In the gentle Kiamichi hills of Southeastern Oklahoma, my Granddad grazed cattle on open pasture. He named many of his cows, his favorites being his two milk cows—Old Bessie and Pet. I think he enjoyed their company more than just about anybody else’s, human or otherwise. Every year my Granddad would cull his herd by killing a cow or two and selling a few more at market. The meat from one of those cows would feed our family of five for the entire year. We wasted no part, eating even the tongue, heart and liver. I’ve never been much of a meat eater, so getting me to down a “deviled tongue sandwich” epitomized an epic battle. Nonetheless, the meat we ate embodied fresh, grass fed beef (before the term became vogue), no hormones and minimal antibiotics. These cows happily grazed until the day they were rounded up and taken to the slaughterhouse. I believe this represents the way cows should be nurtured and consumed.
Unfortunately, too few cattle are raised this way in the current meat production paradigm. America’s appetite for beef has skyrocketed over the last century, taking a toll on citizens’ health and the quality of the meat produced, as well as animal welfare. Before any of you get all up in my grill, I’m not pushing a vegetarian diet. I’m just going to point out some of the darker sides of industrial meat production and suggest, for health and economic reasons, you consider having a few days a week that are completely meat free. So bear with me!
Most cattle spend a good portion of their life in confined animal feeding operations or CAFOs. Examining CAFOs externalities exposes their inefficiencies. One of the largest hidden costs of factory farming is the amount of energy required to get a steak from the feedlot to the dinner table. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that it takes 248 gallons of oil to produce the corn that each cow eats. Marshall Eckblad, writing for Dow Jones Newswire, reported that in July of 2011 there were 1.833 million cows exiting feedlots on their way to slaughter. That is 454,584,000 million gallons of oil used to fatten cows on corn. But that statistic is for that month alone, the next month and the month after and the month after that there will be the same amount of oil needed.
While accurate information on the treatment of animals in feedlots is hard to come by due to veggie libel laws and ag gag bills, the following is known about these facilities: Cattle spend at least the last third of their life in overcrowded, filthy living conditions. They lack access to exercise, pasture and a normal diet. They stand on concrete, often not having room to lie down. Though Congress has passed certain edicts to regulate cattle confinement conditions, the bills often contain no provisions for levying fines or penalties, are generally not enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and are routinely ignored. Rancher Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Virginia featured in the film Food Inc. wonders: “Is it so far fetched to posit that a culture that sees a cow as an inanimate, industrial output unit, will then view others of different races and nationalities with the same type of disdain and controlling type mentality?”
When one considers the assertions of respected health organizations such as the Mayo Clinic and Harvard School of Public Health, that recommend consuming less red meat, perhaps having a reduced supply of beef would be an advantage to public health. Consider this statement from the Mayo clinic: “Just eating less meat has a protective [health] effect. A National Cancer Institute study of 500,000 people found that those who ate 4 ounces (113 grams) of red meat or more daily were 30 percent more likely to have died of any cause during a 10-year period than were those who consumed less.” The study goes on to conclude that those who ate mainly a plant-based diet generally consume fewer calories and have a lower risk of heart disease.
Further, Cornell professor T. Colin Campbell’s groundbreaking book The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, revealed the following: “People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease….People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.” The study explains the link between consuming animal products and some of Western societies most dread diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. “The China Study also examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities, and irresponsible scientists.” The book reveals that many of these lobby groups are tied to the industrial cattle industry.
Now please understand, I am NOT talking about small to middle size ranchers who raise their cows mainly on grazing and hay. My life springs from the ranching tradition. I am critiquing mega cattle industries (CAFOs) that treat animals as an industrial output unit and not as a living creature. Most ranchers that I’ve known care deeply for their animals and treat them well, as did my Granddad. Some say to me that grass fed, hormone-free meat is just too expensive. And I say, yes, it is expensive. But, as I explicated earlier, consuming red meat every day represents an unhealthy way to eat. So, buying less beef of higher quality and eating it sporadically throughout the week represents a way to support ethical ranchers and take care of your health! It’s a win-win situation!
The mighty dollar sends a powerful message. When fewer people buy mass-produced beef, then these industrial facilities that are bad for the environment, bad for your health and bad for the economy will receive the message and change their bad business practices. It’s time to stand up and support the small farmer and rancher and refuse to buy big-ag’s bad meat. Join me in helping the small farmer and rancher battle the goliath of industrial agriculture. Eat less meat. Eat more fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. Keep Shining. Peace Out!
Note: I have researched this topic in depth. If anyone would like further information, please leave your email address below and I’ll send along some other papers I’ve written.
A great source of protein to replace your meat meals is a dinner of grains and legumes. The following recipe is plant based and gluten free. Eat as much of it as you care for!
1 15 oz pinto beans
1 15 oz kidney beans
1 15 oz black beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
4 – 15 oz cans chopped tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1-15 oz can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp chipotle powder
1 Tbsp cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 Cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp coconut sugar
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 bunch cilantro washed and chopped small
Sauté onions, garlic, pepper, carrot and mushrooms in half cup water for around ten minutes in large soup pan. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, vegetable broth, beans, corn and all seasonings, except cilantro. Bring to boil and then reduce heat and simmer for at least an hour (I sometimes let mine simmer all day. The longer it simmers, the better it will be). Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with cilantro. You can eat it as is, or over brown rice. Enjoy!