In the past two weeks, we’ve talked about sustainable and organic food, as well as industrial agriculture and factory farming in our Guide to Good Food. This week, we’re going to compare sustainable with industrial so you can see a side-by-side difference.
In general, the biggest differences between sustainable and industrial farms are the size of the operation (industrial farms are much bigger), the amount of pollution/effect on the environment (sustainable farms do not pollute the environment and they replace the resources they take), and the quality of food you get (small local sustainable farms provide fresher foods that not only taste better, they’re better for you).
To break it down and give you more specifics, I’ve done a comparison of the two types of farming so you can see how different these practices can be.
Industrial farming: Industrial crops contain more nitrates and are often heavily sprayed with pesticides. Unsanitary conditions on factory farms and in industrial slaughterhouses cause high levels of meat contamination, which can cause food poisoning. In the U.S., food borne illness sickens 76 million people, causes 325,000 hospitalizations and kills approximately 5,000 people a year.
Sustainable farming: Food is grown with minimal or no use of pesticides or other dangerous chemicals. It can be healthier and more nutritious than industrially-raised food. Organic foods have been found to contain higher levels of antioxidants, which help fight certain types of cancer. Some types of organic crops contain more vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorous.
Antibiotics and Hormones
Industrial farming: Low doses of antibiotics are given daily to animals to ward off illness and disease that can develop from unsanitary and overcrowded conditions. This contributes to problems with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans. Both antibiotics and hormones are used to make animals grow faster.
Sustainable farming: Antibiotics are only given if the animal is sick, and hormones are never given to the animals.
Industrial farming: Responsible for massive topsoil erosion, depletion and pollution of underground water supplies, and the reduction of genetic diversity. Industrial farms also pollute our air, surface water and soil with animal waste, hazardous gases, toxic chemicals and harmful pathogens.
Sustainable farming: Protects the natural environment, with farms managed in a responsible way, maintaining the fertility of the land and preserving resources for future generations. Sustainable farms use waste as fertilizer and don’t raise more animals than their land can handle.