Despite the growing popularity of vegan diets and plant-based proteins, the meat industry remains dominant in America, making up the largest sector of U.S. agriculture.

Fortune Business Insights data shows that the domestic meat market was valued at $170 billion in 2020, expected to exceed $200 billion by 2028.

The United States is also the world’s largest beef producer, accounting for over 20% of the global total.

However, the meat industry is notorious for its unethical practices, including food safety and animal rights issues, employee mistreatment, and environmental damage. Animals are often abused and injected with hormones, while workers face high injury rates in dangerous conditions.

Livestock production is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and water usage.

Additionally, the meat industry wields significant influence over policymakers and the market, with just four companies controlling 80% of the beef processing industry in America.

These corporations have been accused of conspiring to keep factories open during the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in thousands of worker infections and deaths. Major meat suppliers have also faced allegations of illegal price fixing.

Cargill was named the “worst company in the world” in 2019 by the environmental advocacy group Mighty Earth for its alleged role in damaging ecosystems, profiting off of child labor, and being a top polluter in the U.S. food industry.

Wayne-Sanderson Farms was sued for falsely claiming that its chicken was “100% Natural,” despite its stated use of antibiotics and factory farming methods. Both Sanderson and Wayne paid settlements in the lawsuit.

Smithfield Foods, America’s largest pork producer, was called out for having one of the “worst animal welfare records among livestock slaughter plants” and for misleading the public about “shortages” to keep its meat-processing factories open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, had to pay a record-setting fine of $3.2 billion for bribing Brazilian officials to look the other way regarding numerous violations like selling rotten meat, falsified export documents, and meat plants not up to code.

JBS’s environmental impact is similarly troubling, as it continues to work with farms illegally logging the Amazon, and is responsible for 42,538 hectares of Brazilian deforestation.

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