Thursday, March 7, 2013

A River of Waste Documentary

Yesterday I watched "A River of Waste: The Hazardous Truth about Factory Farms".  It left me pretty disgusted and mad.  I was mostly mad at myself for previously ignoring where my meat came from and what it contained and mad at all of the people who do know, and let it happen.  These are the notes I took during the movie:
The US is far behind the rest of the industrial world in protecting it's food supply, it's environment and the health of it's citizens.

Factory Farm Animal Waste:

Q. What do you think factory farms do with the droppings and dead animals they scoop off of the floors of their facilities?

A. They truck it, untreated, to empty fields and dump/spray it to get rid of it.

This pollutes air, land and water surrounding large areas of the dumping ground.  This affects multiple areas in different ways.

  1. Air -  nearby rural residents have a hard time going outside in the summer due to dust, stench and toxic / nauseous fumes, and cannot cook outside.  The dust gets into their homes and causes respiratory problems.  There are even numerous cases involving cancer in these areas including the child cancer cluster in Prairie Grove, Arkansas.
  2. Land and Water - runoff from the fields leaks into nearby water.  This water has traces of all sorts of chemicals and bacteria including Listeria, Phosphorus and Ammonia from urine.  People cannot swim in or eat fish from this water.  Fish can die from living in this water for a few reasons including ulcers and drowning due to lack of oxygen present. If people swim in this polluted water it can and has caused cases of neurological disorders (with Alzheimer's like effects), skin irritation, pneumonia and bronchitis.  Another problem with this water is what happens to it when it is gathered by water treatment plants for use elsewhere:
  • chickens are fed calcium phosphate (phosphorus) to make their bones strong
  • phosphorus is in their droppings and it is sprayed onto fields
  • the runoff from the fields ends up polluting area water
  • phosphorus mixes with algae and creates Eutrophication in the water pictured here.
  • this water, when collected by water treatment plants for use elsewhere, is treated with Chlorine. This causes the water to contain Trihalomethanes (chloroform).
 The affects to this water can be reversed.  Large bodies of water like the Black Sea and Lake Erie were at one time so contaminated they couldn't be used for drinking, fishing and swimming, but with care they are now used.

 You Get What your Chicken Eats:

US factory farms produce 9 billion chickens per year. 
  • Antibiotics:  are given to chickens for two reasons, to make them grow faster/bigger, and to help them survive what they are exposed to.  70% of the antibiotics produced in the US go to animals.  A person can build up a resistance to antibiotics through the meat they eat, so that when they really need antibiotics they don't work.
Q. What are chickens exposed to that they would need antibiotics?
A. Infections from cuts, bruises, fractures, and breaks due to transport and handling, sickness of various kinds including ammonia from their droppings and bacteria present (like Salmonella).

Ammonia is bad for the chickens and bad for the factory workers.
The European Union takes ammonia very serious.  The have adopted a standard of 20 PPM (parts per million) as a maximum level allowed in factory farms.  The US, however do not follow these same standards and concentrations greater than 100 PPM have been regularly reported in poultry confinement operations.

Salmonella is a bacteria that infects chickens.  You  cannot get salmonella poisoning yourself from chicken unless the chicken had salmonella.  83% of US poultry tested contains Salmonella.  This disease can be eradicated completely....Scandinavian countries have already figured out how to do this.

Escherichia coli ( E. coli) infections are widely distributed among poultry of all ages and categories. They are primarily related to poor hygienic conditions, neglected technological requirements or to respiratory and immuno-suppressive diseases.  Poultry workers are also 32 more likely to carry a strain of  E. Coli that is anti-biotic resistant than those who are exposed in E. Coli in other ways.

NY Times reported that in a resent test of packaged raw chicken products bought at grocery stores across the country found that roughly half of them were contaminated with the bacteria E. coli. 

“Poop gets into your food, and not just into meat — produce is grown in soil fertilized with manure, and there’s E. coli in that, too.”  -Dr. Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia. 

  • Growth Hormones are given to chickens for obvious reasons.  When you eat the meat of a chicken that has been given hormones, you get them as well.  Growth Hormones are endocrine disruptors and can affect human hormones.  These hormones have been known to cause cancer including prostate, ovarian and breast.  Isn't it ironic that drugs given to chickens to make their breasts bigger can cause some women to lose theirs?
  • Roxarsone is an  organoarsenic (Arsenic) compound that is widely used agriculturally as a chicken-feed additive. It promotes the growth of the chicken by making them always feel hungry and eat more.  It also kills parasites and makes the flesh an appetizing shade of pink (a side effect of burst blood vessels). About 9 out of 10 broiler chickens in the United States had been fed arsenic, according to a 2011 industry estimate.  According to Dr. Michael Greger, MD, the NIH, and the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service, there are "alarmingly high levels of arsenic contamination in the flesh of broiler chickens," exceeding the EPA upper limit for arsenic in water by 6 - 9 times. Arsenic has no place in our food chain, much less on the dinner table. But thanks to the Pfizer drug Roxarsone, it's in our chicken and pig feed, along with the resulting fertilizer, and is bound to end up on your plate one way or another. The European Union banned Roxarsone in 1999, recognizing the public health risks of the drug.  Pfizer drug company alone has stopped producing Roxarsone.  Tyson is one of the only big poultry producers that have stopped using it.
Other illnesses caused by factory farms:

  • Bird Flu (or H1N5)  has been around for a long time.  It was originally only present in water fowl (ducks, geese etc.) as an intestinal disease.  It can be passed from water fowl to land fowl in markets that sell live chickens and ducks.  This disease has mutated in land fowl to be a respiratory disease.  From inception until 2007 there was a 62% morality rate in humans with confirmed cases of H1N5.
  • Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as Mad cow disease is caused when cows ingest the blood and bones (remains) and feces of dead cows through  Bone Meal. Cows affected by BSE are usually apart from the herd and will show progressively deteriorating behavioural and neurological signs. One notable sign is an increase in aggression. Cattle will react excessively to noise or touch and will slowly become ataxic.   
Q.  What would happen if you ate beef infected by mad cow disease?

A.  You can't get sick unless you carry the genes that can react to beef infected with mad cow disease. If you do it's called Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD).  The disease has a long incubation period (months to years), so there is a long time between point of infection and contracting the actual disease.  Death of neurons causes the brain to appear like a sponge (areas of open space between groups of cells).  The first symptom of CJD is rapidly progressive dementia, leading to memory loss, personality changes and hallucinations. This is accompanied by physical problems such as speech impairment, jerky movements (myoclonus), balance and coordination dysfunction (ataxia), changes in gait, rigid posture, and seizures.  All cases so far have been incurable and fatal.

In 1997, the US Food and Drug Administration banned feeding meat and bone meal (MBM) made from by-products of slaughtered cattle, sheep and farmed deer, elk and bison to those same animals.   There have still been some reported cases in the US since then.

Meat executives have been bailed out or pardoned when found guilty of violations.  Who has done this?  Both Bill Clinton and George Bush.

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