Consumers go out of their way to buy cage-free or pasture-based eggs or buy meat at the local farmers' market. In 2017 75% of US adults believe they usually eat meat, dairy, and eggs "from animals that are treated humanely." In fact, when vegans ask their friends to stop eating animals, one of the most common responses they hear is, "Don't worry. I only eat humane meat."
Are consumers right? It's impossible for all of them to be. Data on the number of animals per farm in the US suggests that over 99% of US farmed animals live on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, commonly known as "factory farms". Globally, that figure is probably over 90%
So 75% of Americans think they consume humane meat, but a tiny fraction actually do. The majority of consumers seem tragically wrong about what they eat.
Take cage-free eggs, for example. Just because the birds aren't in cages doesn't mean they're healthy or happy. Cage-free birds have around the same total space per bird; they just live in a large shed with thousands of other birds. In this stressful environment, birds frequently peck each other so much that they lose feathers, bleed, and even die from what is effectively cannibalism caused by the birds' high-density confinement. The air quality on cage-free farms tends to be worse as chickens walking around kick up dust and feces, which threatens food safety.
Raising chickens on pasture avoids some of these issues, but it invites new problems. Pasture-based flocks suffer due to predation and disease from wild animals.
By some measures grass-fed cow farming is potentially worse than grain-fed cow farming. Grass-fed cow farming leads to two to four times more production of methane, a major greenhouse gas, than grain-fed cow farming. It also takes more land, water, and fossil fuels to produce grass-fed beef. Buying "grass-fed" or "pasture-raised" can be seen as a salve for the environmental conscience, but the damage can actually be greater.
Maybe there are some rotational, labor-intensive methods that do reduce environmental impact. However, eco-conscious animal farming does little to mitigate health concerns aside from the overuse of antibiotics. And the animal suffering, especially on chicken farms, is still staggering.
You may be thinking that even if the vast majority of farms still have serious issues, surely at least a few farms have happy animals.
This response is valid, to an extent. Where I grew up in rural PA, I lived around pasture-raised cattle who seemed perfectly content to chew their cud. I helped raise a handful chickens and goats myself. Yes, their slaughter might be a terrible experience, but it seems plausible that one day of even suffering might not outweigh a few years of happy cud-chewing life.
Pigs are seen in a factory farm. The pigs are never let out from their confined spaces until they are taken to slaughter. When people call upon the idea of ethical animal farming – even if that constitutes little or none of their actual consumption – it has dangerous effects as a "psychological refuge" they indirectly use to justify their consumption of factory farmed products.
Most Americans have been exposed to the realities of animal farming from hundreds of undercover investigations over the years and dozens of scientific reports on the industry's environmental and public health impacts.
But their minds resolve this conflict between their values and their behavior by insisting that they eat a humane kind of meat that doesn't cause animal suffering or environmental damage. Their other options are to stop eating animal products or to accept that what they're doing is harmful, and neither of these options are particularly appealing. This is why we see 75% of US adults thinking they eat humane meat, despite fewer than 1% of farmed animals actually living on non-factory farms.
So, I leave it Up to you! Are you still searching for the truth? Are You willing to go a little more deeper. If Yes, Than lets start down this rabbit hole together and see where it goes! The Truth is waiting!
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