People all over the world eat meat for its nutritional value and taste. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that in the year 2011 people in the U.S consumed 25.6 billion pounds of beef. Most of this meat was produced in America. A Holistic approach to food production is important in order to improve the quality of beef. What we feed our cattle, the housing conditions and the slaughter procedure directly impacts our food. What the farmers feed cattle directly affects the quality of beef for the consumer. The cow has many more benefits from eating grass than being fed corn. It is a lot healthier for cows to consume grass because that is what their stomachs are made for. The stomachs have three sections that are made specifically for digesting grass (Healthy Theory -Corn-Fed Vs. Grass-Fed Beef). Today, most cows are put on a diet that is based on corn. The cows used to be fed grass and roam free but since than there have been changes. The idea about feeding cattle grain began during World War II.
It all started when farmers were producing more grain than the American population could handle, so the rest of it was fed to cows. It was discovered that feeding a cow different types of grains fattened them up a lot faster than when cows were consuming grass. With a grass fed diet, it takes cows about five years to reach 1,200 pounds. However, with the grain-based diet it takes a cow about 390 days to get to a reachable weight for slaughter (Healthy Theory -Corn-Fed Vs. Grass-Fed Beef). Also, the producer benefits more from feeding his cows corn because it is cheaper than grass. Therefore, a diet based on corn is more cost effective but the quality of meat has less nutritional value (Why Grass Fed- Health Benefits of Grass Fed Beef). The consumer benefits more from meat that comes from cows that consume grass rather than in-taking different types of grains.
The cow is a lot healthier and happier when it is eating grass, which results in higher quality meat. Since cows’ stomachs are meant to break down grass, a corn based diet causes changes in the digestion of a cow leading to serious health problems, such as diarrhea, ulcers, and a weakened immune system. As a result of these issues, the cows are given antibiotics to help prevent this from occurring, which makes the meat unhealthier (Healthy Theory -Corn-Fed Vs. Grass-Fed Beef). Another huge topic of concern is the disregard of animal welfare. These animals aren’t being cared for and they are treated as units of production (Learn About The Issues).
In order to fatten up cows in time for slaughter, many farmers put them in feedlots. The conditions these cows go through are unbearable. As many cows as possible are crammed into each pen. The result of this is massive amounts of waste covering the animals living space (The Issues Animal Welfare). This causes the air to be unhealthy and creates many gases and diseases that aren’t wanted. During the whole time the cows are in the feedlot they are breathing in methane gas. Large amounts of methane are bad for animals because it takes away oxygen from the air, which can affect the central nervous system (2- Health Effects of Methane). The alternative is a more holistic way, which allows the cattle to roam around freely on huge pastures until they get fat enough to get slaughtered. In the United States, animal welfare is being ignored, because cows are being treated in a cruel and unhealthy way.
When they are living in the feedlots, they are covered with manure and aren’t being cared for. As soon as cows are fat enough to get slaughtered, they are sent to the closest slaughterhouse. On their journey they are faced with heartbreaking situations. They are often transported from 1,200 to 1,500 miles away in scorching hot weather or freezing temperatures. Dr. Lester Friedlander, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian inspector said, “They are crammed onto trucks and go without food or water for days”. When it is cold, they are in the back of a trailer with nothing covering them. As the driver drives sixty miles per hour, cows are being exposed to a variety of extreme weather. Many cows collapse in hot weather. While they are traveling they urinate.
After sometime it begins to freeze while their hooves are standing in it. Also, the fur of the cows “… freezes to the sides of the trucks until workers pry them off with crowbars”(Cow Transport and Slaughter). When the cows get to the slaughterhouse, they are often in bad conditions. Most of them are sick and cannot walk because they are too weak. In order to move weak and injured cows they are dragged along with a bulldozer by a chain around their neck or leg. Even though they are in bad shape, cows are still being used for their meat because it means more money in the producer’s pocket. If some of the cows are able to walk, they are still abused. Workers beat them with a metal rod in order to move them faster (The Humane Society of the United States). Also, before they are killed the cows are lined up to wait for their turn to be stunned so that they will pass out before they get slaughtered. Sometimes the stunning procedure does not work.
Ramon Moreno, a slaughterhouse worker has stated that he often has to cut the legs off of cows that are completely conscious. “They blink. They make noises,” he says. “The head moves, the eyes are wide and looking around. … They die piece by piece.” If workers try to report that the cows are still alive they risk loosing their jobs (Cow Transport and Slaughter). After cows reach a certain weight they are ready to be slaughtered for meat consumption. The process of turning cows into packed meat can cause the meat to be infected. Before they are slaughtered, cows are cleaned. However, in some cases not well enough. The waste of the cow can get into the processed meat that is being cut by the workers. This can contaminate the meat with E-coli, which is a type of bacteria that can lead to death. “According to Centers for Disease Control estimates, up to 20,400 cases of E. coli infection and 500 deaths from E-coli disease occur annually in the United States” (Escherichia Coli 0157:H7).
Another disease that is created in these fast paced industries is mad cow disease. (the issues-slaughterhouses and processing). Mad cow disease affects the cow’s nervous system and it causes the cow to act confused and loose control of the ability to walk (What is Mad Cow Disease). When people eat infected beef they may contract a human version of mad cow disease. It affects the nervous system causing depression and loss of coordination. As it becomes more severe, it causes dementia (The Basics of Mad Cow Disease). With our modern day technology, slaughterhouses are able to kill thousands and thousands of cow’s every day. There are many solutions that can change the food industry to produce their meat in a more animal friendly way. To help cut back more meat being produced in factories, consumers can support local farms by eating food that is grown locally.
Holistic farming care for their animals and focus on getting delicious, healthy meat than just producing more and more for profit. The food quality of holistic farmed meat is a lot better because the cows are raised and treated well as opposed to when the animals are abused their whole life. If we really want a change, it is up to Americans to demand that. Currently, laws support the industrial farming methods and lack the attempt of helping small farms grow. An example is that American tax money goes to support research and the operating cost of large food producing companies (Learn About the Issues). In order for there to be a change, citizens need to become aware of the process.
Change will happen by the consumer supporting politicians who are looking to change the food industry. Consequently, producers would need to be more focused on the care of the animals than earning as much money as possible. What American farmers feed their cattle, where they raise them and how they get slaughtered directly impacts the quality of our food. It is important for consumers to be aware of the United States food industry because there is so much more behind the food brought to you in the supermarket. If the consumer buys meat that is produced holistically, and legislation puts focus on the care of animals, the food industry will be forced to improve their methods.
Courtney from Study Moose
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