5 Dirty Secrets of the Dairy Industry

1. Factories are only inspected once every 10 years.

Strapped for cash and tasked with the responsibility of regulating nearly everything Americans eat except meat and poultry, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t have the dough or the bandwidth to do its job. In March, Dina ElBoghdady of The Washington Post reported that the FDA inspects the facilities it oversees about once every 10 years. Though Congress has ordered the FDA to up its game, enough funds haven’t followed to foot the bill. Instead, the bulk of the FDA’s focus (and money) goes to dealing with outbreaks after they occur.

2. Infection is rampant.

Milk’s not the only byproduct of dairy farms; infection is too. In fact, nearly half of all dairy cows experience bacterial udder infections, known as mastitis, because of unsanitary living spaces and poor hygiene. The infection, which can be fatal, is hard on cows. It also reduces the milk’s nutritional value; cows with mastitis produce milk that is lower in potassium, lactoferrin, and casein (the major protein in milk).

3. Dairy cows have their horns removed.

One of the most crucial components of an efficient factory farm is maximizing space. For dairy cows, that means horns—which could injure the animals in confined spaces—have to go. The process, however, is not easy. If cows are young, a hot iron is used to cauterize emerging horns, while farmers use saws or large metal clipping tools to cut the horns off adults. Neither process typically involves anesthesia. Even though most of the beef industry has transitioned to breeding hornless cows, the dairy industry has yet to follow suit. According to a 2010 ABC News report, nine out of 10 farms practice dehorning.
Milk Dud: America’s Dairy Obsession

4. Most milk comes from huge conglomerates.

Despite the green pastures that Big Ag likes to put on its packaging, the reality is quite different. According to Sustainable Table, two percent of livestock farms now raise 40 percent of all animals in the U.S. That makes it hard for small farm farmers to thrive, and makes it easy for Big Ag to have a monopoly—and the kind of power that makes it hard to take them down.

5. Conditions on dairy farms reduce cows’ life expectancy by 75 percent.

Domestic cows have an average life cycle of 20 years. Cows used on dairy factory farms, however, become exhausted very quickly. The average dairy cow lives for about four to five years before its becomes useless to the dairy industry and is sent to slaughter.

5 Dirty Secrets of the Dairy Industry

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