Natural Beef Popularity on the Rise Yet Questions Remain
Consumers are slowly becoming educated about beef processing practices, but even with overwhelming facts pointing to natural grass fed beef, people still aren’t sure.
Most Americans cringe at the thought of adding another decision to their day: grass fed beef vs. corn fed beef? Upton Sinclair shed the first light on unsafe meat production, but with the current trend of going green and eating organic, Americans are slowly but surely tuning into the meat industry’s obsession with being cost effective and learning of a higher cost; their health.
Even Natural Beef Cattle Ranchers Are Forced to Comply with the Industry’s Cost Obsession
Ranchers used to raise natural grass fed beef until the industry slowly evolved into feeding grain and corn because of its cheap production and abundance, now due to government subsidizing. The cheaper corn definitely solved the industry’s greed, but it has also forced the USDA and FDA to ban many practices deemed okay at first, and open new studies on the current side effects of saving money.
Rich Blair, of the Blair Brothers Cattle Ranch in South Dakota admits that “in my grandfather’s day steers were four or five years at slaughter, in the 50s, my father slaughtered at two-three years. Now we do it at 14 to 16 months. Hell, my dad made more on 250 head than we do on 850.” Most ranchers agree if they could raise their stock naturally they would; but the pressure to produce leads them to make decisions to feed corn, use antibiotics, and basically try and make a super-species of cattle that otherwise would not exist without the scientific evolution.
Corn Fed Beef Produces Unhealthy Side Effects Yet to Be Fully Researched
Ruminants (animals with four stomachs able to turn grass into their protein source) are unable to properly digest and retrieve nutrients from anything other than grass. In fact, the introduction of corn to their systems causes so many illnesses it has led to the commercial use of antibiotics just to keep them alive enough to gain massive amounts of weight in unhealthy amounts of time. According to Farm Sanctuary, over 80% of American beef is slaughtered by four huge corporations.
Corn produces fatter cattle; but there is a terrible side effect for turning an 80 pound animal into 1200 pounds in 14 months versus the 60 months it used to take. Ruminants’ systems cannot handle the unnatural diet fed to them by mass producers, consisting of corn and other grains (they only naturally get minute amounts in pastures in the form of grass seed), animal byproducts such as blood and fat (until the recent ban they were also given actual parts of cow carcasses), synthetic estrogen (that is actually banned in Europe), liquefied fats, liquefied vitamins, and protein supplements.
The FDA finally opened a study to appease many scientists who claim the use of synthetic estrogen, because of its presence in processed meat and dairy products, is causing early maturation in girls and low sperm counts in young men. Europe banned U.S. imported beef grown with it in 1989 and the meat production documentary Food, Inc. mentions the runoff in studied waterways from huge feedlots is producing fish with abnormal sexual characteristics.
Buying Grass Fed Beef is Easier Than Many People Think
Because of America’s new attention to food, many websites are available to help consumers find local, grass fed and natural beef. EatWild has a huge national database accessed easily by zip codes, Farm Sanctuary is full of educational information, and natural stores are eager to help consumers make thoughtful decisions. Even huge chains like Target are beginning to carry grass fed brands like Thousand Hills Cattle Company and commercial brands of meat and dairy products are carrying hormone-free variations.
Michael Pollan, celebrated author and journalist focusing on meat production, advises Americans to vote “three times a day with your fork;” the consumers are the only ones who can really get the industry’s attention, and one of the easiest ways to do it is with purchasing better products. He also has an answer to the higher prices of natural products; would you rather pay the grocer or the doctor?
The First Step to Supporting Grass Fed Beef is Education
Grass fed beef is yet another area people are too comfortable to question; if they can buy ground beef on sale for $1.99 a pound, why bother? But the way the beef was produced to be so cheap is disgusting when considering the unnatural diet fed to cattle forces producers to rely on antibiotics to even keep the animals alive, much less healthy.
Americans may have once had a lazy attitude towards health, nutrition, and fitness, but the epidemic of health-related diseases like obesity, heart disease, and type II diabetes is forcing people to become educated. Consumers are understanding they cannot rely on price to determine food choices; of course McDonalds is cheap, but it’s not the healthy choice. The same thought should be put into buying beef.