"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze...
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."-Wordsworth

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Story of a Corn-Fed Feedlot Cow

With the banana project on hold, let me talk instead of corn-fed beef and its origins. I just read an excerpt from Michael Pollen’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” for a class. It detailed the interesting process behind feed lots. Here are the main points and reasons I feel corn-fed beef should be avoided. Prepare yourself, and I suggest not eating while reading the following:

1. Cows are fed a mixture of corn, liquefied cow fat or blood, a protein substitute consisting of urea and molasses and a slew of antibiotics including Rumensin (an acidity buffer) and Tylosin (which lowers the incidence of infection of the liver). They are also fed estrogen.

2. Cows are kept lying and standing in their own feces all day long.

3. The corn itself is raised as a monoculture, raised and reaped by gas-guzzling machines. So our corn is backed by petroleum companies.

4. Even if cow products are not fed to cows, the chicken, fish and pigs are fed cow products and hence the circling back to feeding cow products to cows. The result of such cannibalism can be seen in Mad Cow Disease.

5. The cows are not made to eat mostly corn (Why?-because it's cheap). They are made for foraging. So we are force-feeding them food just to fatten them up faster. Veterinarians are kept very busy on the feedlots, dealing with bloated cows (which if untreated will suffocate due to an inflated rumen pressing against their lungs) and acidosis (literally killer heartburn due to the acidity of the corn). Cows only live about 150 days on the feedlots because any more could ruin their livers.

6. Due to the extensive use of antibiotics in animals, diseases are becoming antibiotic-resistant and we must therefore find more and more antibiotics to respond. These animals would have a lower incidence of sickness simply if their diets were changed.

7. The massive quantities are manure produced at these feedlots simply sit in lagoons on the property because they are so high in nitrogen and phosphorous that they kill any plants they are applied to. The waste which in smaller quantities could be used as fertilizer now just sits and sometimes ends up in the watershed due to leakage. Aside from high levels of nutrients, this waste also contains hormones, heavy metals, and chemicals. In essence, a natural fertilizer is turned into toxic waste.

8. Leakage of such manure into our watersheds causes dead zones, which are oxygen-poor areas with nothing but algae thriving there. The excess algae can suffocate everything else in the water.

9. Eating cattle in general is terrible inefficient use of resources. The ratio of feed to flesh is extremely high.

10. Feeding cattle a mainly acidic diet selects for new strains of high acidity-resistant bacteria, which would do some serious damage to our usually well-defended highly-acidic stomach. Normal bacteria are usually killed by the acidity in our stomachs, but if new bacteria evolve to tolerate such acidity they could be consumed by us and then cause an outbreak.

And so I’ve sufficiently freaked myself out enough to continue my practice of avoiding beef altogether. I hope this brief summary has made you think about what is in your McDonald’s hamburger.

"The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollen (Chapter 4)

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