One Perspective on the Unhealthy Consequences of Industrial Agriculture

Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times wrote an interesting Op-Ed article yesterday, a sort of reflection on the recent shell egg Salmonella outbreak.

In his column, Kristof shares some information on the practice of caging hens: “Repeated studies have found that cramming hens into small cages results in more eggs with salmonella than in cage-free operations. As a trade journal, World Poultry, acknowledged in May: ‘salmonella thrives in cage housing.’”

Indeed, the World Poultry article concludes, “the majority of the studies clearly indicate that a cage housing system has an increased risk of being Salmonella-positive in comparison to non-cage housing systems.”

Kristof points out that, while the purpose of factory farms is to manufacture cheap food, “this model is economically viable only because it passes on health costs to the public — in the form of occasional salmonella, antibiotic-resistant diseases, polluted waters, food poisoning and possibly certain cancers.”

It’s so obvious that the food system is partly to blame for America’s astronomical healthcare costs.

Kristof also points out that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study in 2005 suggesting that in 2000 there were about 182,000 cases of egg-caused salmonella in the United States, including 70 deaths. That means that even without an outbreak in the news, eggs with salmonella kill more than one American a week.”

Amazingly, about 95 percent of American egg-laying hens are still raised in small battery cages — crowded, inhumane conditions for these animals, which are fed antibiotics (and this obviously affects human health through consumption of factory farm food). Doesn’t anybody read The Jungle anymore?

As of January 2012, housing of laying hens in battery cages will be forbidden in the European Union, and only alternative housing such as enriched cages and non-cage systems (barn, free-range and free-range organic) will be allowed. California approved a similar ban in 2008. 

Let’s hope other states follow suit. Something’s gotta change!


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