FAQ

What about humane/sustainable meat?

A:

Local, pasture-raised meat is a big improvement over factory farming. However, there is no possible way to raise 9 billion animals sustainably. There is not enough land to raise so many animals on pasture without devastating deforestation and habitat destruction.

Additionally, even pasture-raised animals require more inputs than plant-based protein, and produce more outputs in the form of greenhouse gases. If we’re truly going to switch to a more sustainable food system, everyone needs to drastically reduce the amount of animal products they consume. Simply having everyone replace their daily intake of factory farmed meat with pasture-raised meat is not an option.

It's also important to keep in mind that many of the “humane” and “cage-free” labels are deceptive. 99% of meat in the U.S., including much of what's marked “humane” or “free-range” is really coming from factory farmed animals. As Jonathan Safran Foer says in Eating Animals:

“We shouldn’t kid ourselves about the number of ethical eating options available to most of us. There isn’t enough nonfactory chicken produced in America to feed the population of Staten Island and not enough nonfactory pork to serve New York City, let alone the country. Ethical meat is a promissory note, not a reality. Any ethical-meat advocate who is serious is going to be eating a lot of vegetarian fare.”

Finally, any animal products that are truly produced by small farms that raise their animals in the best possible conditions are going to be limited and expensive. Eating more plant-based protein, such as lentils, beans, and whole grains, is a more accessible, affordable option for most people who are concerned with the environmental and ethical impacts of their food choices.

Are you saying that everyone should go veg?

A:

Our goal at FFAC is to educate people about the current food system and empower them to make food choices that meet their own individual needs and are in line with their values. We promote the reduced consumption of animal products, because we cannot end factory farming and continue to eat large quantities of meat, dairy, and eggs on a daily basis. But we do not advocate a one-size-fits-all solution. Some people will try Meatless Mondays, others will eat smaller portions of meat, others might try Mark Bittman's Vegan Before 6. There are myriad ways that we can all make a difference.

Why is (insert factory farming process, or whole system of factory farming) legal?

A:

The simple answer is that it’s profitable, and these companies use their profits to lobby the government at all levels. They have even gone so far as to make it illegal for consumers to see photos of videos of the facilities that are producing their food. 

The level of government corruption and regulatory interference is on par with the fossil fuel industry. Luckily, we have tremendous power as citizens and consumers to fight this industry by voting with our dollars.

What about food deserts/food access issues? What do you tell people who don't have access to veg food?

A:

Lack of access to healthy, affordable food is a serious problem in the U.S. Many people live miles from the nearest supermarket, and have to spend over an hour on public transit to get there. We recognize that many people do not have the time, access, or resources to cook healthy plant-based meals. We also recognize that this is a symptom of our current food system, in which the government uses taxpayer money to subsidize meat and dairy, but does not subsidize healthy fruits and vegetables that the very same government tells people they should be eating in order to be healthy. Furthermore, we recognize that food access and food justice are complex issues tied up with politics, economics, and racial justice.

We do speak to many students in underprivileged areas who lack food access, and we find ways to empower them to make small changes. Everyone can make a difference. For instance, we encourage students to leave the pepperoni off their pizza, eat a PB&J instead of a baloney sandwich, or buy almond milk at Walmart instead of cow milk.

For those of us who are fortunate enough to have access to well-equipped kitchens and healthy foods, one of the best things that we can do is to exercise our power. By voting with our dollars, we can increase demand for healthier products, and slowly shift our food system. Almond milk is a great example of that – a few years ago you could only find it in Whole Foods or health food stores, but now it's sold at nearly every major supermarket and chain store, because people showed there was demand for it.

Isn't veg food expensive?

A:

The cheapest protein sources are vegan – lentils, tofu, beans and rice. If you think about it, most traditional diets worldwide are predominantly vegetarian or vegan. In most countries, meat is a luxury item. It's only due to factory farming and government subsidies that meat is cheaper than vegetables in the United States.

While some of the specialty products, like coconut ice cream, are expensive, it's easy to be veg on a very low budget, especially if you can cook for yourself. We recommend the websites Plant Based on a Budget and Plant-Based Meal Plan for low-cost recipes.

What are other ways to address this issue on the bigger scale, beyond personal food choices?

A:

Unfortunately, Big Ag has a lot of power over the federal and state governments, so it’s hard to get laws passed addressing this issue. But there has been success with ballot initiatives that take the issue directly to the people. If you're interested in lobbying or legislative solutions, we suggest subscribing to updates from the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund to get notified when there’s a local or federal bill related to farm animals, so you know to call your congressperson. 

Writing letters to the editor is also a great way to help draw more attention to this issue.

The best thing to do on a personal level, besides changing your diet, is to talk to friends about this issue. Let them know what you've learned, and share the delicious new foods you're eating! Also, of course, you can help schedule an FFAC presentation and share our video on social media!

Why does FFAC stick to grassroots education?

A:

We saw a niche that wasn’t being filled - discussing the impacts of factory farming from a holistic perspective, addressing animals, social justice, the environment, and public health all in one. There are lots of national non-profits with offices in Washington D.C. that are doing policy and lobbying work. But Congresspeople aren’t going to push for change unless their constituents want it, and right now there are still far too many people who don’t know about factory farming. We’re working in tandem with the bigger non-profits to educate and empower consumers so that there will be more popular, widespread support for reforms.

Meat tastes too good to stop eating it.

A:

You don't have to give up the tastes and textures you love. There are now products like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat that fool people in blind taste tests. And even if you don't want to stop eating meat entirely, you can still make changes. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. More and more Americans are becoming “flexitarians.” Participating in Meatless Mondays, using soy crumbles instead of ground beef in tacos or chili, switching from cow milk to almond milk... all of those choices make a big difference, even if you're not 100% vegetarian or vegan.

If everyone becomes a vegetarian, won't this create economic hardship for those who depend on animal agriculture?

A:

It's true that if everyone became a vegetarian, some farmers and workers would have to find new jobs. But factory farms employ far fewer people than small farms, and slaughterhouse jobs are traumatic and debilitating. If everyone switched to a plant-based diet, there would be thousands of new jobs created on farms growing fruits and vegetables and in companies making plant-based products.

Keep in mind that there's nothing new or unusual about the process of an entire industry disappearing. For example, people who worked in the horse carriage industry needed to find new jobs after cars were invented.

If everyone becomes a vegetarian, then what will we do with all the farm animals?

A:

Farm animals exist in such large numbers only because they're being bred to be slaughtered for meat. If the demand for meat decreases, they breed fewer animals. So the more people become vegetarian, the fewer animals are bred into a life of suffering. The whole world isn't going to go vegetarian overnight, so it would be a gradual process of decreasing the number of animals that are bred to be slaughtered.

If everyone becomes a vegetarian, won’t cows go extinct?

A:

If we got to the point where the whole world was vegetarian, we could still raise some farm animals on sanctuaries.

What's the situation like in other countries?

A:

The United States is ground zero for factory farming, with one of the highest per capita rates of meat consumption. Unfortunately, many American agribusiness corporations are now multinational agribusiness corporations, spreading their operations to countries with less regulation, like Mexico and Romania. Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, was recently bought by a Chinese company, so many of the pork products from pigs raised in the U.S. are sent back to China. The world’s largest meat producer, JBS, is a Brazilian-owned company. So just like all major industries now, the meat industry is globalized with complex supply chains. The EU generally has more stringent regulation of food safety and animal treatment conditions, though there are factory farms in Europe, and most other countries have more small farmers than the U.S.

Where do you get your protein?

A:

Beans, lentils, whole grains, soy, nuts. People need about 50g of protein a day, which if you’re eating a healthy, varied diet isn’t hard to do. Most Americans eat twice as much protein as they’re supposed to, which causes its own health problems. You're probably already eating plant-based proteins without thinking about it. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, falafels, and veggie burritos with beans and rice are all complete proteins.

For more nutritional information, check out www.chooseveg.com

What does a normal day’s worth of food look like for you?

A:

We highly recommend the website www.chooseveg.com for a sample weekly meal plan.

What about Vitamin B-12?

A:
For people who want to go entirely vegan, or eat a fully plant-based diet, or for all adults over the age of 60, it is critical to ensure that you are either eating sufficient quantities of foods that are fortified with B12 (such as nutritional yeast, bread, and cereal), or that you take supplements. B12 deficiency can cause permanent nerve damage, and often does not show symptoms until it is too late, so it is wise to err on the side of caution and supplement. If you try fortified foods, it is best to get a blood test every year to ensure you are getting adequate levels, as some people's bodies are better at absorbing and storing it than others'.

Where do you get your omega-3’s?

A:

Flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are all good sources of omega 3's.

Don’t we need calcium for healthy bones?

A:

Dark leafy greens like kale have lots of calcium, as do some other foods like walnuts. Most plant-based dairy products, like almond milk and soy yogurt, are fortified with just as much calcium as cow milk-based dairy products. There are many cultures that don't traditionally consume dairy products and still have healthy bones.

What about grazing cows in arid lands that can’t be used to grow crops? Isn’t that sustainable?

A:

In some cases it’s true that you can raise animals in conditions in which you couldn’t raise other food sources. But the goal is not to use every square foot of land on the planet to produce food for humans. Many studies have shown that we can grow more than enough plant-based protein to sustain everyone on earth, while also freeing up land that was formerly used to grow corn and soy to feed to animals on factory farms, allowing that land to be re-forested or returned to meadow or marshland. Returning land to its native ecosystems, populated by native animals rather than invasive domesticated animals, is the most sustainable option. 

Much has been made of Allan Savory's work and TED Talk promoting cattle grazing as a solution to climate change. His work has been scientifically disproven, and there are several articles debunking his theories:

http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2017-2-march-april/feature/allan-savory-says-more-cows-land-will-reverse-climate-change

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2013/04/allan_savory_s_ted_talk_is_
wrong_and_the_benefits_of_holistic_grazing_have.html

http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/HtWGPusmr7cs7jDJAb47/full

Do you have a question about factory farming? Ask it here and we'll get back to you with an answer!

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