Americans average almost 200 pounds of annual meat consumption per person. This is consumed across a wide supply chain including grocers and restaurants. Ground meats alone, for example, can contain dozens if not more animals in a single pound. This results in markedly increased exposure to the industrialized meat industry. Purchasing products labeled organic or grass fed does little to eliminate the overall problems.
A typical beef processing plant slaughters over 2000 head of livestock per day.
The grocery store meat industry is predominantly supplied by 4 companies. These 4 companies also account for over 80% of the US meat industry. Tyson Foods, for example, represents 25% of the market with a daily slaughter capacity of 28,700 head. These companies are the primary suppliers of local grocers, restaurants, cafeterias, and more. In 2015, plants that slaughtered over 1,000,000 head per year accounted for 57 percent of the federally inspected cattle slaughter. Learn More: USDA, High Country News
Before grocery store meat is processed, the animals are crammed for months in industrial feed lots where they are force-fed around the clock.
Every participant in the grocery store supply chain attempts to carve out their own small margin. In the case of the feedlot operators, their aim is to maximize animal growth rates in the minimum amount of time. These animals are removed from natural forage and given a diet exclusively designed to promote fast paced, unnatural growth. “Since 1990, average live weight has increased 224 pounds, or 20 percent. Since USDA slaughter records began in 1935, commercial cattle average live weights have increased by 56 percent.” Learn More: USDA
Over 100 meat related recalls occur each year.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service reported that 122 meat recalls were conducted in 2016 alone. These recalls totaled over 58,000,000 pounds of product. Of these recalls, 47,000,000 pounds were due to Listeria. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. An estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, and about 260 die.” Learn More: USDA FSIS, CDC
While often viewed as a healthier source of protein, poultry has seen even more industrialization than beef or pork.
According to the USDA, “chicken average live weights have consistently increased since the early 1990’s. Starting at an average live weight of 4.38 pounds in 1990, the average live weight climbed each year, and reached a record high of 6.12 pounds per chicken in 2015. The 40 percent increase in average live weight is the largest of any animal type in that time frame. Since 1960, chicken average live weights have increased by 77 percent.” Unfortunately, there isn’t a natural process that allows for these type of growth rates or the ability to meet the demand of the greater US market. Learn More: USDA