Human Health Impacts of Factory Farming
The management and welfare of animals raised for food directly impacts human health. Intensive farming operations or “factory farms,”which may house tens of thousands of animals in close quarters, serve as ideal incubators for disease. Several major human health concerns are associated with intensive farming, including: increased transfer of infectious agents from animals to humans, antibiotic resistance, food-borne illness, and the generation of novel viruses.
The sheer number of animals raised within confinement operations increases the transmission of infectious agents within flocks and herds and, by extension, between animals and human workers. Confinement-induced stress may also increase the frequency of illness and the shedding of viruses and bacteria, and intensive farming facilitates the generation of novel viruses like H1N1 (swine flu) in pigs.
Antibiotic resistance, stemming from the use of antibiotics to promote growth and suppress disease within confinement operations, presents a serious health concern. The low-level dosing of livestock and poultry with antibiotics that are identical or related to drugs used in human medicine has contributed to the spread of multidrug-resistant infections in humans. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that two million people contract antibiotic-resistant infections each year.
Animal and manure management on confinement operations, animal transport, and meat processing can also contribute to food contamination and food-borne illness like E. coli and Salmonella.