25 Oct

There was an article in the Washington Post this morning about pigs and the swine flu.  Scientists are studying pigs and pig farms to better understand flu strains, and how swine and human flu strains can combine in the animals and lead to “reassortment”  – creating new and possibly more dangerous viruses. 

So I’m relaxing, reading the paper, drinking coffee, just like I do every Sunday morning, when I stumble across this:

“CAFOs such as Schott’s are inherently safer than backyard pig farms, where the animals mingle with people and birds fly overhead.”

The CAFO in question is profiled in the article as “one of the most pathogen-free homes a pig could have.”  Now I’m annoyed, because CAFOs are a big part of what’s wrong with our food supply, and what’s so wrong with birds flying overhead?  Oh – they might have avian flu.  And what’s so wrong with people mingling with animals – that we might actually know where our dinner comes from? 

The article goes on: “But if multiple flu viruses were to get into a CAFO, the crowding of the animals would make widespread transmission, and the chance of reassortment, likely. Mathematical modeling suggests CAFOs can function as “amplifiers” of pandemic strains.”

Now I’m really irritated.  So CAFOs are the greatest place for pigs until they become a breeding ground for a virulent new strain of the flu?  That sounds responsible. 

Let’s get back to reality – animals are supposed to live outside, sometimes they get sick, and most of the time, if they’re healthy, they get better – just like humans!  Packing them into a “sterile” environment, and inocluating to prevent infection, does not create a healthier animal.  It creates animals that can’t survive outside of their carefully controlled “biosecure” building.  Animal science has “‘eliminated or minimized so many diseases that used to be standard and common in the swine industry,” said Mike Male, 57, a veterinarian who provides the medical care to Schott’s animals. Influenza, however, isn’t one of them.” …and now we have a pandemic.

I don’t blame the pigs, and I’m not afraid to eat pork, and most of my family had the swine flu this week and lived to tell the tale.  But I  know where my pork comes from – Rohrer’s Meats.  You can find Danny Rohrer at the West Frederick Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.  

If you don’t know where your dinner comes from, you should find out.  And if you don’t like the idea of eating the products of an “animal factory,” you should visit the farmer’s market, or your local butcher. 

So, sorry about the rant, but I’ve about had it with the swine flu media frenzy anyway, and this was the last straw.

pig

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3 Responses to “”

  1. Dad October 25, 2009 at 10:45 pm #

    The possibility of a large concentrated animal population–a CAFO–getting infected is a recurrent problem. Generally, the entire population would be killed, unless the animals entered the food chain unnoticed, and then those at the other end of the chain–guess who–would get sick.

    CAFOs also present serious environmental consequences because of large concentrated amounts of waste. It has to go somewhere, including water supplies–not to mention the air in the surrounding area.

    Then, of course, there’s the question of whether it’s humane or ethical to force animals into such conditions. Life in a CAFO isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s one of those things from which you turn away in disgust.

    My solution is simply to eat less meat. I don’t think it’s necessary to avoid it entirely, for reasons of nutrition and taste. But, if you reduce your amounts substantially, you can still eat meat and, by scaling back consumption, reduce the need for CAFOs and other industrialized animal production methods. Demand drops, prices drop, production declines, and perhaps old-time, “free range” swine can return.

    Most people eat much more than they need–it’s obvious if you just look around. If you’re still uncertain, go to a WalMart on Saturday or hang around Outback anytime. In fact, most adults can reduce their consumption by 30-50%, with the dual benefits of being healthier, and of reducing the harmful effects of food production–including CAFOs.

    Respond here or in a separate new post, if you want to continue the discussion.

  2. Kate October 25, 2009 at 11:01 pm #

    Eating less meat is definitely a budget-, environmental-, and health-wise choice. But free range swine never disappeared, they’re just not at the supermarket. There are plenty of small farmers who raise animals the “old-fashioned” way, and don’t pump them full of antibiotics and growth hormones. They might not be certified organic but most of them also follow earth-friendly practices.

  3. Sandy Doggett October 26, 2009 at 9:18 pm #

    Kate,
    Last summer we went to see a movie about our food supply called Food, Inc. I also read the Omnivore’s Dilemna by Pollan and I have stopped eating meat from the grocery store. The CAFOs sound very unappetising!
    I really enjoy your blog! Thanks for writing.

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