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Factory Farming and Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO)—Worldwide Distributors of Disease

For the first time in over a century, more people are eating chicken rather than beef.1 Just like cows, chickens are most often raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which are an inherently flawed industrialized animal farming methods.

Although auspiciously developed to streamline the production of more meat (raising the return on investment for large farming operations), CAFOs and factory farming have instead created a worldwide distribution of disease.

When you remove diversity from small farms and replace it with a focus on a single end product, the risk of operation increases, including the risk of disease.

Prior to CAFOs, if a virus or bacteria emerged among their herds, farmers may have lost a part of all of their herd, but the disease did not spread toanimals and countless other food products beyond their farms.

Additionally with CAFOs, the large-scale factory-type slaughterhouse magnifies the risk to the end user, as infection in a single animal can spread rapidly in confined conditions, and can contaminate large batches of meat during processing.

Your Food System Is Interconnected

The days of sourcing all your meat and produce from local farms have largely disappeared with the advent of large chain grocery stores.You can find farmers markets and organic farms selling produce and meat grown locally, but these products don't make it to your local store in the quantities that they should be.

Instead, larger grocers source many of their products from areas all over the world, and the ease and speed of global travel contributes to the spread of food-borne illnesses. In 2015, for example, a report from China highlighted the "breathtaking extent" of their soil pollution crisis.2

The report described how a pig farmer in a village buried 14,000 tons of chemical waste from a fertilizer manufacturer over a decade. According to the article, the villagers know about the toxic dump and don't eat anything grown there. Instead, the crops are shipped elsewhere.

Also, as I’ve mentioned many times in my reports, the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in factory farming and CAFOs promote the spread and overgrowth of bacteria, including antibiotic drug-resistant bacteria.

Chicken Contamination Rates May Be Higher Than Reported

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) oversees the safety of the nation's meat production. According to the agency's latest numbers, the rate of salmonella contamination has been falling,3,4 with a rate of 3.9 percent contamination in 2013, down from 7.2 percent in 2009.

But a new study by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) found the method used by the FSIS may artificially reduce the percentage of carcasses found with salmonella.5 This may occur if the germ-killing chemicals are not quickly neutralized by the testing liquid.

Chicken samples gathered at the end of production after having been cut into parts, as you would purchase in the grocery store, found an astonishing positive rate of 26.2 percent contamination with salmonella.6

This means consumers are likely exposed to far more salmonella-contaminated chicken than the published percentage from the FSIS. Unlike the FSIS test, reports of salmonella poisoning have not shown a decline pattern in the last 15 years.7 Not all reports are related to contaminated chicken though.