George Mason Review : Cheap Meat at High Cost

Despite farmers’ arguments that the costs associated with updating farms to meet the new standards will drive up retail meat prices, consumer demand has begun to affect big business. On November 5, 2003, a news-story on CBS Nightly News highlighted McDonalds for their part in farm animal welfare. Journalist Wyatt Andrews reported that, “Quietly, both McDonalds and Burger King have become leaders in animal welfare, demanding improvements for the hens that lay the fast-food eggs and new standards for cattle and hogs destined to become sandwiches.” Companies must respond to the public outcry that corporate farmers are tinkering with our bodies and our childrens’ bodies for the sake of their own profit margins. Paying a little more for meat now is certainly better than battling cancer and other illnesses later. It seems a small price to pay to ensure our own wellbeing.

The same CBS news-story also highlighted a newly formed non-profit organization, Humane Farm Animal Care, which has recently formed in response to all of these concerns. Humane Farm Animal Care, which is based in Herndon, Virginia, has defined rigorous farming regulations that are based on the systems already in place in the UK. When Mad Cow disease decimated and contaminated much of the UK’s meat supply, they were forced to re-design their farming policies and today they have some of the strictest regulations in the world regarding farm animals. Here in the United States, this program is entirely voluntary and the farmers on the program include the “ertified Humane Raised and Handled” label on their products. Information from the Humane Farm Animal Care website,, states that:

“The Certified Humane Raised & Handled Label instantly assures consumers that a meat, poultry, egg or dairy product has come from animals raised in the kind of wholesome conditions that make wholesome foods possible. Food products that carry the label are certified to have come from facilities that meet precise, objective standards for farm animal treatment. Under the system, growth hormones are prohibited, and animals are raised on a regular diet of quality feed free of antibiotics. Producers also must comply with local, state and federal environmental standards.”

It is unreasonable to expect that humans will stop eating meat all-together, as some fanatical groups demand, but it is not unreasonable to expect civilized, humane treatment of these animals when the cruelty is unnecessary. Corporate farmers’ greed has led to the use of “forced molting” for hens, and rBST hormones for dairy cows, and intense confinement practices for all of our food animals, putting us at higher risk for salmonella poisoning, and breast and prostate cancer. Because intense confinement practices are so detrimental to the animals’ health, it has led to industry-wide use of antimicrobials, which, in turn, affect us all by leaving us more and more resistant to the antibiotics we rely on to heal us.

Change is on the horizon and we are beginning to see the effects, but it is time for all American consumers to take a stand for our own long-term health. Retail power is the key. If consumers demand higher quality meat, raised under humane standards, then the grocers and restaurants will carry it. They want to sell us what we want to buy. The Humane Farm Animal Care website has pre-written letters that can be downloaded, personalized, and sent to your local grocers and restaurants requesting products and food raised and handled under the Certified Humane label. Simply put, raising our food animals in a healthy, humane environment is “the right thing to do” for both farm animals and human-kind.