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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.