Meat industry

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The term meat industry describes modern industrialized livestock agriculture for production, packing, preservation and marketing of meat (in contrast to dairy products, wool, etc.). In economics, it is a fusion of primary (agriculture) and secondary (industry) activity and hard to characterize strictly in terms of either one alone. The greater part of the entire meat industry is termed meat packing industry- the segment that handles the slaughtering, processing, packaging, and distribution of animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and other livestock.

A great portion of the ever-growing[1] meat branch in the food industry involves intensive animal farming in which livestock are kept almost entirely indoors[2] or in restricted outdoor settings like pens.

Many aspects of the raising of animals for meat have become industrialized, even many practices more associated with smaller family farms, e.g. gourmet foods such as foie gras.[3][4]

The production of livestock is a heavily vertically integrated industry where the majority of supply chain stages are integrated and owned by one company.

Efficiency considerations[edit]

The livestock industry not only uses more land than any other human activity; it's also one of the largest contributors to water pollution and a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. In this respect, a relevant factor is the produced species' feed conversion efficiency. Additionally taking into account other factors like use of energy, pesticides, land, and nonrenewable resources, beef, lamb, goat, and bison as resources of red meat show the worst efficiency; poultry and eggs come out best. [5]

Meat sources[edit]

Estimated world livestock numbers (million head)[6]
type 1999 !2000 2012 % change 1990-2012
Cattle and Buffaloes 1445 1467 1684 16.5
Pigs 849 856 966 13.8
Poultry 11788 16077 24075 104.2
Sheep and Goats 1795 1811 2165 20.6

Global production of meat products[edit]

The top ten of the international meat industry

Companies[edit]

Among the largest meat producers worldwide are:

World beef production[edit]

World 58,443,000[7][unreliable source?]
Country metric tons (2015) % Of World
United States 10,861,000 18.58
Brazil 9,425,000 16.13
European Union 7,540,000 12.
China 6,750,000 11.55
India 4,200,000[unreliable source?] 7.19
Argentina 2,740,000 4.69
Australia 2,550,000 4.36
Mexico 1,845,000 3.16
Pakistan 1,725,000 2.95
Russia 1,355,000 2.32

Criticism[edit]

Critical aspects of the effects of industrial meat production include

Many observers[who?] suggest that the expense of dealing with the above are grossly undercounted in present economic metrics and that true/full cost accounting would drastically raise the price[11] of industrial meat.[12][13][14][15]

Effects on livestock workers[edit]

American slaughterhouse workers are three times more likely to suffer serious injury than the average American worker.[16] NPR reports that pig and cattle slaughterhouse workers are nearly seven times more likely to suffer repetitive strain injuries than average.[17] The Guardian reports that on average there are two amputations a week involving slaughterhouse workers in the United States.[18] On average, one employee of Tyson Foods, the largest meat producer in America, is injured and amputates a finger or limb per month.[19] The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that over a period of six years, in the UK 78 slaughter workers lost fingers, parts of fingers or limbs, more than 800 workers had serious injuries, and at least 4,500 had to take more than three days off after accidents.[20] In a 2018 study in the Italian Journal of Food Safety, slaughterhouse workers are instructed to wear ear protectors to protect their hearing from the constant screams of animals being killed.[21] A 2004 study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that "excess risks were observed for mortality from all causes, all cancers, and lung cancer" in workers employed in the New Zealand meat processing industry.[22]


The act of slaughtering animals, or of raising or transporting animals for slaughter, may engender psychological stress or trauma in the people involved.[24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35] A 2016 study in Organization indicates, "Regression analyses of data from 10,605 Danish workers across 44 occupations suggest that slaughterhouse workers consistently experience lower physical and psychological well-being along with increased incidences of negative coping behavior."[36] In her thesis submitted to and approved by University of Colorado, Anna Dorovskikh states that slaughterhouse workers are "at risk of Perpetration-Inducted Traumatic Stress, which is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and results from situations where the concerning subject suffering from PTSD was a causal participant in creating the traumatic situation."[37] A 2009 study by criminologist Amy Fitzgerald indicates, "slaughterhouse employment increases total arrest rates, arrests for violent crimes, arrests for rape, and arrests for other sex offenses in comparison with other industries."[38] As authors from the PTSD Journal explain, "These employees are hired to kill animals, such as pigs and cows that are largely gentle creatures. Carrying out this action requires workers to disconnect from what they are doing and from the creature standing before them. This emotional dissonance can lead to consequences such as domestic violence, social withdrawal, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and PTSD."[39]

Slaughterhouses in the United States commonly illegally employ and exploit underage workers and illegal immigrants.[40][41] In 2010, Human Rights Watch described slaughterhouse line work in the United States as a human rights crime.[42] In a report by Oxfam America, slaughterhouse workers were observed not being allowed breaks, were often required to wear diapers, and were paid below minimum wage.[43]

Possible alternatives[edit]

Cultured meat (aka "clean meat") potentially offers some advantages in terms of efficiency of resource use and animal welfare. It is, however, still at an early stage of development and its advantages are still contested.

Increasing health care costs for an aging baby boom population suffering from obesity and other food-related diseases, concerns about obesity in children have spurred new ideas about healthy nutrition with less emphasis on meat.[44][45][46][47][48]

Native wild species like deer and bison in North America would be cheaper[49] and potentially have less impact on the environment.[50][51] The combination of more wild game meat options and higher costs for natural capital affected by the meat industry could be a building block towards a more sustainable livestock agriculture. A growing trend towards vegetarian or vegan diets and the Slow Food movement are indicators of a changing consumer conscience in western countries. Producers on the other hand have reacted to consumer concerns by slowly shifting towards ecological or organic farming.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Global Meat Production and Consumption Continue to Rise". Worldwatch Institute.
  2. ^ Paul Ebner. "Modern Livestock Facilities". Purdue University.
  3. ^ "Foie Gras: Cruelty to Ducks and Geese | Ducks and Geese Used for Food | Factory Farming: Misery for Animals | The Issues". PETA. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  4. ^ "An Animal Equality investigation". Foie Gras farms. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  5. ^ Nina Rastogi. "The Kindest Cut - Which meat harms our planet the least?". Slate.com. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  6. ^ "FAO's Animal Production and Health Division: Meat & Meat Products". Fao.org. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  7. ^ "World Beef Production: Ranking Of Countries". Beef2live.com. 30 December 2016. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  8. ^ "Steroid Hormone Implants Used for Growth in Food-Producing Animals". FAO. 2015.
  9. ^ "Definition of veganism". The Vegan Society. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  10. ^ "The Six Principles of the Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights – Animal Rights The Abolitionist Approach". www.abolitionistapproach.com. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  11. ^ "USDA ERS - Retail Meat Prices & Price Spreads". Ers.usda.gov. 2 December 2016. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  12. ^ "Food wastage footprint - Full cost accounting" (PDF). FAO. 2014.
  13. ^ "Unfair fare: Why prices for meat from small local farms are too high". Ethicurean.com. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  14. ^ "Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food". TIME. 2009.
  15. ^ "The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production". TIME. 2013.
  16. ^ "Meatpacking". Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  17. ^ Lowe, Peggy (11 August 2016). "Working 'The Chain,' Slaughterhouse Workers Face Lifelong Injuries". National Public Radio. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  18. ^ "Two amputations a week: the cost of working in a US meat plant". The Guardian. 5 July 2018. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  19. ^ Lewis, Cora (18 February 2018). "America's Largest Meat Producer Averages One Amputation Per Month". Buzzfeed News. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  20. ^ "Revealed: Shocking safety record of UK meat plants". The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. 29 July 2018. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  21. ^ Francesca Iulietto, Maria; Sechi, Paola (3 July 2018). "Noise assessment in slaughterhouses by means of a smartphone app". Italian Journal of Food Safety. 7 (2): 7053. doi:10.4081/ijfs.2018.7053. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  22. ^ McLean, D; Cheng, S (June 2004). "Mortality and cancer incidence in New Zealand meat workers". Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 61 (6): 541–547. doi:10.1136/oem.2003.010587. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  23. ^ Eisnitz, Gail A. (1997). Slaughterhouse: : The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, And Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry. Prometheus Books.
  24. ^ "Sheep farmer who felt so guilty about driving his lambs to slaughter rescues them and becomes a vegetarian". The Independent. 30 January 2019. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  25. ^ Victor, Karen; Barnard, Antoni (20 April 2016). "Slaughtering for a living: A hermeneutic phenomenological perspective on the well-being of slaughterhouse employees". International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being. 11: 30266. doi:10.3402/qhw.v11.30266. PMC 4841092. PMID 27104340.
  26. ^ "Working 'The Chain,' Slaughterhouse Workers Face Lifelong Injuries". Npr.org. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  27. ^ Anna Dorovskikh. "Theses : Killing for a Living: Psychological and Physiological Effects of Alienation of Food Production on Slaughterhouse Workers". Scholar.colorado.edu. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  28. ^ "PTSD in the Slaughterhouse". The Texas Observer. 7 February 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  29. ^ Newkey-Burden, Chas (19 November 2018). "There's a Christmas crisis going on: no one wants to kill your dinner - Chas Newkey-Burden". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  30. ^ "Psychological Distress Among Slaughterhouse Workers Warrants Further Study - SPH - Boston University". School of Public Health. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  31. ^ Dillard, Jennifer (September 2007). "A Slaughterhouse Nightmare: Psychological Harm Suffered by Slaughterhouse Employees and the Possibility of Redress through Legal Reform". ResearchGate.net. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  32. ^ S, Serina; hu (2 March 2018). "'I couldn't look them in the eye': Farmer who couldn't slaughter his cows is turning his farm vegan". Inews.co.uk. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  33. ^ Fox, Katrina. "Meet The Former Livestock Agent Who Started An International Vegan Food Business". Forbes.com. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  34. ^ Lebwohl, Michael (25 January 2016). "A Call to Action: Psychological Harm in Slaughterhouse Workers". The Yale Global Health Review. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  35. ^ Nagesh, Ashitha (31 December 2017). "The harrowing psychological toll of slaughterhouse work". Metro. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  36. ^ Baran, B. E.; Rogelberg, S. G.; Clausen, T (2016). "Routinized killing of animals: Going beyond dirty work and prestige to understand the well-being of slaughterhouse workers". Organization. 23 (3): 351–369. doi:10.1177/1350508416629456.
  37. ^ Dorovskikh, Anna (2015). Killing for a Living: Psychological and Physiological Effects of Alienation of Food Production on Slaughterhouse Workers (BSc). University of Colorado, Boulder.
  38. ^ Fitzgerald, A. J.; Kalof, L. (2009). "Slaughterhouses and Increased Crime Rates: An Empirical Analysis of the Spillover From "The Jungle" Into the Surrounding Community". Organization & Environment. 22 (2): 158–184. doi:10.1177/1350508416629456.
  39. ^ "The Psychological Damage of Slaughterhouse Work". PTSDJournal. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  40. ^ Waldman, Peter (29 December 2017). "America's Worst Graveyard Shift Is Grinding Up Workers". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  41. ^ Grabell, Michael (1 May 2017). "Exploitation and Abuse at the Chicken Plant". The New Yorker. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  42. ^ "Rights on the Line". 11 December 2010. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  43. ^ Grabell, Michael. "Live on the Live". Oxfam America. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  44. ^ Joan Sabaté and Michelle Wien (2010). "Vegetarian diets and childhood obesity prevention". Am J Clin Nutr. American Society for Nutrition. 91 (5): 1525S–1529S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.28701f.
  45. ^ Y Wang and MA Beydoun (2009). "Meat consumption is associated with obesity and central obesity among US adults". Int J Obes (Lond). 33 (6): 621–628. doi:10.1038/ijo.2009.45. PMC 2697260. PMID 19308071.
  46. ^ "Meatless meals: The benefits of eating less meat". Mayo Clinic.
  47. ^ "Should You Eat Less Meat?". Sustainabletable.org. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  48. ^ "How to reduce your cancer risk and help the environment: Eat less red meat". CNN. 2015.
  49. ^ "Hunting vs Buying Meat: The Traditional Hunter in the Modern World". harvestingnature.com. 2012.
  50. ^ Kelsey Blackwell (2011). "Are bison the answer to sustainable meat?".
  51. ^ Chris Helzer (2014). "Bison Good, Cattle Bad??".

Further reading[edit]