We know that the factory farm system in the U.S. is responsible for producing an enormous amount of meat and dairy products. What you probably didn’t know was that along with all of that meat, eggs, and dairy comes a whole lot of crap! Yup, we’re talking animal waste.
A new study from Food & Water Watch found that the number of animals kept on factory farms has increased exponentially in the past 15 years with the number of chickens on farms up by 80 percent, and pigs up by 70 percent. The size of factory farms is also skyrocketing as the American population increases along with our appetite for animal products.
So while some might think that this bump in factory farm numbers is a good thing for hungry consumers, this increase in the factory farm system spells disaster for the environment. When you concentrate an enormous number of animals in one area with the sole purpose of fattening them up for sale, you’re bound to be left with an equally enormous waste problem.
Food & Water Watch estimates that the amount of waste produced by factory farms is 13 times higher than the entire U.S. population combined which presents a serious dilemma with what to do with 396 million tons of manure. This is enough to fill the entire Empire State building every single day!
In the days before factory farming, animal waste was used to fertilize fields and fit in symbiotically with the farm’s function. Factory farms simply have too much waste on their hands to do this, so many revert to storing waste in massive open-air lagoons or spraying it unmitigated on surrounding lands. Both of these options lead to factory farm waste leaking into local waterways and causing oppressive air pollution for the local community.
Factory farm waste is also filled with nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that foster the growth of toxic algae blooms in waterways which lead to dead zones. Additionally, this waste is filled with harmful bacteria, hormones, and antibiotics and can pose a serious threat to public health if it gets into the water system.
Most people don’t realize that by purchasing animal products they are contributing to this hazardous pollution. It’s time for us all to cut the crap and consider removing our personal participation in this toxic system. We can all do our part by leaving meat and other animal products off the menu and opting for delicious plant-based alternatives. To learn more about how you can do this one, super delicious, thing for the environment, click here.
Graphic by Elizabeth Lee
Image source: Randy Heintz/Flickr