Animals raised for meat in factory farms are often genetically manipulated to grow unnaturally large and hence more profitable for the agricultural industry.
Chickens slaughtered in the United States, for example, are bred to weigh a staggering nine pounds today compared to just two pounds in the 1950s. They are bred to grow so fast, in fact, that debilitating deformities are common.
According to a study by the Center for Food Safety, over 450 animal drugs, drug combinations, and other feed additives are administered to animals to achieve increased growth and keep them alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them. Indeed, 99.9 percent of chicken and 78 percent of beef consumed in the United States come from overcrowded factory farms. Since these factory farms are filthy and packed tightly with animals, disease and infection run rampant.
To make matters worse, the Center for Food Safety found that drugs posing “significant threats” to humans, animals, and the environment are administered to animals. Shockingly, these have been approved by the FDA and are on the market. Of the drugs studied, 12 are banned for use as animal drugs in other countries, but not in the United States.
Ractopamine is used to increase an animal’s muscle mass and overall weight before slaughter, but the risks posed to consumers and the environment are not fully known. As for animals, ractopamine has resulted in more reports of sickened or dead pigs than any other livestock drug. It also increases lameness, broken limbs, and immobility. Cardiovascular stress, musculoskeletal tremors, increased aggression, hyperactivity, acute toxicity, and genotoxicity are just a few of the behavioral changes and other problems linked to ractopamine
Despite mounting evidence of health risks from arsenic exposure, from 1940 to 2016 the FDA approved arsenic-based compounds, or arsenicals, for use in animal feed for growth promotion, improved feed efficiency, and desirable pigmentation. Consequently, cumulative exposure to arsenic greatly increased among Americans, with documented cases of arsenic residues in chicken products. Evidence that inorganic arsenic compounds are readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tracts of humans also abounds.
Synthetic antioxidants, such as ethoxyquin, are used to slow down rot and increase meat’s shelf life. Although recognized by the FDA as poisonous, ethoxyquin is added to drinking water at poultry farms to enhance the yellow of egg yolks. Despite the FDA’s acknowledgement of the dangers, there has been no reevaluation or restriction of the drug for animals.
Eighty percent of all antibiotics in the United States are administered to farmed animals to curb infections, treat diseases, or promote growth and feed efficiency. While the doses are low and nonlethal, they allow bacteria to mutate and become resistant. This heightens the threat of antibiotic-resistant infections, which are expected to kill approximately 10 million people each year by 2050, according to a 2015 study.