WHAT IT MEANS: Whether it turns out that this swine flu outbreak originated in a CAFO or not, confined animal feeding has been linked to the rise of antibiotic-resistant germs like MRSA, as well as to environmental problems (think for a second about all the waste that a million pigs can produce in a day, then ponder where it all goes). To lessen the chances that an even worse strain of swine flu, or some other virus, could escape one day from a CAFO, take these steps:
• Ring a representative. The federal government needs to start supporting smaller-scale farming before it’s too late. “We don’t raise any more hogs than we did 65 years ago, but farms are a lot fewer and a lot larger,” says Martin of the Pew Environment Group. “More diversified farming systems are what we need to turn to for animal and crop production. The current industrial animal and monoculture crop model are designed for catastrophic failure at some point.”
• Defend yourself from swine flu. Health authorities don’t know yet how dangerous the swine flu strain may be; even if it continues to spread, it may not cause many more cases of serious illness or death. While the situation unfolds, protect yourself with the tactics that work against any kind of flu: Wash your hands often, cover your mouth with a tissue if you sneeze, throw it away, and yes, wash your hands again. See more anti-flu more tips in How to Keep Swine Flu Out of Your House.
• Meet your meat maker. When possible, buy pork and other meat from small, local producers whose animals don’t spend their whole lives shoulder to shoulder with thousands of their relatives. Shop at farmer’s markets and check with sellers how they raise their livestock.