Since the industrial era businesses have been able to cut production costs and provide mass quantities of products at lower prices. Typical families are now capable of putting meat on the table, not only once a week, or even once a day, but every single meal. The reduction of meat prices is due to the industrialization of the farming industry, or commonly called factory farming. Although factory farming has produced large quantities of food at low-cost, factory farming causes problems for the environment because biodiversity is lost in the development of pastures, farms produce too much animal waste, resulting in polluted waterways, and the overuse of antibiotics has resulted in the development of superbugs. The documentary Food Inc. touches on many of these topics and unveils just how little consumers know about what they eat and where it comes from.
As pointed out in the film, most people are under the illusion that their food is grown on the cute little farms often depicted on the packaging of the products themselves. In all actuality, few of these farms exist, as most of them have been replaced with large factory farms (Kenner, 2009). The factory farms have over-crowding of livestock causing problems for the environment due to a loss of biodiversity. When acres of land are cleared for pastures, it limits the vegetation in that area to a monoculture, leading to an eco system cannot support many of the native species that once thrived there (Kenner, 2009). Not only does mass land clearing for pastures disrupt the balance in the local eco-systems, the deforestation cuts down our planets ability to deal with the green house gasses attributed to climate change. Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gasses which is absorbed by plants that in turn give off oxygen as a byproduct. Additionally, the over-crowding of livestock in factory farming creates large amounts of animal waste, leading to the degradation of the soil. In traditional small family farming, less animal waste is produces allowing for the soil to absorb and use the animal waste without being overwhelmed.
In addition to harming the soil, the over accumulation of animal waste in factory farms has also contributed to water pollution. Chemicals and antibiotics are used so frequently to prevent and deal with illnesses caused by overcrowding, that the soil itself has become contaminated. To deal with excess waste generated on factory farms, many farmers store animal waste in manmade damns or lagoon like structures. When one of these structures breaks it can have devastating effects on the environment. For example, in 1995 the New River hog waste spill in North Carolina, introduced 25 million gallons of waste into the water causing the spread of disease and killing most of the fish; as a result, 364,000 acres of coastal fishing beds had to be closed down (Warrick, 1995). Spills are not the only way that the soil contaminates the water supply. Many of the antibiotics, chemicals, and bacteria found in animal waste ends up in the soil, and eventually into the water table below. Furthermore, the agriculture used to feed these animals have been grown with fertilizer and pesticides which has contaminated the soil, and polluted the water ways when it rains with toxic runoff. Again, as with soil contamination, the water contamination is caused by trying to produce too much product in an area too small to maintain a safe balance for the ecosystem.
Soil contamination and water pollution are not the only concerns when dealing with the overcrowding of the farm animals. With the use of antibiotics, and unsanitary conditions caused by excess waste, the bacteria that live in the waste have become resistant to many types of antibiotics creating superbugs. These superbugs disrupt the balance of the ecosystem and create health hazards. A University of Iowa study found that 70% of the hogs, and 64% of the workers had contracted a resistant strain of methicilin resistant staph, known as MSRA (Couric, 2010). The overuse of antibiotics has created superbugs that have disrupted the balance of our ecosystem and has created health hazards.
The cost to our health and environment are hidden when purchasing many of the foods that come from factory farmed animals. Though many packages are labeled with cute family fresh farm scenes, the reality is quite different. Animals are being forced to live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions that have led to a degradation of our soil, water, and health. Although factory farming drives down the prices at the register, the overall cost to the environment is much higher. In the end, the film Food Inc. points out that the consumers demand for cheep food has led to the industrialization of farming; and in turn, it will be the consumers demand for sustainable eco-friendly food that will be responsible developing the environmentally safe farming techniques of the future.
Couric, K.. (Executive Producer). (2010, February 9). Animal antibiotic Overuse Hurting humans?[Television series episode]. New York: CBS Evening News. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/02/09/eveningnews/main6191530.shtml .
Kenner, R. & Pierce, R. (Directors). (2009). Food Inc. [Motion Picture]. United States: Magnolia home Entertainment.
Warrick, J.& Leayenworth, S. (1995, June 29). Waste spill receives hog legislation, House looks again at farm regulations. The News Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina. http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-recent/6271 .