

battery cages - most common practice of housing egg-laying hens. these cages are smaller than a sheet of printer paper, which means the hens live and die without ever stretching their wings, and most are never able to stand up, causing osteoporosis. the cages are stacked many stories high, and when the hens on the higher levels poop... well, you can imagine what the ones below look like. the percentage of eggs with salmonella is exponentially higher in battery cage eggs than on that of a traditional laying farm (hello, recent outbreak?!?).

embryo transfer - similar to artificial insemination, farmers use this technique to control the genetics of their livestock. they impregnate their best female for choice genetics, then extract the embryo and impregnate a lesser quality female to carry the pregnancy so they can more quickly re-impregnate the genetically superior female. the high quality female's DNA ensures she will constantly be pregnant. 

debeaking/branding/castrating - egg chickens' beaks are removed with a superheated knife to prevent attacking other chickens out of stress. chronic pain, infection, and starvation are not uncommon. branding and castrating are routinely practiced without anesthesia, and also cause chronic pain.

gestation crates - cages pregnant cows are transferred to in an effort to quicken pregnancy weight gain and ensure the babies are not crushed. the crates prevent standing or turning around for months at a time, and the pregnant cows often crack their skulls or chew through the cage out of boredom.

veal - obviously, dairy cows are only females, so when they have males, farmers turn to producing veal - a tender, expensive cut of beef. how do they make it so tender? the boys are kept confined from birth to prevent their muscles from being toughened through exercise, and are slaughtered between a few days to a few weeks after birth. 

by-catch - all living things caught unintentionally while fishing. most fishermen drag their nets from the boat to the sea floor, bringing up everything in its path. they pick out only the species they sell (like salmon fishermen only keep mature salmon) and throw everything else back. by-catch wouldn't be so bad except most other fish die in the catch process - a ratio as high as 30:1 dead by-catch to the fish they're actually fishing for. today, most endangered aquatic species face extinction not because of over-fishing them, but because of by-catch.

slaughter - i won't really go into too much detail here because i get kinda gaggy thinking about it, but suffice it to say that farm animals are paralyzed, hung upside down, their throats slit, electrocuted alive, then boiled alive so their skin peels off nice and easy. yum.

spent hens - when chickens get too old to lay eggs, farmers pass them through the wood chipper. the ground-up parts are reused in feed for the rest of the laying hens. since boy chickens can't lay eggs, they usually suffocate them in a dumpster.

environmental effects - factory farms use 70% of the US' water, produce 130 times the waste of US' human population, 22% of greenhouse gases, and cause exponentially more pollution than the automobile industry. they defile the surrounding bodies of water, spoil the soil, and produce a "manure mist" that causes thousands of deaths, chronic diseases, and illnesses nationwide. each factory farm owns many tank dumps that are many stories high where they store the waste of the animals. for more impacts on the environment, check this out.

and for another resource on animal welfare, look here. it's written by an animal activist, so their opinions are obviously biased, but the treatment techniques are fairly universally practiced.

* as always, i spend countless amounts of time on my figures, and i stand behind what i post. if you are curious about my research or want to know more, please email me!

i've said it before, and i'll say it again: i will never judge you for your dinner. i'm not an animal lover or a peta supporter... i just beg you to make an informed decision! i hope this helps open up a world that maybe you haven't heard of before. nothing will change if we don't have access to the whole picture.



  1. i wasn't sure if i wanted to read this at first because i was afraid it would have something to do with hummus being produced poorly or something (which would be life changing) but i'm glad i hung around to see what you were going to talk about. and thank you for opening up my eyes! i sort of "assume" the treatment is poor just based on hearsay and movies like food, inc. but reading all of this again is so eye-opening. i'm really glad i've cut back my meat intake to basically none this year. i also don't eat many eggs or dairy. if eggs or dairy is certified organic, is the treatment better? or are you better off just buying local? i drive by a very small family farm everyday - a couple cows and pigs, chickens, and vegetables. and they sell the eggs, beef, and pork. while it makes me sort of sick to think about eating an animal i see every day - i at least would know they were truly grass-fed and humanely treated. i'm trying to convert my mom to all organic meat and eggs and keep telling her to stop there :P

  2. if only my parents would understand this and actually listen to me....but seeing my dad just bought 3 boxes of entenmans it is not going to happen. My mom is alot better than my dad!But it is awful how they treat these animals. Have you ever seen the documentary King Corn? we watched that in my food and culture class at jwu and it was very interesting, a must-see!

  3. I honestly just watched "Diet for a New America" today and Google'd a whole bunch of information and stumbled upon much of this info today! I even tried to watch Earthlings but got to 4:48 and stopped because I couldn't bring myself to keep watching. I'm still questioning if I want to support dairy, but I really can't find an alternative to yogurt that I'd be happy with. As for eggs, I know who I get them from and the chickens are not submitted to any of that inhumane torture.

    It's very sad that all of this happens. We need to address the humanity behind all of these issues rather than fight a silly battle disguised as "Meat-Eaters vs. Vegans." Whether you eat meat or not you shouldn't support the inhumane treatment of animals.

  4. thanks for bringing these issues to light!

  5. Thank you for having the guts to post something like this! I know that there will be a few people that don't want to see it but it really is stuff that should be brought out into the open.

  6. I think the most important thing is that you KNOW where your food comes from. As an American living in Australia, my heart ACHES for americans...because the quality of food..even beyond animal CRAP. It's horrible and inhumanly created.

    I am a quasi-vegan (mainly for health issues) but to eat 'happy meat' is SO damn expensive that it keeps me on beans. The point, and I think it's important, is that knowing where your food is from is more important, to me, then what you eat.

  7. I have to admit to you (and all else reading) that I have often in the past fallen into the "la la la" ignorance camp and tried to push all of this information right out of my radar. I've more recently decided to wake up to my own life and choices and so I really appreciate you sharing this information - especially in a non-judgement, non-push-it-down-my-throat kind of way. Lots to think about, per usual ;-)

  8. I love my meat, but this is some really cool information- thanks for opening my eyes!

  9. I didn't mean "cool" like good...Maybe frightening is better.

    Next question- what can we do about it?


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