Where’s the Beef?
By now we’re all aware of the pink slime epidemic. You know, the one where processing companies add parts of an animal that are less desirable to eat, resulting in a lovely hue of that pretty carnation pink colored slop that they like to call “meat”.
But that’s not the only scary substance being added to meat products. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, American pork producers use over 10 million pounds of antibiotics per year to keep their pigs raised in confinement from getting sick. That’s more than three times the amount used to treat all human illness1. Another interesting “spice” being added to our meat is RBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), which is used by commercial dairy farms to increase milk productivity. With all these additives, hormones and substances being injected, you have to ask yourself the age-old question: where’s the beef?
Sustainability is definitely a concern when thinking about the future of farming/meat politics. Ideally, the best meat for us (nutrition-wise) would be that of any animal happily raised cage-free or in a pasture, but, there simply is not enough land to properly raise the amount of meat needed in the world. We should also be concerned about what we are feeding our livestock (grass-fed vs. corn-fed vs. grain-fed, etc.) and if that makes a difference in the meat we digest. It’s definitely something to think about considering the average American eats 62.4 lbs of beef per year.
-Less energy goes into growing grass than grain2.
-Grass-fed meat is leaner, lower in calories and full of Omega-3 fatty acids (which could help reduce the chance of cancer)2.
-While the number of U.S. grass-fed beef producers is rising — from 50 in 2002 to more than 2,000 today — they face big challenges, including higher operating costs, a shortage of processors, loose standards for the definition of “grass-fed,” a lack of consistent quality, and consumer wariness about taste and texture2.
– A lot of corn-fed-cattle raisers still start their animals out on pasture, but then quickly move them to troughs of grain for fattening.
– Corn is overly-produced and incredibly cheap4.
– Though grass-fed cows are environmentally-friendly, feeding cows off of grass increases land and labor costs needed to allow animals to graze. Corn feed can be brought to animals in feedlots using minimal labor and land resources.
– Corn increases growth and weight gain in animals. Unlike grass, it is abundantly available year round. Today, corn-fed cattle typically spend 2-4 months growing and gaining in feedlots before being slaughtered for beef4.
-The most popular (read: the “worst” form of feed) and most fattening source of feedlots across the nation is done by means of grain.
– Grain-fed beef is high in pesticides. The soy, corn and cottonseed byproducts are laced with toxic metals and chemicals from their processing5.
-Typically, feedlot managers try to manage grain-caused problems with a medicine chest of drugs, including ionophores (to buffer acidity) and antibiotics (to reduce liver abscesses).
-Ironically, grain-fed beef is the best tasting, as far as fat and flavor.
So what are our options for getting the real beef we deserve? Be conscience of what kind of beef you’re purchasing and consuming. Grass-fed is more expensive but definitely the right choice not only for your consumption, but for the environment as well. The Sustainable Beef Resource Center (SBRC) basically breaks it down as such: In short, pharmaceutical technologies are working to develop environmentally-harmless alternatives for all feedlots to allow cattle producers to raise more beef using less grain and less land while creating less waste and fewer greenhouse-gas emissions. This of course is a secondary option to manufactures who refuse to open up to the idea of letting cattle graze in a pasture as they naturally should. SBRC would like to remind folks that pork and poultry are respectively other means of protein sources; and we’re sure they’re quite fond of ads such as the one featured below by Chick-Fil-A:
1http://www.chipotle.com/en-US/fwi/animals/animals.aspx and http://www.creditloan.com/blog/2010/07/12/food-consumption-in-america/