The Unexpected Ways Food Waste Is Killing Farmed Animals

Did you know that a huge percentage of meat and fish is never eaten? Cruel and wasteful production practices mean more animals die at the hands of industrial animal agriculture and commercial fishing than people actually eat. 

Food Waste

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a report on food waste and highlighted animal production as a priority area. According to the report, more than a quarter of meat, poultry, and seafood is wasted at the retail and consumer stages alone! In fact, more than one-third of the food produced in the United States is never eaten.

Factory farms are directly responsible for a great amount of food waste. Research shows that around one-third of pigs in the United States never make it to slaughter and instead die at farms. Poor animal welfare is a key cause of on-farm mortality. To feed the demand for cheap meat, animals are crammed together in sheds, each with little space. Diseases run rampant, and injuries are often left untreated. 

Some animals are even bred to die young. Chickens and turkeys used for meat, for example, are bred to grow as fast as possible, which puts tremendous stress on their bodies. Some grow so quickly that their bones can’t keep pace. These birds can’t even stand up on their fragile legs to reach food or water. They are often discarded, thus contributing to food waste. 

The Environment

The recent EPA report also notes the immense strain raising and killing animals for food places on the environment. It takes into account not just the animals themselves but the greenhouse gas emissions associated with “feeding and housing the animals.” So the environmental impact of animal production includes not just the land, water, and electricity needed for the farm but the resources needed to grow corn, oats, soybeans, and other feed for the animals. The report states:

In general, the production of animal products requires the greatest amount of land, water, and energy and results in the most [greenhouse gas] emissions per weight of food produced.

As a result, most of the greenhouse-gas footprint of U.S. food waste, which exceeds that of air travel, is attributable to animal products. Even though the U.S.Department of Agriculture and the EPA set a goal in 2015 to halve food waste by 2030, the amount of food wasted continues to rise.

Policies That Can Help

Policymakers can take action to help move food purchasing toward healthier, kinder alternatives by shifting government food purchases toward plant-based foods and providing information about plant-based eating to consumers. In fact, Mercy For Animals is working with lawmakers to require state and local governments to reduce the meat, dairy, and egg products they purchase and increase the amount of plant-based food. This could help transform the food system as we know it.

A lot of waste also comes from the meat and seafood industries’ focus on maximizing production and minimizing costs without regard to animal welfare. Driftnet fishing, for example, is a horrific practice that catches about twice as many untargeted animals as targeted ones. These “bycatch” animals die in the nets and are discarded. Mercy For Animals has promoted bans on the use of driftnets in commercial fishing, which would result in far fewer animals killed. You can support our efforts by asking your representative to support a federal bill banning driftnets.

Meat producers can also reduce waste (and improve animal welfare) by making it a goal of the breeding process. Some countries already apply welfare standards to animal genetics to decrease mortality rates. But in the United States, many animals are bred for characteristics that make them more likely to die other than by slaughter. 

Additionally, poor housing conditions, transport conditions, and care practices not only contribute to animal suffering but cause more animals to die without ever reaching the slaughterhouse.

What You Can Do

Luckily, the easiest way to create change can happen at home! You can make a huge difference simply by refusing to participate in this cruel and wasteful system. Start cutting down on animal products today by downloading our FREE veg starter guide.