Here’s the Beef

In factory farms, Food and Health, Organic Food on May 30, 2011 at 12:03 pm
Grazing at Sunset, doctorfoodtruth

This is not where Big Mac cows live

Cookout Weekend in the USA is here.  Memorial Day weekend always feels like the start of summer.  The public pools open this weekend here in Indiana, the Indy 500 runs on Sunday (100th time this year!) and men everywhere regress to caveman days and scorch meat over open flames.

I’ve found plenty of posts with great grilling ideas and recipes and even some tips on food safety.  I thought about writing on cholesterol and the carcinogens open-fire cooking causes in meat.  Then Dr. Mary kindly pointed out the hypocrisy, since I’ll be grunting and sweating over the open flames too.

Instead I want to talk about grilling and meat from the animal’s side.  Now don’t get me wrong, try as I might I’m no Vegan.  I have cut my meat consumption a lot, trying to stay off the cholesterol medications most of the rest of my family needs.  As an amateur tree-hugger, I know all too well about the environmental impact caused by the huge numbers of meat animals it takes to satisfy the American “meat tooth.”

Growing up on my family’s 70-acre ‘hobby farm,’ I learned first hand about animal husbandry and slaughter.  We would raise calves from bottle-feeding to open-range grazing and then finishing with our organic hay and grain.  We named them all and cared for them for years until they were ready for market.  We usually shed tears as they were individually loaded into our panel-truck and taken to the slaughterhouse 3 miles away.  One would come back to us as a side of beef to reload the freezer and the others would fetch top dollar as organic, grass-fed beef.

What a difference for the cow and for the human eating the meat compared to today’s Intensive Animal Operation aka factory farms.  The cows that end up as cheap commodity beef live their entire lives without walking in or eating grass.  From feeder calves to feed lots, the goal is to make them grow as fast as possible while burning off as few calories as possible and sell them at the highest profit possible.

These animals are kept in terrible conditions, wading in cow dung, eating corn meal laced with antibiotics and growth hormones.  Once slaughtered, the carcass is processed in a literal factory, often by mistreated illegal immigrants in unsafe working conditions.

The good news?  This is what makes McDonald’s and other chain restaurants cheap.  The bad news?  Eating this meat adds antibiotics and growth hormones to my plate.  Having it this cheap makes it likely I’ll eat it more often, getting fatter and unhealthier in the process.  Buying this meat rewards the huge companies that sell it, making sure they keep mistreating the animals, workers, and environment in a race for profit.

How can it be different, you ask?  Simple.  Make meat a luxury in your diet, not a staple.  This allows you to afford the ‘free-range, grass-fed’ variety.  Give your business to places that hold their food suppliers to high standards.  Stay away from restaurants that sell the cheap stuff.

It’s only cheap to me, not the overfed cows or the overworked meat processing workers.

It’s only cheap to me, not the neighbors of the feedlots – ever smell one?  Let me tell you, it’s ‘nose pollution.’

It’s only cheap to me, not the surrounding environment that has to cope with incredible amounts of waste.

So when I fire up the grill, I’m going to make sure the beef or chicken or pork I grill was raised humanely, fed the diet Nature intended, and slaughtered and handled safely.  You should try it too – it’s better for all of us!

Change Your Food, Change Your Life!

  1. This is such a great post!!!!! THANK YOU for writing it. 🙂 I recently (4 months ago??? Maybe?) became a vegetarian, then shifted to fully eliminate dairy products and now identify as an ovo-pescetarian.

    I think this — limiting meat to a luxury, not a twice-daily staple — is a GREAT way for those who are concerned about the quality/treatment/environmental repercussions of meat but who are not ready or willing to be vegetarians to make a HUGE impact. Just a few people eating meat less frequently, and choosing humanely raised meat when they *do* — will make more difference than one strict vegan will an entire lifetime.

  2. Well put, Lady. As a physician, I’m glad you’ve stayed ovo-pescetarian rather than going strict vegan. I always worry about my vegan patients getting their B12 and essential amino acids. Just curious, why did you ditch the dairy? Dr Mary, my animal-crazy wife is happy with grass-fed, humanely raised dairy – we buy Organic Valley but there are plenty of local and regional companies in most areas that provide milk, cheese, and yogurt.

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