Myths and Facts

Myth- Farm animals today are raised on “factory farms,” confined in “crowded, unventilated cages and sheds”.

Fact- Many farm animals are kept in barns or similar housing to protect the health and welfare of the animal. Housing protects animals from predators, disease, and bad weather or extreme climate. Housing also makes breeding and birth less stressful, protects young animals and makes it easier for farmers to care for both healthy and sick animals. Modern housing is well-ventilated, warm, well-lit, clean, and scientifically-designed to meet an animal’s specific needs – including temperature, light, water and food. Because it is designed to meet specific needs, a hog barn wouldn’t be used for cows, any more than an adult would sleep in a child’s crib. Housing is designed to allow the farmer to provide the best animal care possible.

Myth- Farm animals in “confinement” are prone to diseases, forcing farmers to routinely use antibiotics, hormones and drugs to keep them alive. This jeopardizes animal and human health.

Fact- Animal scientists, veterinarians and on-farm experience show animals kept in housing are generally healthier because they are protected. Farm animals do sometimes get sick. To prevent illness and to ensure that an animal remains healthy all of its life, farmers will take preventive measures, like using animal health products. These products are generally included in a scientifically-formulated feed that matches the animal’s needs. This is the simplest way to ensure each animal gets the care it needs.

Animal health products include animal drugs and vaccines, in addition to vitamins, minerals and other nutrients the animal needs in its diet. All animal health products are approved and regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Myth- By eating less meat, Americans would improve the environment and free land and resources for the production of food crops rather than animal products, which could be used to feed the hungry overseas.

Fact- Americans need to both animals and plants to manage the nation’s natural resources in the best way possible and feed its people. For example, about half the land area of the U.S. can’t be used for growing crops – it can only be used for grazing. That land would be of no use as a food resource if it were not for grazing livestock like cattle, goats and sheep. The U.S. has more than enough cropland to grow both feed grains and food crops.

Myth- A vegetarian diet is healthier than a diet that includes meat, poultry, milk, and eggs.

Fact- Both the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association say that a diet containing meat, milk and eggs is appropriate to both groups’ dietary guidelines. Health benefits can be derived by non-vegetarians who follow a prudent diet that is low in fat, sodium, sugar and alcohol. Poorly-planned vegetarian diets can be just as unhealthy as poorly-planned non-vegetarian diets. The key to a healthy diet is moderation.

Myth- Farming in the U.S. is controlled by large corporations, which care about profits and not about animal welfare.

Fact- There are 2.2 million farms in the U.S., and also according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture report on the Number of Farms in the U.S., the latest 2007 figures show an increase in number of farms by 4 since 2002. The 2010 report on the Structure and Finance of U.S. Farms also found that the vast majority of America’s farms (98%) are family-farms.

The study also discovered that 61% of all farms did not receive any government payments at all and were not directly affected by farm program payment. This finding clearly indicates that only a minority of farmers receive agricultural subsidies.

Myth- There are differences in nutrient levels of eggs from cage and free-range production systems.

Fact- A study, by Dr. Kenneth Anderson at NC State University, showed essentially no differences in nutritional quality. The results show that housing did not play apart on the levels of Vitamin A, or Vitamin B found in the eggs. “The key take away is that an egg, no matter where it’s produced, is an extremely nutritious product.”

A recent report published by Feedstuffs shows there are no difference in cholesterol levels between organic and regular eggs. However the study did conclude that contamination with Salmonella and other food-poisoning organisms is not consistently different between organic and regular eggs and may be higher in organic eggs.

Myth: Farmers care less for their animals than they do for the money animals bring them. Agribusiness corporations mislead farmers into using production systems and drugs that mean profits at the cost of animal welfare.                                                                                                                      

Fact: Farmers and ranchers are neither cruel nor naive. One of the main reasons someone goes into farming or ranching is a desire to work with animals. A farmer would compromise his or her own welfare if animals were mistreated. Agriculture is very competitive in the United States. It’s a career that pays the farmer a slim profit on the animals he cares for. Farmers are always looking for ways to improve their farms to ensure animal welfare and the economics of production. It is in the farmer’s own best interest to see the animals in his charge treated humanely, guaranteeing him a healthy, high-quality animal, a greater return on his investment and a wholesome food product. No advertising campaign or salesman can convince a farmer to use a system or product that would harm an animal.

Myth: Meat from the grocery store is filled with hormones that are unnatural and unhealthy for people.

Fact: It is important to recognize that many common foods naturally contain estrogen at levels hundreds or thousands of times higher than the levels in dairy or beef products that come from animals given estrogen hormones. In addition, estrogen levels in dairy and beef products from treated animals are essentially the same as products from untreated animals.

For example 4 oz. beef from steer given hormones has 1.6 nanograms of estrogen while 4 oz. beef from untreated steer has 1.2 nanograms of estrogen. Compare this to 4 oz. raw cabbage has 2700 ng estrogen and the average soy latte (one cup of soymilk) has 30,000 nanograms of estrogen.


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