Is there hope for improving industrial livestock production?

Is there hope for improving industrial livestock production?

Nothing screams the holidays like a roast turkey or ham gracing a festive dinner table, right? As Americans plan their holiday gatherings, meat is on the minds of many.  But the system that makes our massive volume of meat consumption possible is hardly worthy of praise when it comes to its effect on animal, environmental and human health

In 2008, the Pew Charitable Trust and Johns Hopkins got together to provide a comprehensive review of the state of industrial livestock production. Their initial report, titled Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America, gave the industry that raises and slaughters 9.8 billion food animals a year a lot to work on.

Of the 24 recommendations made in the report, the committee prioritized six areas of improvement, ranging from decreasing antibiotic use to phasing out intensive confinement. Five years later, in what seemed like a logical next step, the committee reviewed its recommendations to see what progress (if any) had been made in the industry's practices. The verdict wasn’t encouraging.

Little positive movement has been made in any of the six categories, said a new report, released this fall.

“Contrary to expectations, the Obama administration has not engaged on the recommendations outlined in the report in a meaningful way; in fact, regulatory agencies in the administration have acted regressively in their decision-making and policy-setting procedures,” the report concluded.

Here’s a more detailed look at where progress has and, more notably, hasn’t been made in these areas.

But instead of viewing the report as a holiday-season downer, this information can serve as motivation and validation for the natural retailers and manufacturers that do prioritize buying and selling humane, environmentally raised meat. It’s clear that government and industry alone can't be relied upon to change the current state of animal production, so it's up to consumers and the natural products industry to use our dollars to support the alternative.

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