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If you’re still eating meat, chances are high that it’s produced by Tyson Foods. Currently ranked #93 on the list of Fortune 500 companies, Tyson brags on its website that it produces (i.e., slaughters) 41 million heads of chicken per week, as well as 391,000 pigs and 135,000 heads of cattle. Tyson also oversees and influences other meat producers to such an extent that “even if Tyson did not produce a given piece of meat, the consumer is really only picking between different versions of the same commoditized beef, chicken, and pork that is produced through a system Tyson pioneered,” as agribusiness journalist Christopher Leonard explains.
Leonard recently published a book exploring how Tyson’s meat industry monopoly has hurt humans and other animals alike. As the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof puts it, Tyson’s practices “[tear] at the fabric of rural America.” The issue is so serious that President Obama made a personal attempt in 2010 to improve oversight of the meat industry. The effort aimed to empower individual farmers, making it easier for them to sue meatpackers and creating a new “rural economy.” But Tyson’s lobbyists swiftly and thoroughly crushed the move, which collapsed and died.
In his book, “The Meat Racket,” Leonard outlines many reasons while Tyson’s grip on the industry is deeply problematic. Firstly, it creates a division between poor rural farmers and the animals they raise. As Kristof writes, “Many chicken farmers don’t even own the chickens they raise or know what’s in the feed. They just raise the poultry on contract for Tyson, and many struggle to make a living.” The industrial model also increases economic disparity, as farmers struggle to eke out a living while a handful of tycoons pocket the big Fortune 500 bucks.
Secondly, factory farming puts human health at risk. The antibiotics pumped into farmed animals leads to an average of two million antibiotic-resistant infections in America each year. In fact, 80 percent of antibiotics in America go to animals rather than humans, a disturbing and intensely troubling issue in its own right. And antibiotics aside, a hog farm with 10,000 animals produces the equivalent fecal waste as a 40,000 person city—but without a waste treatment plant. Yuck!
Last but certainly not least, Tyson’s factory model of agriculture has devastating and horrific consequences for the billions of animals it raises. As readers are likely familiar, chickens are bred to grow so quickly that they can barely breathe. According to Poultry Science, a human growing at a rate of a modern chicken would weigh 660 pounds at two months of age. Cows, pigs, turkeys, and other farmed animals are similarly “bred to suffer.”
There’s much, MUCH more to be said on the issues surrounding factory farming, but we’ll leave that for another day. In the meantime, keep in mind that Tyson’s stock price has quadrupled in the last half-decade, despite its destructive effect on animals, farmers, and the American public. The best way to take a stand against Tyson? Go meat-free, of course!
Motivated to move past meat, but not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered with seven ways to go meatless and 50 must-try vegan recipes! And if you find yourself missing animal flesh, kick the craving with 10 meaty vegan recipes, from seitan mushroom bourguignon to sloppy joes and barbecue sandwiches!
Image Source: Capital Area Food Bank of Texas/Flickr