the science and soul of an innocent world

Farming Livestock Sustainably:
Heritage Hills and Humane Living

By Amirah Counts

cows and pasture

Animals emit fear, stress and pain when they are being killed or waiting to be slaughtered. These hormones lead to a number of serious diseases when humans consume this meat. More in-depth investigations of the problem show that industrial (or factory) farms often make animals live in unhygienic and inhumane conditions with no access to pasture, transparent air or daylight. Animals at industrial farms often have to live in mud and their own waste and may even be mangled and mutilated. Meat consumed from factory farms poses threats to human health due to the amount of preventative medications administered from the result of the animals’ living conditions. Fortunately, sustainable farming organizations combat this issue with natural farming and methodology.

pigs in gestation crates By CALM action (gestation_crates Uploaded by Badzil) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Industrial farming or factory farming strives to do everything possible in order to deliver the maximum output of meat while limiting production costs. Factory farming is the method of raising thousands of animals in zero pasture and heavy density in order to produce eggs, meat, or milk in the fastest, most effective, and most cost-efficient way. The following are some examples of factory farm procedures: Breeding pigs are held incommunicado in special piggeries during the gestation period. Pigs also have their tails amputated without anesthesia to maximize docility. Veal calves spend all of their lives being bound with their necks to special cages, never having the chance to even stand up. This insures the tenderness of the meat by never giving the muscles a chance to build and condition. These methods are what the Industrial Farm Animal Production Guidelines (IFAP) say are acceptable processes for the animals. Due to the fact that congested cages restrict animal movement, the probability for rampant disease spreading is amplified; therefore, factory farms treat the animals with a routine antibiotic regimen.

The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization have suggested limitations on agricultural utilization of antibiotics. Generally speaking, more than 350 professional organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Infectious Diseases Society of America, have all demanded serious control of antibiotic usage in stock-raising. They also recently pre-admonished that world-wide industrial meat production poses a great challenge and endangers human health.

antibiotic sensitivity and resistance Antibiotic resistance tests: the bacteria in the culture on the left are sensitive to the antibiotics contained in the white paper discs. The bacteria on the right are resistant to most of the antibiotics.
By Dr Graham Beards (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The medical community has warned for years against feckless antibiotic use among people, and the effects of the overuse of antibiotics in livestock are even more serious. It is a scientific fact that with the application of more antibiotics (particularly their unnecessary use in small doses in industrial farms), all microbes will become more antibiotic-resistant (Singer & Manson 73). Many of these drugs are no longer effective on humans. Antibiotics are routinely administered to industrial animals whether or not the animal has an illness as a preventative measure and are also given as catalysts, not only to promote growth but to stay within the regulations of the FDA’s diseased and deformed meat policy. Many consumers are not aware that the general healthcare costs determined by drug-resistant bacterial infections in the U. S. are between $16.6 billion and $26 billion per year.

Added or subtracted hormones can be harmful and hazardous to both animals and the humans who consume them. This can cause endocrine disorders, including hypothyroidism and diabetes. Particular types of cancer are believed to be caused by certain hormones that belong to the steroid group commonly given to livestock. Scientists recently announced that hormone surplus, which can be found in meat from industrial animals, can demolish the hormone balance of the person who consumes that meat, impede their reproductive system, provoke various developmental problems, and even cause cancer development (Singer & Manson 245). There are healthier alternatives to factory farming.

Serenity at Heritage Hills Photo: Amirah Counts

Sustainable farming is far better than industrial farming, not only for the treatment of animals but also for the resulting product. More and more rural farms are popping up promoting hormone-free meat from free-range animals. One such organization is Heritage Hills Farm, nestled in Ava, Missouri. Run by Dan and Kathleen Collins, Heritage Hills uses natural farm production methodology. First, foods are produced without the use of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other hazardous inputs. Secondly, animals are raised without the routine use of antibiotics (Singer & Manson 200). Antibiotics are only administered to sick animals when symptoms are present or tests give positive results. Most organic farmers pull the sick animal from the herd before treating it, and the meat is not sold under that label. Sustainable farms market their products locally through local shops, farmer’s stores and markets, or community supported agriculture projects. This incidentally prevents environmental damage and human health problems caused by transportation-generated pollution. Kathleen Collins gives us the butchering process at Heritage Hills:

On farm butchering equals zero stress on the animal. The animal is in familiar surroundings, going about its normal/regular routine. We are blessed to have a local fella who is a custom farm butcher. He comes to the farm, works with us in setting up near the animal we want to have butchered, and he delivers the kill shot in a calm and professional manner-- one shot, no fuss, no muss, and no trauma. Then, here at the farm, he takes the head (which I do not watch), skins the carcass, and takes off and out all the stuff we don't want to eat (intestines, hooves). He weighs it and then hauls the carcass in his cooled truck to a local butcher shop he works with. They hang the carcass for a period of days (depends on how much fat is on the carcass) before the carcass is then divided up into its various parts.
With this type of natural methodology, the need for routine antibiotics is completely eliminated. Even the curing process is all natural. The meat is suspended by hooks in special rooms to “age.” The fat surrounding the meat of the carcass naturally preserves the meat without the use of additives.

foraging at Heritage Hills Photo: Amirah Counts

Overcrowding is not an issue, since the animal population is carefully calculated by the ratio of acreage and fencing to animals. The Collinses keep their production costs at a minimum by carefully selecting certain types of animals to raise on their farm. The animals raised are heritage or foundation breeds for other breeds, chosen because they help manage the property on Heritage Hills (Collins). By allowing the animals to decide their own natural diets, the cost of feed is drastically lowered; in turn, the natural grazing maintains the grounds and keeps the need for industrial farm equipment at a bare minimum. During the winter months the animals are supplemented with natural grains, veggies and other natural sources of nutrition (Collins). The animals are treated with dignity and respect, unlike those of industrial farms. The meat produced at Heritage Hills is free range, hormone- and additive-free. The Collinses take pride in Heritage Hills and do their best to spread their knowledge of sustainable farming.

The previous conversation shows that solutions exist. Proper information on where our food comes from is crucial to the persuasion of altering the production and consumption of our meats. Many understand that industrial animal farming can be hazardous to their health, as animals suffer from a myriad of unhealthy conditions. They are medicated with a help of numerous antibiotics and hormones for better production and general growth, and they are in continuous stress throughout their lives.

There are two ways to deal with the problem. The first one suggests limiting or eliminating our consumption of meat and dairy by becoming vegetarian or vegan in order to save one’s health and life.

The second one goes about finding meat and dairy products labeled as “raised without antibiotics and hormones.” If people consume sustainably farmed animal meat, they can be reasonably sure that animals have been humanely treated, raised and slaughtered, which will lead to the drop of industrial animals’ meat consumption. And this, sooner or later, will lead to happier, healthier animals, and happier, healthier humans.


Collins, Kathleen. Interview. 10 Feburary 2014.

Singer, Peter, and Jim Mason. The Ethics of What We Eat: Why our Food Choices Matter.

New York: Rondale, Inc., 2006. Print.

About the author

Amirah Counts

Amirah Counts is an Oklahoma native and U.S. Army veteran. She is currently attending Pikes Peak Community College for French and plans to continue her education in Communication. She is an aspiring local actor with experience in the theater, dance, and music industries of Colorado.

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