Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals, discussed the high incidence of foodborne illness and the state of American agriculture on The Colbert Report last week.

“Why should I become a vegetarian? What is wrong with the meat, sir?” satirical host, Stephen Colbert asked Foer.

On top of calling factory farms and industrial agriculture “perfectly antithetical to American values,” Foer discussed food poisoning statistics and the dangers of increasing antibiotic resistance as reasons for cutting back on meat consumption.

When Colbert asked Foer if eating factory farm meat–or “tortured flesh” as Foer describes it in his book–made the people who eat it become “tortured flesh,” Foer fired back with often-cited foodborne illness statistics.

“In the most literal sense, in the most scientifically objective sense, we are hurting our bodies. 76 million Americans get food poisoning ever year, and the CDC has said that the primary culprit is animal agriculture.”

“We know that we’re making antibiotics less effective, we know it,” added Foer. “And there are many things we don’t know, which are much more scary. What are the effects of eating animals that have been bred to be ill and have been fed antibiotics from birth until death?”

To watch the segment, which also includes a comedic discussion on free range labeling, see the clip below.

  • Former Ag Teacher

    Actually, food borne illness is decreasing in the U.S.
    If Froer got this wrong, it is likely that he is wrong about many of the other things he says. The guy is an author of fiction, not a scientist. He is good at assembling biased information that advances his agenda. So he isn’t a credible source of information about food.

  • Jerry Foster

    Actually, Froer got it all wrong. Food borne illness in the U.S. is decreasing.
    If he got this wrong, he may be wrong about a lot of the other tings he says. The guy is an author of fiction, not a scientist. He is good at assembling biased information that supports his agenda. So he isn’t a credible source of information about food issues.

  • Ag Grad

    I’m not comforted by the fact that meat producers use chlorine and ammonia to wash diseased meat in order to reduce the rate of food borne illness. It would be more appropriate to change the production practices that cause pathogens to flourish. Also, current practices are linked to other illness–obesity, heart disease, diabetes, antibiotic resistant bacterial and viral infections. Froer is an investigative journalist who relies on peer-reviewed, published scientific research findings. Jerry Foster is biased and has an agenda and is not a credible source of information about food issues.

  • Get real

    Jerry Foster isn’t credible? But a lifelong vegan activist is? Or a bunch of ambulance chasing trial lawyers? Or the annonymous Ag Grad?
    Get real. Jonathan Fancy Shoes hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about. Of course he wouldn’t eat a hot dog. He’s a damn vegan PETA activist. Would love to meet these farmers who don’t eat hot dogs.
    What a crock!

  • Adelaide

    If you don’t believe Foer, then look to his sources, which include reports from the United Nations and leading environmental and health scientists, including T. Colin Campbell from Cornel.
    Honestly, if you haven’t read the book, or others that delve into this issue, you live in the kind of ignorance that I used to live in. This is not a personal insult. Our whole culture has normalized the hell on earth that animal agriculture has become and the industry works hard to maintain our ignorance. Please try to move from a knee-jerk reaction and explore the issue and the valid sources that are abundant.

  • Amy

    Mr. Foer is not a lifelong vegan nor a vegan PETA activist. He happens to be a brilliant writer who was able to research a topic, over three years, gather a tremendous amount of information, relying on first hand accounts, personal investigation and the most conservative of government and industry reports, and synthesize that information into a fascinating, convincing, well-written book. Although he chooses to be a vegetarian, he does not state that everyone should be. He is making an argument against factory farming, not necessarily against eating meat raised humanely on small family farms, althogh he chooses not to. No matter how much you love the taste of a cheeseburger and how stubbornly you refuse to confront the realities of how livestock are raised, there is no way to defend factory farming or to justify the continual and widespread torture of animals. Nothing tastes good enough for those few moments on the tongue to justify how these animals are treated throughout their dismal lives, how inhumanely they are slaughtered, how filthy their flesh is, how bad it is for you nutritionally, and how devestating factory farming is for the environment. Factory farming works against nature, i.e. how nature intended animals to behave and live, and it has kept meat prices artificaially low fory ears. It is not going to last, no matter how much you bitch and moan at the idea that you might have to give something up.

  • MJHolt
    We are being poisoned by the minority for their wealth at the cost of our health and a polluted environment.
    Write your representatives and senators and ask them to watch this film:
    A River of Waste: The Hazardous Truth about Factory Farms.