For those of you that are joining in from our last blog, I know we promised our next blog to include the truth behind Grass-Fed beef AND free range chicken. Unfortunately as my research was underway, I uncovered so much disturbing information that I didn’t want to be neglectful and leave anything out. So, I decided to deal exclusively with grass-fed beef today and leave the next blog for the topic of free-range chicken and their eggs.
My research started with my usual sources such as Google, Wikipedia and I tried hard to dig into FDA and USDA. Here’s what I found. Basically, there are two ways to raise cattle in United States. One method is very profitable and predominant, and called a feedlot system. The other method is “Grass-Fed”.
Feedlot / Feedyard Cattle
From Wikipedia “A feedlot or feedyard is a type of Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) (also known as “factory farming”) which is used for finishing livestock, notably beef cattle, prior to slaughter. They may contain thousands of animals in an array of pens.” This means the calf is raised on the pasture with its mother to feed on her milk and graze until it reaches an entry-level weight of 650 lbs. It is then placed in a pen and fed a “specialized” diet consisting mainly of hay, corn, sorghum and other by-products of food processing. These by-products are usually cottonseed meal, soybean meal, sugar beet waste, molasses and minerals. In order to get as much fat deposits (marbling) as possible in the animals muscles, feedlot cattle are fed a very nutritionally dense diet. In addition to this unnatural diet, feedlot cattle are usually given growth hormone to achieve faster growth as well as antibiotics, which they wouldn’t need if they were able to graze freely.
Grass-Fed cattle spend their lives on the pasture and are allowed to graze freely on fresh pasture, hay or grass silage. This means they do not need antibiotics, genetically modified growth promoting hormones or a diet that they were not meant to eat.
Ruminents, Corn & Acidosis
You see, a cow is a ruminant. It has a rumen which is a 45-gallon “fermentation tank” in which resident bacteria convert cellulose into protein and fats. After this food is properly broken down they regurgitate their food, and chew it more thoroughly until proper digestion has taken place. One of the most serious illnesses that can happen to a cow on corn is a condition known as feedlot bloat. The rumen is always producing a lot of gas in which the cattle normally belch out during rumination. However, in a cattle on a diet high in starches and little roughage, rumination all but stops. At this point a foamy slime forms that traps gas, and the rumen expands like a balloon. Unless immediate action is taken (usually by shoving a tube down the esophagus,) the animal suffocates. The pH of a rumen is neutral, unlike our stomach which is highly acidic. A corn based diet can also give the cattle acidosis, which in serious cases can cause death but typically renders the animal very sick. Cattle affected by acidosis stop feeding, pant and salivate excessively, eat dirt and paw at their bellies. This condition can cause diarrhea, ulcers, bloating, liver disease and weaken the immune system. In these confined environments, any disease from polio to pneumonia can run rampant. In short, cattle, sheep, goats and deer are ruminants, and as such these animals were created by God to eat and live off grasses. Any diet other than that, endangers not only these animals’ lives, but also those humans that consume them.
Avoiding Hormones in Beef
If Grass-Fed beef is something your family cannot afford than at the very least you should consider purchasing organic beef. Although organic beef may be raised in a confined feedlot system they cannot be given antibiotics and growth hormones. Also take this into consideration – the European Union has banned US beef from being imported. The reason for this ban is that the EU prohibits hormones in beef – something that the US still regularly allows to be administered to cattle. Per an article written by mad-cow.org, the hormones allowed for use in US cattle are estradiol (a sex hormone that represents the major estrogen in humans), testosterone, progesterone (a steroid hormone), zeranol (a non-steroidal estrogen agonist), trenbolone (a steroid used on livestock to increase appetite and muscle mass. This drug is a schedule III drug and is illegal for human use), melengestrol (a steroid hormone), clenbuterol (A non-steroidal anabolic and metabolism accelerator), dexamethasone (anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant) and triamcinolone-acetonide (a type of corticosteroid, about 8 times more effective than prednisone). This is serious stuff. If the consumption of meats containing these hormones doesn’t scare you, it should.
Buying Beef Locally
The local farmer’s market is one of the best places to get your food. As a boy who was raised in Albania for the first 13 years of my life, when we came to the United States one of the things we had to get used to was that we did not know the source of the food we ate. It was just there, waiting for us to purchase at the supermarket. We did not know the farmer that grew it, nor did we know by what methods. At the time we did not think any more of it; it just became a fact of life. Now that I am older and see for my own eyes the importance of knowing where your food comes from, I’m much more selective. It may be more inconvenient to seek out and go to your local farmer’s market, but REMEMBER! your health is worth more than the cost of gas or any other excuses you may come up with! Getting your kids involved in this process can be as much fun and educational for them as well as future generations down the road. I have personally had the pleasure to meet with Mr. Bailey Newton of Triple B farms in Bullock, North Carolina, who sells his product at the Wake Forest Farmer’s Market. He goes out of his way to rotate his animals’ pastures daily, allowing them to graze on native grasses. He maintains fertile soils and green grass pastures by relying on compost and time-tested pasture grazing methods. The people responsible for your nutrition and well being should know you and care about you as much as they do for their families. After all, you are a part of their family.