Talk Looks at the Hidden Costs of Factory Farming
Web Editor - Published: November 1, 2012

In the accompanying video, Food and Drug Law Association President Raymond Powers discusses all of the campus events that took place related to Food Day.

“Pay now or pay later,” Assistant Dean Verne Smith warned as he discussed the hidden costs of factory farming in a lecture he delivered on Widener’s Chester campus on Wednesday, October 31st.

Smith’s talk, “The $100 Cheeseburger: Exploring the Real Costs of Factory-Farmed Food in America,” which concluded activities related to Food Day, was also videoconferenced to the Delaware and Harrisburg campuses.

After opening with a brief overview of Food Day, which was conceived of by the Center for Science in the Public Interest as a national day to promote awareness of the movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food, Smith thanked the Widener Wellness Committee for sponsoring his talk.

“These are important issues, and it’s good to question where our food comes from,” Smith said as he opened with a short history of animal farming and a consideration of the migration from a system of small, family-owned farms to large factory farms, noting that 95% of all farm animals in the United States now live their whole lives on factory farms.

He discussed the reasons behind the move to factory farms, saying, “The answer is simple. It lowers the production costs of raising the animals,” before adding, “These lower production costs lead to cheaper meat at the food store.” He concluded that in relative costs, “While Americans are eating more meat than ever before, they are paying less for it.”

Smith cited three primary hidden costs that are not factored in, however, when considering this “cheap” and readily available meat. He broke those hidden costs down into three major categories; Public Health, Environmental, and Animal Welfare. Factoring in those hidden costs, he noted, would get you to the $100 dollar cheeseburger of the talk’s title.

“Evidence shows that factory farming poses very serious public health risks,” he said as he addressed the spread of zoonotic diseases such as E. Coli and Salmonella enterica that find “perfect breeding grounds” in factory farms. He also touched on the overuse of antibiotics in factory-farmed animals that can contribute to producing antibiotic resistant strains or “superbugs.”

He also addressed the potential environmental costs of factory farms, including issues with waste disposal and water contamination, as well as contributions to greenhouse gases and global warming through the concentration of methane and carbon dioxide produced by the concentrated masses of animals found on factory farms.

The talk also addressed the deplorable conditions that animals are kept in on factory farms and the issues raised by keeping so many animals in such tightly confined spaces, and looked at potential alternatives.

“Cheap meat is a myth,” he concluded before finishing his remarks and taking questions from the audience.