|This article does not cite any references or sources. (June 2015)|
The term meat industry describes modern industrialized livestock agriculture for production 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.
A great portion of the ever-growing meat branch in the food industry involves intensive animal farming in which livestock are kept almost entirely indoors or in restricted outdoor settings like pens.
Critical aspects of the effects of industrial meat production include
- hormone treatment such as steroids and the effect of consuming meat raised with these on human consumers
- animal diseases, e.g. mad-cow disease (BSE), avian flu, swine influenza (H1N1), avian influenza (H5N1), foot-and-mouth disease, some of which can spread to human consumers
- cruelty to animals inherent in the meat industry
- obesity - partially due to overconsumption of meat products
- human disease associated with animal waste, e.g. through E. coli
- cost of state services associated with the above including meat inspection and health care
- overall ecological footprint of the meat industry including the raising of feed and animal waste disposal
Many observers[who?] suggest that the expense of dealing with the above are grossly undercounted in present economic metrics and that full cost accounting would drastically raise the price of meat.
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. Native wild species like deer and bison in North America would be cheaper and have less impact on the environment. 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.