Livestock is fed by animals that are raised in facilities that use chemicals and antibiotics, and often feed on feedlots that are not certified organic.
It is estimated that up to 80 percent of all livestock feed is treated with pesticides and antibiotics.
A growing body of research is now suggesting that this can result in increased animal stress, reduced food quality and increased risk of illness and disease.
In a study published last year in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, researchers found that livestock fed on contaminated feedlot pasture and grain was at greater risk of developing gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders.
This is in contrast to farm animals fed on organic feed, which are fed a diet of whole grass, grain and vegetables.
According to Dr. Rebecca Stenhouse, a veterinarian and professor at the University of Washington’s School of Veterinary Medicine, the problem isn’t limited to feedlott animals.
She said, “People think of livestock as just a big chunk of meat, but it’s actually a much larger animal, and so the health effects are not limited to just meat.”
Dr. Stenhouses research was led by Dr. Susan A. Stenn, who also works as a professor at Seattle Pacific University.
Stenn and her colleagues tested the impact of feeding on grass-fed, pasture-raised and factory-raised pigs on the gut and respiratory health of these animals.
They found that, although the animals were fed on a factory-based diet, their overall health improved.
This research is part of the growing movement to improve livestock health, but the question of whether this can be done with a GMO feed is an important one, said Dr. J. Michael Collins, a professor of food science and policy at the Cornell University, in a press release.
Dr Collins said, the USDA has taken a few steps to address the problem of GMO contamination, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
Dr Stenhas work was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (grant number R01DK099082).