Myth: The Use of Modern Technologies to Raise Animals has Done More Harm Than Good
Just as technology has enhanced the way we live our everyday lives whether it’s through improved connectivity or making things like cars safer, technology has done the same for us on the farm with a variety of methods to sustainably and humanely produce more high quality meat from fewer animals. This allows us to feed our growing population while utilizing fewer natural resources and having a smaller environmental impact. And of course the use of technology helps keep products affordable for the 95 percent of Americans who consume meat and poultry. Today’s farmers produce 262 percent more food with two percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.), compared to farmers in 1950.1
“While individual farmers may choose to return to a time without modern farming technologies, if everyone were to do so, we could not produce the amount of food we need today. It would take more land, more natural resources and more people to maintain our current level of production without technology.” Over the past 30-40 years we’ve seen the population grow, but overall there’s fewer farmers to do the work to feed that population. Farm and ranch families make up just two percent of the U.S. population today and one American farmer feeds about 155 people worldwide. In 1960, one farmer fed 25.8 people. So, if you consider the economics of it, forgoing modern technologies would mean the availability of food would significantly decrease and food prices would increase.
Today’s food supply is the safest, most affordable it has ever been with significant improvements in animal welfare and worker safety. Much of this is being achieved through improvements in technology that have allowed us to build very efficient animal production and meat processing systems benefiting animals and consumers in the US and across the world.
Whether or not farmers and ranchers use technology, they all take pride and responsibility for how they treat their animals; after all, those animals are their livelihood. No matter what system you use to raise animals, there are tradeoffs, but systems are always developed with animal welfare and food safety in mind. Take indoor facilities for example. When you move an animal indoors, you provide them shelter from storms, sun, heat and cold, as well as protection from predators, and also remove some of the environmental concerns that could impact food safety. We’ve practically eliminated trichinae from pork for example by moving animals indoors and improving feeding and production technology in the way they’re raised.
There is also significant oversight of the technologies we use on farms today. Any medicines administered to animals must be approved by the FDA. Farmers also work with veterinarians to determine the best way to care for animals whether broadly with nutrition or more specifically when animals need vet-medical consideration and care.