Changing Production Methods

How did the meat and seafood that people eat change so dramatically? Industrial meat production took off in the early twentieth century with a series of changes in animal breeding and farm structure and with the rise of corporate agribusiness. Before World War II, cattle were raised on the open range, eating a grass-based diet. Chickens— raised mostly for their eggs, not meat—were allowed to forage outdoors for grass and insects. Pigs, while usually enclosed in open air pens, were given sufficient space to nest and root, as well as access to fresh air and sunlight. And the manure these animals produced was used efficiently to fertilize crops.3

But starting in the 1930s farmers began raising chickens for meat as well as eggs. Researchers developed new, higher-efficiency feed for these meat chickens, now called broilers. Then scientists discovered that adding antibiotics to feed caused these birds—and other farm animals—to gain weight quicker. Since the 1950s, the time it takes to raise broiler chickens decreased by half, from 84 to 45 days. Today broilers eat less than half as much feed and reach a weight of 2 kilograms in about one third as much time. By the 1960s, pigs and cows were also being raised in feedlots and confined animal feeding operations—indoor enclosures that can hold thousands of animals.4

In the case of fishing, the technologies were different but the broad changes in the industry were largely the same. Fishing fleets became larger, more powerful, and better at extracting fish from ever more remote corners of the ocean. Boats now depend on devices such as sonar technology, satellite navigation

Meat and Seafood:The Global Diet's Most Costly Ingredients

Table 5-1. Meat and Seafood Consumption in Top Five Countries or Regions, 2005, and Increase since 1961

Country

Meat

Seafood

(kilograms

(percent

(kilograms

(percent

per

increase

per

increase

person)

since 1961)

person)

since 1961)

China

55.5

14.6

25.8

5.4

Japan

91.0

1.7

66.5

1.4

European Union 44.3

5.9

26.5

1.5

United States

123.5

1.4

23.2

1.8

India

6.0

1.6

4.9

2.6

World

42

1.8

23.5

1.8

Source: See endnote 1.

systems, depth sensors, and detailed maps of the ocean floor. Enormous nets made out of synthetic fibers and huge winches give boats access to previously unreachable deep-sea areas where fish gather and spawn. Some fishing boats in the Atlantic Ocean use spotter planes, while in the Pacific fishers use helicopters to seek out schools of prized fish and scoop them up in huge quantities. These technologies are part of the reason that the wild fish catch holds steady at about 70 million tons even though scientists estimate that the fishing industry has eliminated 90 percent of the large fish in the ocean.5

When these practices first emerged in fishing ports and rural farming areas, they might have seemed like a good idea—more seafood harvested by bigger boats and fewer fishers; more meat on a more reliable schedule at a lower price. Agribusiness executives saw profits jump. Politicians supported the shift in the interest of competing better with other nations, having more abundant food supplies, and in some cases lowering food prices.

But these lower prices were an illusion. By raising meat in factory farms and grabbing fish and other seafood from the ocean with huge trawlers and other industrial fishing techniques, current production methods are endangering people's health while also threatening the long-term stability of the land, oceans, and genetic diversity that sustain production itself.

In one particularly ironic case, producing meat in midwestern factory farms may actually be reducing the fish harvest from one of the most productive U.S. fisheries. The fertilizers used to grow corn for animal feed run off into surface water and eventually make their way down into the Gulf of Mexico, where they have created a "dead zone" the size of New Jersey. The nitrogen-based fertilizers encourage algae blooms that rob other ocean life of oxygen. This area produces some $662 million worth of seafood each year, nearly one fifth of the entire fishing yield from the United States. And although there is only anecdotal evidence of a decline in fisheries harvests in the Gulf, experience from other less severe dead zones around the world shows that catches can drop precipitously.6

Emerging concerns about these two food sources—including avian flu and other new diseases in the case of meat and outright depletion and contamination in the case of seafood—are prompting consumers, fishers, farmers, and agribusiness to search for better alternatives.

How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment