Animal Welfare in Food Production

Key Facts

  • A 2015 Gallup poll found that 94 percent of Americans believe that animals should have some protection from harm and exploitation.
  • Ammonia and other gases from manure can be a respiratory health risk for animals (and workers), especially in poultry houses. 
  • Antibiotics and other drugs are used, in part, to control diseases in overcrowded, unhealthy conditions.

Why It Matters

The modern, industrialized way in which we produce meat, eggs and other animal products has turned animals into units of production, subject to inhumane treatment, terrible living conditions and cruel deaths. In this system, to maximize efficiency and profits, companies and operators of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) prioritize rapid growth and large scale production over animal health and welfare.

But it is possible to use more humane practices in animal agriculture. There are trustworthy labels (that often include third party certifiers), which make it possible for consumers to find products that align with their values. Some people are surprised to discover that one can be concerned about animal welfare and be a meat, egg and dairy eater.

While it’s true that some people choose to be vegan or vegetarian, others approach their meat/egg/dairy consumption with a set of ethical standards that guide what they purchase and from whom. In general, that approach is about diminishing (if not eliminating) the pain and suffering that animals experience in the production process.

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