An Unacceptable Risk


If only that picture of grazing cattle represented the norm.

Two-and-a-half years in the making and 124 pages long, the final report by the Pew Commission in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University – Putting Meat on The Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America – asserts that our current system of animal food production poses an “unacceptable risk to public health and the environment, as well as causing unnecessary harm to the animals we raise for food.”

The report noted significant obstacles from the industry at every turn. The authors reveal that an “agro-industrial complex”, consisting of agricultural commodity groups, academic scientists, who are paid by the industry, and lobbyists influence research, policy development, regulation, and enforcement throughout the industry.  Surprised?

The report issues a number of recommendations including:

-Stopping antibiotic use for non-therapeutic purposes.

-Full traceability of food animals within 48 hours.

-Addressing food safety.

-Dealing with farm waste.

-Phasing out the most intensive confinement practices in use today.

The report goes deep. Making the point that our current system is unsustainable, the authors recognize that change is difficult in such an entrenched system. 3 things will likely force change:

-The end of cheap energy.

-The end of a relatively stable climate.

-The end of abundant supplies of clean water.

Read the Pew study: Putting Meat on The Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America here. Now go on out to your local farmers’ market and support the people who are doing it right!

Image: Tambako the Jaguar

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.