As Americans, we all love a good burger or steak from time to time, and the industrialization of the food market has privileged us as a society to have easy, and affordable access to red meat. However, at what cost is this mass production of meat having on the world beyond the price of a burger or steak. From ethical, environmental, and anthropological standpoints, what lies behind every piece of beef is worth taking notice.
Today, there are over 1.4 billion cows in the world, and are the world’s number 1 destroyer of the environment. A report from the World Bank Group revealed that 51% of greenhouse gasses come from the gas emissions from cows, making them more harmful to the environment than gas guzzling cars and airplanes. Furthermore, cows are also held responsible for other environmental crimes such as producing acid rain, creating dead zones in the oceans, and poisoning rivers and drinking water. If the growing issue is not addressed, many animals will go extinct, and the damage done by cattle will be more than double by 2050. Because of the world’s high demand for cheap, delicious meat, we are deciding to mass produce beef, and disregard the severe amounts pollution due to cow farts. As a result, the United States, who are excessive meat eaters, leave the strongest ecological footprint out of any country in the world. In other words, the United States is the leader is waste production, and requires the most resources for its consumption.
From an ethical standpoint, due to industrial agriculture, cattle being herded for beef are subject to miserable living conditions. For identification purposes ranchers often brand their animals causing third degree burns, rip male’s testicles off without pain relievers, and remove and burn their horns. Furthermore, as an attempt to fatten up the cows for quality beef, the cows are fed an unnatural diet (such as corn supplements as opposed to grass) that causes many stomach problems that can be fatal. Their diet leads to an increase in gas emissions, and the confined areas they live in forces them to inhale the toxins, leading to painful respiratory problems. In addition to the cows suffering, consumers of the the meat are directly affected as well. Industrial agriculture has a drastic affect on foodways around the world, and heavily impacts the anthropological idea of food security. As we observed in class, the “Corn Belt,” is a major contributor to beef, and the insertion of high fructose corn syrup has depleted the nutritional value of the meat. The industrialization of the food market has had significant impact on the health of consumers, and reflects the increasing global rates of obesity. Is the production of red meat so important where we should be torturing these animals, and causing incredible damage to our own environment and bodies? Or could we just eat a civil amount of meat and avoid the mass production beef?