Why I Literally Cannot Stomach Buying CAFO Anymore

This past holiday weekend, at a seemingly innocent celebratory social gathering with friends at the beach, something awful happened to PH and I. Stomach-turningly, gut-disruptingly, immune-compromisingly…awful.

 

We each partook of a completely normal, barbecued rib eye steak bought at the supermarket.

 

It was…gritty. Chewy. Stringy. With end notes of environmental pollution and sulfuric gas.

It made our insides do some things we really weren’t comfortable with.


It was commercially-grown beef from a CAFO, complete with industrial-strength toxins laced within its meaty facade. What’s CAFO, you wonder?

CAFO stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations… mmm, sounds tasty, huh?!

The EPA likes to define it as a commercialized manufacturer of animal products — whether they be dairy or beef cattle, sheep, hogs, broiler or laying chickens, or any other commercially available food-producing creature — which (a) confines animals for more than 45 days during a growing season, (b) in an area that does not produce vegetation, and (c) meets certain size thresholds.

Basically, it’s an animal factory. The term “factory farm” is often used, but I honestly think that’s giving them too much credit. CAFOs are about as far removed from a “farm” as it gets. The animals live in extremely cramped steel contraptions knee-deep in their own urine-soaked manure, and sometimes never even see the light of day. There are no farmers, only minimally paid workers (often illegal immigrants persuaded across the border by the factory companies) exposed to conditions so dangerous they have staggering rates of illness among them — 58 percent of all swine confinement workers manifest chronic bronchitis, according to the American Lung Association, and nearly 70 percent experience some form of respiratory irritation.

This is largely due to the massive amounts of toxic animal waste being mechanically pooled into large storage lagoons at the CAFOs — the chemical toxins from which pollute the air around them, in addition to seeping into the water supply. In fact, it is estimated that CAFOs account for the single largest source of water pollution in the US. In Iowa, for example, it was documented that a 7-acre lagoon may legally leak as much as 16 million gallons of liquefied manure annually.

A CAFO discharge to a canal

The animals are fed a steady diet of genetically-modified, grain-based feeds unnatural to their digestive systems, with large amounts of  byproduct waste from other industrial factories (we’re talking diseased animal parts, feces, even substances like plastic) and heavy doses of antibiotics and drugs to combat the widespread disease among them.

Make no mistake, though. The “grain” part of that diet isn’t poor Bessie’s saving grace — cows especially are designed to digest one thing and one thing only — grass. They have a fascinatingly complex digestive system (the rumen) that magically turns grass into healthy protein, something very few other animals can do. Feeding cows corn (which accounts for around 90% of the grain) will wreak havoc on that system — leading to deadly cases of bloat, acidosis, lesions and ulcers in the digestive tract, and diseased, abscessed livers. Aside from the deplorably unhealthy conditions in which the cows live, corn sickens the animal to the point that it can no longer survive without the use of huge doses of antibiotics and other drugs.

In a recent interview, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, explains the problem with corn-induced cow illness [emphasis mine]:

“The rumen has basically a neutral pH when it’s healthy and getting grass, and that’s very significant for a lot of reasons. But you feed it corn and it gets a lot more acidic. And the rumen can’t deal with acids, and what happens is the acids gradually eat away at the wall of the rumen, creating little lesions or ulcers through which bacteria can pass. And the bacteria get into the bloodstream and travel down to the liver, which collects all such impurities, and infects the liver. And that is why more than 13 percent of the animals slaughtered in this country are found to have abscessed livers that have to be thrown away and is a sign of disease.But this low-level sickness, acidosis or even subacute acidosis, as they call it, afflicts many, many–probably the majority–of feedlot calves, and it leaves them vulnerable to all sorts of other diseases. Their immune systems are compromised. So they get this, you know, horrifying list of feedlot diseases. You know, we have these diseases of civilization, you know, heart disease and such things. Well, they have their own diseases of civilization: feedlot polio, abscessed livers, rumenitis, all these kinds of things that cows in nature simply don’t get. …The only way you can keep a cow alive getting this much corn would be with antibiotics. And they get large quantities of antibiotics with their feed every day.”

The muscles of diseased, drugged up animals. Not exactly the kind of farm-fresh nourishment you’d think a nice, hearty steak would provide.

When I became aware of these things — and trust me, this is just the tip of the iceberg — I stopped eating CAFO products.

Spoiled.

Shortly after setting up camp here at our country home, we became introduced to the glorious world of local, grass-finished, organic meat. Our local Weston A. Price Foundation (check it out if you aren’t already familiar) chapter leader runs a real meat buyer’s club that also sells at various farmers’ markets on island, and is virtually the only source of local, grass-fed beef we have. Our first taste of a tender, succulent t-bone taken from the body of a cow who lived his life blissfully grazing the green, sunny hills of Moloka’i, was pure heaven. It seriously felt as though little angels sprouted from our stomachs echoing choruses of “Hallelujah” — {haaaaahhhh!!}

Unreal. We had honestly never tasted anything like it. Tragically, because we had never honestly tasted REAL meat!

Meat that came from cows not stuffed with corn, disease, and drugs, but grass! And sunshine! And freedom! This meat wasn’t murderous. It was happy meat! Full of life and flavor.

But the BBQ’d CAFO steak we were subjected to most recently tasted like… death. Utter death, slathered in barbecue sauce.

I would really encourage anyone who is at all hesitant about forking over the few extra bucks that organic, real meat costs to just DO. IT. Try it out for even a couple weeks — buy nothing but real, grass-fed meat. And after that, I triple-dog DARE you to go buy a CAFO steak and just try to eat it.

You won’t be able to stomach it. I promise.

 

{This post is participating in Simple Lives Thursday and Fight Back Friday — totally awesome blog hops!}

{Photo credit: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th}

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog, including Amazon.com links. I only recommend products I genuinely love, and that I believe would be of value to my readers. Thank you for your support!

MEDICAL DISCLOSURE: Your health is between you and your health care practitioner. Nothing in this blog is intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations is at the choice and risk of the reader.

40 Responses to Why I Literally Cannot Stomach Buying CAFO Anymore
  1. Natalie says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. I LOVED “The Omnivore’s Dilemma!” Have you read Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle?”

  2. Rachelle says:

    Em,
    I love your writing. That is all. :)

  3. I am new to your blog and have been having fun reading over your posts! They are so informative. Look forward to reading more.

  4. ButterBeliever says:

    Thank you so much, Alicia! Reading feedback like this just makes my day, especially from an established blogger like you! I just subscribed to EFH. :)

  5. Paula says:

    I agree! We typically get our meat in bulk, but sometimes we run out. One day we needed some ground beef for bbq’ed burger. We ended up getting some at a traditional grocery and they were horrible! Slimey, greasy, with a vague weirdness about them. The worst part was the texture, just disgusting. No amount of mayo and ketchup could disguise it.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      YES, the texture especially is just… bizarre. Unnatural. But you don’t even notice it until you’ve, well, seen the light! Real meat from real farmers, of course.

      We actually have another steak leftover from last weekend just sitting there in our fridge. PH was like, “Um, what are we gonna do with this? Cause I’m pretty sure we can’t eat it.” I voted to give it to the neighbor’s obnoxious, constantly barking dog. “Here, boy! Have some toxic, diseased beef!” But I don’t think I can even bring myself to do THAT!

  6. Karin Johnson says:

    I clicked on your post through Food Renegade and am in total agreement with you! Not only are concentrated feeding animal farms creating dead meat, the meat brings toxic poisons with it. Animals cared for lovingly and healthfully in life bring that life to the people and other animals who eat them.

    The same is so true about chicken! I can’t stomach the chicken available commercially either. It doesn’t give me anything but a belly war. The chickens I get from the true open range small biodiverse family farm 14 miles from here are wonderful! The yolks from the eggs are deep orange/gold and just seep with omega 3′s.

    The corporate interests in this country are killing us, plain and simple.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Amen!! So well said.

      Watching “Food, Inc.” pretty much did me in with the chickens. Aside from seeing them dunking the toxic animals in vats of ammonia, discovering the extremely unethical treatment of the farmers was just…beyond unnerving to me.

      Did you see that film? They highlighted the story of one farmer contracted to a major meat corporation who was brave enough to speak the truth — how they turn farmers into slaves legally obligated to abuse the animals, and become forever indebted to the corporations due to the extremely high operating costs and extremely low profit to the farmers. She was subsequently fired. Absolutely sickening.

  7. Susan W says:

    I will be sending this link to my husband. Hubby was raised on a sheep and cattle ranch that his parents owned in WY in the 1950′s. During a discussion about what cattle are really fed today, he blithely assumed that beef cattle were being fed silage made from alfalfa, etc., and stored in a silo, so as he was taught in the 1970′s from the Animal Science classes he was taking at the Univ. of WY. I said to him you haven’t driven by on I-40 past Wildorado, TX, where there is a large feedlot where the cattle congregate on mounds of manure and it stinks to high heaven. He already doesn’t like lamb or chicken and won’t eat both. The latter because when he was quite young (5 – 6) he was on the head end of the chicken when it came to the chopping block when mom butchered the chicken. Blood all over the place.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      I bet it’s hard for him to imagine how sick and twisted the “farming” industry is today! I had to laugh about the bloody chicken, though… I think I’d be a little wary of it too after experiencing that as a kid! At least he was getting real, fresh meat from home though right?

  8. Michele says:

    My son and I did the taste test with regular ground beef and grass fed, no antibiotics ground beef. We were amazed at the taste difference. The grass fed beef had flavor! We won’t go back to the regular stuff

  9. Karin Johnson says:

    I have “Food, Inc” but haven’t watched it yet. The section on 60 minutes from the 1980′s showing chicken carcasses floating through what was called “fecal soup” did me in with store bought chicken. I can’t imagine the torturous things they endure now.
    I just feel better when I can see the animal I am going to eat eating out in the pasture!

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Oh WOW… yeah well as you can see above, rivers of “fecal soup” are still very much present in the CAFO world! That is awful.

      Sounds like you raise your own broilers, then! Good for you. I hope to be able to do that one day, although I’m not sure I’ll ever be brave enough to slaughter them myself. What a chicken I am! Har, har… ;)

  10. [...] Why I Literally Cannot Stomach Buying CAFO Anymore    Trouble in Paradise? GMO Papayas from Hawaii [...]

  11. [...] and preservatives, not to mention the fact that the milk from which the yogurt is made comes from a CAFO dairy, to be sure. With all these reasons to stray from conventional yogurt, I knew it was time to [...]

  12. [...] smells like seven-acre-wide-liquified-manure-lagoons to [...]

  13. Donyell says:

    Infroamtion is power and now I’m a !@#$ing dictator.

  14. [...] wait a second. That all sounds familiar. Isn’t that what CAFO production [...]

  15. [...] drugged-up-and-standing-in-a-lagoon-of-its-own-defecation COW! Was that a government agency actually expressing concern for the [...]

  16. [...] milk (which *ahem* — actually does cause stroke and heart disease), gelatin made from CAFO cow parts, genetically-modified corn starch and high fructose corn syrup (several teaspoons of the [...]

  17. [...] chronic illness? Oh, they were right. When they’re talking about meat from animals that live knee-deep in their own feces and eat a steady diet of animal waste, plastic, drugs, and of course, a good helping of liver-disease-inducing corn engineered by those same friends of [...]

  18. Holly says:

    I am not a blogger but came across your blog when a friend of mine shared your post about Susan G. Komen endorsed products on her Facebook page. I am so intrigued and really do want to feed my family the best foods possible. I don’t even know how to begin. I do buy real maple syrup instead of Aunt Jemima and I try to stay away from artificial sweeteners but other than that, I’m at a loss for how and where to start. We do have a Whole Foods in our area and I have bought grass fed beef and it was expensive but amazing in taste. Please help me find a way to just get started. Thank you so much! By the way, my hubby and I have a desire to move to Maui one day……it’s our favorite place in the world :)

    Holly

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Hi, Holly! I’m so glad you stopped by to comment and tell me a bit about your goals for your family’s diet and health! I think you are off to a great start! I would absolutely love to help you.

      I do offer a free e-book called “Get Real! Traditional Foods Basics” which is just a simple run-down of what it is that us “real food” people do and eat, along with some tips to get started. If you click the little blue box at the top right of this page that says, “Free E-book when you Subscribe” it will take you to a sign-up form and you can put your email address in for a newsletter I send out periodically, and then you’ll get a confirmation email with the link to download the book. If you have any trouble getting it, just email me at emily @ butterbeliever . com and I will send it to you directly.

      You know what? I think I will ask our Facebook fans to help you out, too. I’ll copy and paste your comment and there will be lots of advice given, I’m sure. I’ll come back here with the link to it soon!

  19. Drackxman says:

    That’s why venison tastes so good. Deer eat grass, forbs, nuts, leaves, etc. Some people say they don’t like venison. After learning about CAFOs I believe that’s because people have only eaten manufactured meat their whole lives.
    My nephews love venison. They are young and know what good meat is. Older people it takes longer for them to realize what good meat is.
    The more I learn about CAFOs, GMOs, HFCS, Aspartame, food dyes, etc. the less I buy at a grocery store. It’s very sad. Now I go through the stores and look at food labels and even produce and meat and think to myself…. Poison, Poison, Poison.

  20. [...] clean meat when you’re on GAPS, especially. You definitely don’t want to be eating CAFO. Get the best that you can afford or have access to — ideally local, grass-finished or [...]

  21. Jolene says:

    I am curious as to where you would buy the truly organic, grass feed meat? I live in Lodi, Ca and cant seem to find grass feed meat. I mean the package says it is, but how do I know for sure? Thank you in advance.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      I can totally understand not wanting to trust food labels! Have you tried LocalHarvest.com or EatWild.com? Sometimes even your local Craigslist has listings from local farmers. If those don’t pan out, let me know and I will try to post a question on the facebook page to ask people if they have any tips for you!

  22. Jolene says:

    Sorry I meant fed not feed!

  23. Jillian says:

    I completely agree! We are lucky to live near places that have pastured beef. Also, thanks for the Twitter follow. :)

  24. [...] nuts, legumes, and also in properly-raised animal products. (Except, we tend to raise animals amid poop-filled lagoons these days where they are fed the same crap that most people eat — a steady diet of PUFA-rich [...]

  25. [...] please avoid supporting the poop-filled lagoons of the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations world. Animals that are kept in factory farm [...]

  26. [...] according to a number of internet diet gurus out there—even though pasture-raised meat is best, CAFO meat is a-ok to consume, because any meat is better than no meat. I think they may be taking this [...]

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