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Corn-fed vs. Grass-fed Beef

I’ve talked about the general impacts of eating cattle on society, but this week I want to look into more direct impacts of the changes we have made in producing beef on individuals who aren’t necessarily victims of health disorders such as coronary heart disease, obesity, or type II diabetes. Generally, when we talk about corn-fed vs grass-fed we are talking about non-organic vs. organic beef.

70% of the cows we raise are forced to eat corn to reduce our surplus, speed up their growth rate, and increase efficiency in production. However, in terms of long-run, this method is not efficient at all. Not only is it less environmentally friendly and produces more industrial waste, but individuals eating grain-fed cattle receive several direct health impacts.

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Can you tell the difference between corn-fed beef and grass-feed beef?

Corn fed beef vs. Grass fed beef
-Corn-fed cattle receive antibiotic injections.
-Corn-fed cattle are injected with hormones. This can upset the balance in top-predators such as humans, leading to reproductive disorders, cancer, and other health impacts.
-Corn-fed cattle are confined in feedlots to prevent them from exercise and using energy so they grow quicker. This creates more fat and marbling in meat.

gr_beef -Corn-fed cattle provide reduced nutritional values. Their meat has significantly more fat. Grass-fed cattle have significantly more vitamins, minerals, omega-3, and Conjugated linoleic acid(CLA). Omega-3 is known to help lower blood pressure, depression, arthritis and others. Studies have discovered that CLA can help suppress tumor developments in rats, and possibly in humans.

These impacts affect anyone who consumes corn-fed meat. You can typically find grass-fed beef at a local farmer’s market, at Sprouts Farmers Market, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and other organic restaurants. Studying the production of beef has helped me realize that there are other important factors to maintaining a healthy lifestyle other than simply eating vegetarian. Consuming organic foods, especially from local farmer’s markets is just as important as limiting meat consumption.

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Meet Your Meat

Last week I discussed how human domestication of cattle and evolution of cattle production over the past hundreds of years has allowed for cheap and accessible meat in the market today. As production strategies developed, supply of beef grew, and Americans consumed more. However, beginning in the 1980s, the demand for beef in the U.S. began to decline. More people began to follow healthier diets, such as vegetarianism. This may have been in result of the increase in wealth and education in the nation. In reflection of these new dieting trends, the meat-packing industry has begun to reform its practices to create more humane environments for the cattle they raise for slaughter.

Changes in Meat-packing industry
-non-slip flooring to prevent cattle slips and falls
-taking more time to walk smaller herds from each station to calm the cattle
-handling animals with more patience and care
-Dr. Temple Grandin’s design of a chute system that prevents cattle from seeing other cattle being slaughtered up ahead. Reduces stress and anxiety.

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There are also rising activist groups such as PETA hoping to expose the way some industries still abuse the animals that we eat. Society is shifting towards healthier diets and humane treatment in food production. This is also evident through the increase in organic and vegan food chains and restaurants such as Native Foods, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Urth Cafe. Producing these organic or humanely treated meats may decrease efficiency and increase costs for the industries, but I believe this would provide the solution to our environmental and health problems surrounding meat production. As long as we treat and produce our meat with the care and respect they deserve, we can maintain healthy living for ourselves and our meat animals. 

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Meet Your Meat

In discovering the evolution of cattle domestication, we can learn how such a cheap and accessible meat dish such as a Big Mac from McDonald’s came to be. In turn, this helped me understand why it is increasingly difficult for people to take on vegetarian diets.

Neolithic ~ Pre-Industrial
-10,000 years ago, the Mesopotamian people domesticated cattle.
-they used them sparingly for meat, dairy, clothing, more
-they worshipped cattle as spiritual offerings
-cattle grazed on pasture and were peaceful in their natural environment
-close relationship between humans and cattle because tribes were small and provided for themselves
-cattle became items of capital rather than sustenance

Post-Industrial Revolution
-mass-production from centralized locations allowed for efficiency and increase in per-capita consumption
-introduction of antibiotics allowed for growth efficiency and fatter cows
-life span of cattle before slaughter decreased from 4-5 years to ~1 year
-cattle consumed feeds containing grains, other animal remnants, and fecal matter
-cattle grazed on corn instead of grass to increase growth rate
-humans restricted their freedom to roam in pasture

Results From Changes in Domestication Practices
-cheap and accessible meat lead to overeating
-animal feeds caused outbreaks of mad cow disease
-animal feeds found to contain bacterias E. coli and salmonella
-overeating lead to health disorders: obesity, type II diabetes, coronary heart disease

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Figure 1: 7 out of 10 adult Americans are considered overweight or obese

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Figure 2: United States beef consumption is so large,
the tiny dot in India is almost negligible

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Figure 3: Beef consumption in America exceeds other countries by far.
The nation’s resulting percentage of overweight and obese people is evident of this.

It has become increasingly difficult for people in America to eat healthy or vegetarian diets because of this cheap and accessible meat available beginning the Industrial Revolution in the 1750s. As we see from the figures, developing countries such as China and India still have very low consumption of beef per capita. Thought it seems that as a country becomes more developed, consumption rates increase, United States demand in beef has been on the decline since the 1980s. Next week, I will discuss how the meat-packing industry has begun to reform its practices and how that correlates positively with diet changes in America.

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My Experience as a Temporary Vegetarian

Hello, I’m Kiley, guest blogger to Kelly. Before you start skimming my post, this week I’ve written an interesting story! So don’t skim! You’re missing out! I also added a bunch of pictures to this blog post so it’s pretty long.

Anyway, for this week’s blog post, I decided to go vegetarian for six days. The challenge was pretty daunting at first, as I had never gone a day without eating meat in my entire life. It’s not that hard to believe as I come from a family of omnivores who made sure to always buy and stuff enough meat into my mouth to help me “grow,” become “strong,” and make me “smarter.” Below are a series of diary entries to assist in finding out how successful of a vegetarian I truly was and how the experience shaped me.

Note: Fruit was usually accompanied after dinner. Kiley usually eats two meals per day: brunch and dinner. 

Saturday 5/11
“Oh crap.” I had just eaten a bowl of noodles containing MEAT. More specifically chock full of pork bits, fish balls, fish tofu, and shrimp. I totally forgot to tell my parents about my temporary vegetarian venture as I camped out in Culver City over the weekend. Oh well, time to break out the hamburgers for dinner! “No big deal, I’ll probably start on Sunday,” I told myself, munching on a juicy, luscious hamburger.

Who could resist this sexy beast of a food?

Who could resist this sexy beast of a food? 

Sunday 5/12
“You’re going to die,” my mother warned me as I told her about my venture to vegetarianism. “You need certain vitamins and minerals from meat; only eating vegetables will cause you to die.” Well it was my first official day as a vegetarian. For lunch, I helped cooked a savory turned bland rice porridge as I was forced to take out all meat parts. It was meat that gave the rice porridge character, flavor, and substance. Dinner was a little better, although eating vegetables bundled with meat only stirred my desires for meat. Nevertheless, I got through the day, even as my grandmother lured me into eating meat: “It’s just a little meat, come on fill that bony body,” as she poured bits of pork, chicken, fish, beef, and oysters onto my dinner plate.

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Monday 5/13
“You’re going to run out of energy,” my fathered cautioned as I told him about my vegetarian venture. Well, I thought, at least this is better than not dying. For lunch I ventured onto the Bombshelter Bistro at the North Campus Center. Hunting for affordable vegetarian options proved difficult, but not impossible. I settled for a vegetarian patty melt sandwich at the price of $4.99. I had no idea what was in store for me, so I giddily dug into my sandwich. “Ugh, disgusting! The patty melt tastes horrible!” I told myself. More specifically, bits of carrots, and other mushy, yellowy, vegetables constituted the patty and it tasted, again, disgusting! So I took

the patty out of the sandwich and ate the sandwich with only the cheese and caramelized onions. Later I forced myself to buy fruit juice to supplement my lunch. My famished stomach ravaged my senses as I struggle to pay attention in Econ 2 lecture, choosing instead to wage a war between my brain , stomach, and that lingering aftertaste of that repulsive sandwich.

Dinner cheered me up though, as I ate some awesome vegetarian Chinese food. Brown rice, chives with dried beancurd, and water spinach/Chinese spinach. Nom nom nom Chinese/Taiwanese food. Overall a mildly successful day.

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Tuesday 5/14
“Argghhh misleading labeling!” I said, as I bit into my lunch. For lunch, I decided on the weirdly named “Green Onion Pasta Cake.” It seemed pretty vegetarian so I decided to cook it. Unfortunately for me, when I bit into the “cake”, I was met with bits of meat! Pork to be exact. And then I read the label. There’s meat written in Chinese on the label! The label is only misleading for non-Chinese speakers, I thought to myself. I settled for a cheese sandwich; no way was I going to break my vegetarian pledge. Even if it meant eating a paltry cheese sandwich.

Dinner was a battle to be fought, as Vietnamese pho was served for dinner. This Vietnamese pho not only contained beef, but also was cooked in a beef stew. The pho was an immediate trap as the aromatic smell of beef and spices flew around the kitchen, seducing my sense of smell and entrapping my mind into a mad meat fervor. Much willpower was exerted breaking free of the kitchen and into the safe confines of my room. For dinner, I ate only a salad consisting of romaine lettuce with Chinese sesame dressing.

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Wednesday 5/15
Crawling to class, our hero has just marked her fourth day as a vegetarian. Her muscles weak, eyes bloodshot, legs jello, stomach screaming out for mercy, as the hero makes way into the calculated horror known as “Math 31B”. Three days of vegetarianism and poor sleeping patterns has taken a toll on poor Kiley. Her stomach cries for meat at bedtime and during the day. (3-4 hours after lunch and dinner) No amount of vegetables, carbohydrates, fruits and other food sources can satisfy Kiley’s stomach. As she walked into the dining hall for lunch, she passes the mussels and hamburgers. She grabs the vegetable and grain sources and starts

to munch on them. Eating a piece of lettuce, Kiley contemplates on the existence of vegetarianism. Can human beings really subsist without meat? How am I surviving without meat? Kiley’s palate yearns for more.

Our young hero leaps into the kitchen during dinnertime. Her mind vacillates between another vegetarian meal and suddenly….. Dennys! More specifically, ham sandwiches and fries. Should Kiley eat this sandwich? It’s quite rare that our young hero eats out during dinnertime. Our young hero again contemplates vegetarianism and the vow. Before she could finish contemplation of vegetarianism/existentialism, Kiley rushes to the sandwiches. In a moment of compulsion, our young hero picks up a sandwich, looks it straight in the eye, and promptly devours the sandwich! She has lost sight of the goal as all sandwiches are gone in less than five minutes. Kiley loses the fight between vegetarianism and the seduction of meat. Our hero has yielded her senses and willpower to meat. The vow is broken. Kiley’s vegetarian journey ends on Wednesday, May 15, 2013.

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Thursday 5/16
After that dramatic night, I reverted back to my omnivore habits. Dumplings were the choice for lunch; dinner, noodles. Overall I felt like I was back to normal.

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Conclusion: Vegetarianism is not for me. I’ve always wondered what it was like to be a vegetarian and this week has shown that I’m not fit for this lifestyle choice. These descriptions admittedly paint me as a drama queen but my body pretty much reacted dramatically. It was as if my stomach felt empty, and soulless at every meatless meal no matter how much carbs and vegetables I put in my mouth. I still feel pretty bad about eating meat therefore some meals I can probably skip meat. My parent’s predictions were wrong: I didn’t nearly die nor lose energy. (well Wednesday was sluggish but not total loss of energy) Vegetarianism has taught me to cherish every meaty meal and to balance out my needs as an omnivore. As I sit here eating a meat sandwich, I wonder how Kelly did it. Being vegetarian for a month that is.

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Nutritious and Delicious?

Veggie Health
Last week I was asked to highlight the health cons of a vegetarian diet in response to my post on the pros of veggie health. Although it is possible to get all the nutrients you need without having meat in your diet, it requires a lot of careful planning. Here are a few potential vegetarian deficiencies that may arise with an unbalanced diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids
– Fish are essential in providing omega-3 fatty acids.
– Omega-3 fatty acids slow-down the onset of atherosclerosis, reduce triglyceride levels, acts as an antiinflammatory agent and help with personality disorders.
-non-fish substitutes for omega-3 fatty acid include flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnuts, tofu, microalgae oil.

Vitamin B-12
-Vitamin B-12 is primarily found with the protein we consume in seafood, dairy, eggs, and meat.
-Some vitamin B-12 supplements have been found to inhibit metabolism, increase deficiency, and lead to anemia and nerve damage.
-Veggie vitamin B-12 substitutes include tempeh, miso, sea vegetables, soy milk, meat analogues or “meat” made from soybeans.
-These sources do not contain significant levels of vitamin B-12. Vegans may be at high risk for this deficiency.

Calcium
-The majority of the calcium we consume comes from dairy products.
-Calcium helps reduce blood pressure, builds strong bones, reduces chances for osteoporosis.
-Calcium substitutes for dairy include some tofu, roots, legumes, and soy milk.

Iron
– Iron is important for transporting oxygen throughout your body.
– Deficiency can cause fatigue and a decreased immune system.
– Animal foods provide higher levels of Iron absorption than do plants.
– Ways to compensate for Iron absorption deficiency include consuming vitamin C while consuming plants with iron, or avoid consuming calcium, whole grains, legumes, tea or coffee while consuming plants with iron.

There are vegetarian diets available for everyone including pregnant women, children, and the elderly. Each case of deficiency depends on what the individual is missing from their diet. With dedication and very careful planning, it is possible to lead a vegetarian diet without jeopardizing your health. However, the stress from having to plan out each meal may be just enough of a health problem within itself.

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Nutritious and Delicious

I wanted to investigate the health practicality of eating vegetarian, even though I have decided not to pursue this diet. I researched a few of the specific questions I had in mind:

1. What are the nutritional pros of eating vegetarian? 
– lower count in saturated fats, little or no cholesterol
– plants are higher in fiber, vitamin B, and folic acid than animals
– veggie diets contain fewer calories
– food lower on the food chain contain less pollutants

2. Can vegetarians be healthier in the long-run?
– Yes, in the sense that people who eat plants tend to live longer and healthier lives than people who eat animals
– high fiber and antioxidants in vegetarian diets lead to reduced risk for colon, stomach, mouth, esophagus, lung, prostate, bladder, and breast cancer.
– low levels in cholesterol and saturated fat lead to reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and stroke.
– vegetarians are less likely to get diabetes and visual blindness from macular degeneration
– tend to have lower percentage of body fat

3. How do vegetarians get enough protein?
– you do not need to eat muscle to make muscle
– dairy products, eggs, grains, legumes provide plenty of protein
– you can get all the protein you need from a peanut butter sandwich, couple glasses of milk, or a cup of yogurt

4. Can vegetarian diets lead to nutritional deficiencies?
– Only strict vegans are at risk of deficiencies in some nutrients.
– with a balanced diet, Lacto-ovo vegetarians are unlikely to suffer from nutrient deficiencies
– there are no essential nutrients in meat that are not also found in eggs, dairy, and fish.
– may be at risk for Vitamin B-12 deficiency, since animal foods are the best source
– however it would takes years to become deficient in this vitamin.
– Zinc deficiency may also be at risk with an unbalanced diet.

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(not counting as infographic?)

As we all learn in elementary school, the best diet to have is a balanced diet consisting of more vegetables and fruit than meat and dairy.

Works Cited:
– Being a Vegetarian
How to Get the Best Nutrition

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Vegetarian-Inclined?

In just a few days it will be one month since I started eating Vegetarian. But what then? Reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan has nudged me to look deeper into the food choices that I make. What choices will truly make the difference or matter the most? Should we focus more on eating organic vs. non-organic, vegetarian vs. non-vegetarian, or both? What are the grey areas? Looking back at Pollan’s Points, I wonder, is it really worth the struggles to eat vegetarian?

shot-2013-04-26_21-25-32The rise of this concept of a “Vegetarian-inclined” diet has been quite controversial. How can one who is not ready to give up meat still be able to positively impact the environment? Can simply limiting one’s diet to that of a Flexitarian’s do any justice? Someone with a vegetarian-inclined diet would simply be eating his/her fair share, but not accounting for the entire meat industry as it continues to slaughter animals cruelly and excessively. Besides the common factor of reducing meat in a diet, there are no other clear similarities between a Vegetarian-Inclined and Vegan/Vegetarian diet. Is this grey area too far of a stretch or can one proudly announce themselves as having a Vegetarian-Inclined diet?

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22.8 million adult Americans claimed to practice a Vegetarian-inclined diet in a 2012 survey. Accounting for a large portion of the population, if practiced properly, I think, this diet can make a great impact on the way we produce meat. The concept provides as a great feasible goal for those who are not ready to give up meat. It allows for those who never considered Vegetarianism to at least consider a Vegetarian-Inclined diet. However, the concept could also be easily abused by those who want to create a good image for themselves without having to sacrifice too much of their own desires.