Nov 172003
 
Authors: Shannon Baldwin

Thanksgiving is upon us, and for many that means a feast of

plenty shared with family and friends. When gathered around that

amazing spread, you probably don’t stop to consider where that

Thanksgiving ham and turkey came from. Perhaps a vision of happy

hogs running around in the sun — each tenderly cared for by the

kind couple running the farm that’s been in their family for

generations. And maybe Dorothy is out chasing rainbows with Toto in

the backyard.

Don’t kid yourself.

In the 1930s, there were close to 7 million farms in the United

States. Today, just 2 million farms remain. Of the remaining farms,

roughly 565,000 are family operations, farming just 44 percent of

total farmland. Those farmers who remain on their land often face

the prospect of working off the farm just to stay on the land

raising the food we put on our tables. The United States Department

of Agriculture reports that in 71 percent of farm households today,

the farmer, spouse or both work off the farm (www.farmaid.org).

This crisis in farm country is threatening the very existence of

the family farm in America. As family farms are forced out by

large, factory farms, the quality of our food and our environment

is in danger.

Factory farms, megafarms or Confined Animal Feeding Operations

(CAFOs,) are becoming the future of American farming. Higher

production levels, lower retail costs and greater efficiency are

all boasts of industrial agriculture, but at what cost?

Every new factory farm forces 10 family farmers out of business.

With every small family farmer that has to leave the farm,

communities lose access to fresh, healthy food and a thriving local

economy.

Factory farms deny animals many of their most basic behavioral

and physical needs, which can lead to stress and a variety of

potential illnesses. Many animals raised in factory farms do not

see sunlight and some do not even have room in their stalls to turn

around. Many poultry factory farms de-beak their birds to reduce

injury during the fights that occur because of the sardine-packed

“living” quarters.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that manure

runoff from factory farm lagoons is a significant factor in the

growing problem of ground and surface water pollution and the

financial burden of cleanup for this environmental hazard is borne

by taxpayers. In 1995, North Carolina saw 25 million gallons of raw

animal waste spilled from an eight-acre industrial lagoon, killing

10 million fish and closing 364,000 acres of coastal wetlands for

shell fishing.

Recent studies have shown that people living near hog factories

suffer from headaches, runny noses, sore throats, excessive

coughing, diarrhea and burning eyes – symptoms brought on by

noxious gasses and water pollution from manure lagoons. In more

extreme cases, people living near factory farms have developed

neurological diseases, suffered from miscarriages as a result of

water and air contamination. Employees working inside factory farms

have died from exposure to manure lagoons.

And you thought Greeley smelled to high heaven.

Inside factory farms, the overcrowded living conditions in

feedlots and factory barns make the spread of diseases, such as

salmonella, exceptionally easy. To fight disease outbreak and

promote unnaturally rapid growth, factory farmed animals are

routinely fed antibiotics: over 70 percent of all antibiotics in

the United States are fed to healthy farm animals. This

indiscriminate use of drugs has directly contributed to the

evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which the American

Medical Association considers an impending public health crisis.

The American public counts on antibiotics to cure countless

diseases and infections but if resistance continues to grow they

may no longer work.

But not all hope is lost. With a little bit of effort, you can

buy healthy food grown humanely and help support the family farmers

who struggle to compete against the factory farms.

Some easy steps are to make sure your poultry and eggs come from

“free-range” chickens. Also look for milk that is rBGH-free. Many

are now labeling their products as such so a quick scan of your

choices in the grocery aisle can make all the difference.

If possible, buy your food from local farmers markets

(www.localharvest.org), or buy organic when you can

(www.organicvalley.com). Alfalfa’s Market on Foothills Parkway, the

Steele’s Markets on Harmony and Main streets, Food Co-op of Fort

Collins on Mountain Avenue, Vitamin Cottage on College Avenue and

Wild Oats Market just off College sell organic, free-range and no

hormone/antibiotic fed foods. For more options about which farms

are family and which stores sell family farm foods, go to

www.eatwellguide.org, www.foodroutes.org and

www.themeatrix.com.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Shannon is a senior majoring in journalism. Her column runs

every Tuesday.

 

 

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