The Impact of Industrial Food on the Entire Ecosystem
In the globalized world, small businesses and local farms find it difficult to resist the wide-spread industrialization and mass production. The pressure from the huge corporations is so strong and the level of competition on the market is so high that many small farmers and businesspersons stop their businesses and begin to work for these corporations. Those who remain are often forced to raise prices for their products, making them less affordable for the consumers. The latter, in term, face the dilemma whether to buy cheap processed foods or healthy natural foods for a high price. Evidently, the majority of middle- and low-class people will prefer cheap industrial food. Consequently, the more industrial food they consume, the more developed and wealthy these manufacturers become, which leads to further problems in the entire ecosystem. In his book The Omnivores Dilemma, Michael Pollan argues against fast food and processed food, claiming that such products are unsustainable and harmful not only for humans, but also for the environment. The support for his arguments can be seen in the documentary Food, Inc, directed by Robert Kenner. In the film, Kenner demonstrates horrific images of industrial factories and animals, raised and slaughtered there. Both Pollan and Kenner promote healthy sustainable products, cultivated on small local farms in natural conditions. Even though industrial food is cheap and affordable, people should stop eating it because it damages their health, causes the animals sufferings, and is ecologically unsustainable and harmful for the environment.
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Industrial Food Harms Human Health
The main reason people should stop buying industrial food is its harmful effect on their health. The food grown at huge manufactures contains antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and fertilizers, which have a negative impact on health. According to Kim et al., Based on FDA data, 29.9 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for use in meat and poultry production in 2011, representing 80 percent of the total volume of antibiotics sold in the United States for any purpose. The manufacturers use antibiotics to prevent animals from diseases and death, and these antibiotics then are left in meat people buy and eat. Consequently, humans gain resistance to antimicrobials, which leads to the diminution of the effectiveness of these drugs to treat their diseases. The problem is that the manufacturers feed healthy animals with antibiotics to promote growth instead of using these medications for treating sick animals only. The owners of food industries make excuses to the opponents of antibiotics, claiming that if they stop feeding animals with these drugs, they will need to stop feeding them with a great amount of corn and other grains used for fast growth. Consequently, the manufactures will sustain financial and material damages. Therefore, antibiotics are needed to preserve animals health and gain more profits.
In addition to antibiotics, industrial food contains a huge amount of saturated fats, which cause such diseases as obesity, diabetes, cancer, and others. According to Wallinga, The average Americans daily energy intake rose by 300 kcal over just 15 years, from 1985 to 2000. It led to higher obesity level, as well as to such chronic degenerative diseases as heart disease; colon, breast, and prostate cancer; and type II diabetes. Pollan affirms that the industrially-produced meat is rich on saturated fats because the animals are fed with genetically modified pesticide-producing corn. Consequently, such meat is less healthy for human beings than the meat of animals fed grass. Not only it causes the above-mentioned diseases, but also it influences human ability to conceive. For example, Ohlhorst et al. claims that healthy and balanced nutrition plays a key role in preventing such diseases of reproductive organs as prostate and ovarian cancers. Therefore, if a person eats only processed foods, he/she has more chances to develop the diseases of reproductive system than those people who consume healthy products. Finally, dietary fats alter the lipids of the membranes of immune cells, disrupting the immune functions. As a result, people have weak immune systems and cannot resist even the simplest illnesses, such as cold or flu. One can see that industrial food is unhealthy and rich on saturated fats and antibiotics, causing different problems with health and human well-being.
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Animals Suffering as a Usual Experience at Huge Manufactures
People should stop consuming industrial meat and poultry because these animals suffer in terrible conditions, in which they are raised. Several decades ago, farmers spent several years to breed cows so that they could reach slaughter weight. Today, this time is reduced to sixteen-eighteen months, which means that the profits of such meat industries have raised significantly. However, to achieve such fast growth, modern farmers have to use protein and fat supplements, various drugs, genetically modified corn and other additives. Besides, instead of growing in natural conditions, under the sun in green fields, the animals and chickens are put into low-rise industrial buildings where there is no room to move. Unfortunately, such practices of confining animals in small places that do not allow them to behave in a natural way, altering them without pain relief, and providing animal feeds that promote growth at the expense of animal health are highly popular today. Since the animals are limited in space, they eat and drop in the same places, often standing in their manure and even eating some parts of it. It is not a secret that such bacterium as E. coli exists in manure, and if it gets into meat, those people who will consume it have a risk to be infected. For this reason, the manufacturers sterilize meat before selling it, which is harmful for human health. However, the animals health suffers too.
Poultry and animals raised at huge industries live short and painful lives, which is another reason why people should stop buying such meat. In his documentary Food, Inc, the director interviews Vince Edwards, who grows chicken for the biggest meat industry, Tyson, and Edwards says, These chicken never see sunlight. The other farmer, Carole Morison, a Perdue grower, complains that chickens break their bones because they are too weak due to extremely fast growth. Industrial chemical chicken need about seven weeks to grow while in 1970, they needed seventy days to grow up to their biggest seize. One can only imagine what pain these animals feel when they try to take several steps by their feet. Moreover, since the animals feed on genetically modified pesticide-producing maize and pesticide-resistant soy, such combination of grains leads to severe stomach inflammation. Despite such issues, the manufacturers slaughter sick animals along with the healthy ones because they do not want to bear losses. As a result, people eat meat of these sick animals, which may lead to different diseases or health worsening. To stop animals sufferings and human health problems, people should refuse consuming industrial foods and instead, should support local farmers who raise animals in natural conditions.
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Industrial Food Production and Its Impact on the Environment
The third reason people should stop supporting industrial food production is its harmful effect on the environment. Moreover, not only food industries but also agricultural sector causes environmental problems. For instance, the recent research showed that agriculture is a pollution source in 48% of polluted river and stream waters [...] and in 41% of polluted lakes in the United States. Since agricultural sectors use fertilizers, pesticides, and fossil fuels for land cultivation, fertilizing, and cropping, all these substances penetrate into soil and water and evaporate, causing air pollution and even climate change. The more plants need to be raised, the more chemicals and fossil fuels will be used for their cultivation. Consequently, the entire ecosystem will suffer.
In addition, industrial food animal production (IFAP) facilities pollute the environment in the same way agriculture does. Kim et al. argues, IFAP facilities can also contaminate water supplies with chemicals present in pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and heavy metals, as well as pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes. Furthermore, not only humans consume this water and use it for their daily needs, but also fishes and animals drink water and develop different diseases. Besides, air is polluted with the releases of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, pathogens, endotoxins, and animal dander. These emissions lead to greenhouse effect and climate change, which have irretrievable effect on the entire ecosystem. Finally, industrial food production is unsustainable because it utilizes fossil energy instead of renewable energy, and it is focused more on the final outcomes but not on the process of food cultivation. For instance, organic farms utilize all waste products because they do not add any chemicals to them, while huge manufactories cannot use the manure of animals who are fed with chemical grains and antibiotics because such manure is perfect for E. coli development. In addition, huge corporations are interested in producing the highest amount of food in the shortest terms, which means that they cannot spend time and money on some renewable sources and natural environment for the animals. As a result, unsustainable fossil fuels and chemicals are the best resources for such corporations. Therefore, people should stop supporting industrial food animal production to minimize its negative impact on the environment and save natural resources.
What Is the Solution?
Many people who buy industrial food do it because such food is much cheaper than organic products. For example, one Mexican family with two children explains their choice in the following way, We dont have time to cook, [...] when we have only a dollar to spend, and you have two kids to feed, hamburgers seem more nourishing than fruits and vegetables. These people cannot afford buying healthy food because they are sure that natural food is too expensive. However, it is not always true. The family spends a lot of money to treat the fathers diabetes he developed because of unhealthy diet. If they ate healthy food earlier, the disease could be prevented, and this money would be saved for healthier products. Thus, many Americans often do not understand that while saving money on food, they do not save their health. On the contrary, they harm it, which leads to higher expenses on medical treatment. In this case, the best advice will be to stop consuming cheap fast food, which is usually presented with large portions, and begin eating healthy products in smaller quantities. In such a way, the problems with obesity and diabetes could be solved or, at least, reduced.
On the other hand, many people are unaware of the importance of healthy nutrition for their well-being. Thus, Ohlhorst et al. offers to promote education about adequate nutrition, reducing global and domestic food insecurity through direct and purposeful agricultural practices. For example, local farmers could arrange educational classes in schools, universities, or at workplaces, informing people about the advantages of organic food raised on their farms. They could explain that they use sustainable agricultural systems, which are based on small, profitable forms and use much fewer off-farm inputs than huge manufactures do. In addition, integration of animal and plant production, maintaining high biotic diversity, emphasizing technologies of appropriate size, and utilizing renewable forms of energy are the other advantages of small farming that should be shown to the citizens. When people are informed about the alternatives to cheap fast food, they have a choice whether to continue eating processed foods and harm their health and environment or to begin supporting small farms and lead healthy lifestyles.
Of course, not all organic farms are environmentally safe. Pollan claims that there are many industrial organic farms that are similar to huge manufactures since they use the same methods of food production. However, natural organic farms exist, and the more people support them, the more local farmers will appear in different communities. People will enjoy eating naturally grown products eventually. Pollan says, When chickens get to live like chickens, theyll taste like chickens too. Many modern citizens of the United States forgot the taste of real chickens due to industrial meat production. Therefore, the situation must be changed.
Industrial food production is unhealthy, harmful for the environment, and unsustainable, which means that people should stop consuming such food. Although the process of globalization does not allow to stop this practice quickly, the United States still have a chance to save the citizens from various diseases and the environment from negative impact of mass food production. People spend much money on treating different diseases but they spare a few dollars for fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat from the farm. Sooner or later they will understand that such sparing is useless because their health depends on their nutrition and the environment, in which they live. To save the planet from contamination and emissions, animals from sufferings, and humans from diseases, it is high time to substitute fast and processed foods for natural organic products.