Conventional Meat, Dairy and Eggs
The huge demand for low-cost animal products means these foods must be produced factory-style on vast industrial farms.
But providing the public with cheap meat, milk and eggs comes at a staggering cost to the environment, public health, and animal welfare.
These are the most important facts:
The number of farm animals is mind-boggling. The U.S. alone raises and slaughters about 9 billion animals (mostly chickens) for food every year. To get an idea of how many that is, this is what 100 million pennies looks like.
That's roughly how many food animals are killed every 3 days in the U.S.
Globally, the numbers are astronomical: the world grows and consumes between 50 and 70 billion animals a year (not counting fish).
But what effect does raising so many animals have on the environment?
it's changing our climate
Industrial farming is one of the world's worst greenhouse gas polluters, with conventional meat contributing more CO2 than all cars, buses, and planes combined.
That's because huge amounts of fossil fuels get burned to fertilize crops, transport feed and animals, and process meat products. Cows also release billions of gallons amounts of methane directly from their bodies.
it uses a lot of LAND
Raising vast numbers of animals - especially large ones like cows - requires a lot of land. In the United States, almost half the area of the lower 48 states is devoted to raising livestock or their feed.
Globally, between 30% and 45% of Earth's ice-free land is now used for animal agriculture- that's an area the size of Asia, and larger than the surface area of the moon!
Animal agriculture = 17 million sq. miles/ Moon's surface = 14 million sq. miles .
...and uses a lot of water
Less than 3% of Earth's water is fresh and drinkable- and yet animal farming uses up to 33% of the world's available fresh water every year. Across the world, cows consume 45 billion gallons of water a day, and the corn and soybean crops grown to feed the majority of farm animals require heavy irrigation.
when it's not depleting water, it's polluting it
Farm animals produce incredible amounts of manure - over 100,000 pounds every minute - and most of it gets collected into giant waste lagoons, where it leeches or runs off into local groundwater, poisoning the human drinking supply with dangerous pathogens like E. Coli, and antibiotics and hormones present in animals' feed.
it's destroying the natural world
Animal agriculture is clearing, tearing up, or burning down natural habitats at such an unprecedented rate, it's now considered the leading cause of global deforestation, desertification, biodiversity loss, and species extinction.
In the Amazon, 90% of rainforest destruction has been driven by cattle ranching and soybean production (above).
It's a Public Health Disaster
In the US, 70%-80% of all antibiotics are fed to farm animals to stimulate growth or ward off disease in intensely crowded conditions. This reckless overuse of drugs plays a huge role in breeding superbugs - dangerous bacteria that can resist any type of antibiotic treatment.
The world's medical community has called for an immediate ban on feeding antibiotics to farm animals, warning it's a "public health crisis" that could destroy 75 year of antibiotics research.
it's hell for workers
Industrial farm workers labor under highly oppressive conditions, earning low wages for dangerous and difficult work, and are frequently even denied basic rights. In 2016, a shocking report detailed how U.S. chicken processing plants require low-paid workers to cut up so many chickens per hour, the employees can't afford to take bathroom breaks, and many are actually forced to wear diapers.
and a nightmare for Animals
Animals in the industrial farming system are subjected to some of the worst abuses imaginable, like these gestation crates used to confine pregnant pigs. In the US, there no federal cruelty laws that regulate the treatment of farm animals, leaving billions of animals at the mercy of a harsh system that puts profits ahead of even minimal concern for animal welfare. And as countless investigations have discovered, horrific animal abuse is the norm.
We can do better!
Conventional meat, dairy and egg production is a disaster on so many fronts, but we don't have to rely on this destructive, outdated system anymore.
A new wave of food innovators are disrupting animal agriculture and making meat, dairy, and eggs better by using plants or biotechnology.