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Rising cost of food due to factory farming

News Section Icon Published 28/03/2014

A recent Channel 4 programme, Food Prices: The Shocking Truth, explored the link between rising food costs and the reliance of the current farming model on fuel, fertiliser and animal feed.

Although the intention of factory farming, which is the dominant farming system in the developed world, is to produce cheap food, it is actually raising the cost of food.

The programme explained that industrial agriculture relies on natural gas-based fertiliser to grow grain and grass to feed animals.

Factory farming crams animals inside sheds and feeds them grain instead of putting them on land to forage for food. We argue the biggest single cause of food waste on the planet is the human-edible cereal fed to livestock.

The programme showed alternatives to factory farming, including rearing beef on pasture. The cattle are grazed and live off the land, removing their dependence on grain.

The series pointed out that this also has the benefit of fertilising the land naturally as they graze. This method can actually increase the productivity of a unit of land, producing more meat at a lower cost.

Presenter Jimmy Doherty visited Cliff McConville a farmer in Illinois, USA, who uses a land based system which rears both cattle and hens on pasture. The cattle graze the land first, followed by the hens; this creates its own supporting ecosystem. The hens forage for food which keeps feed costs lower. This way of farming means the farmer is less exposed to fluctuations in animal feed prices.

Dil Peeling, Compassion's Director of Campaigns said: "Factory farming pushes up the price of food in a hungry world. But this is of course also factory farming's Achilles' heel. While its life blood is plentiful flows of cheap petroleum and grain, it is also one of the main drivers behind the unprecedented cost of those same resources.

"The awful question left hanging is how many of the world's poor will have to starve before industrial livestock production collapses under the weight of its own financial absurdity.

"We need to get animals back on the land. Consumers can make a difference three times a day by buying products from animals that are pasture-reared, free range or organic."

Compassion's CEO Philip Lymbery explores the true cost of factory farming in his book Farmageddon published by Bloomsbury.

Find out more about Farmageddon

Farmageddon was published on 30th January 2014.

All proceeds from the book will go to Compassion in World Farming.

You can buy a copy on Amazon or other good online bookshops, for example Book Depository or Waterstones.


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