Ok, let's get started!
Two primary groups of thought:
Sustainable Beef Producers:
Bio ~ This group favors the use of science and technology to meet the needs of a growing population.
How they feed ~ Corn/grain/growth hormones/recently accused of feeding candy
Primary Argument ~ Americans want their beef and they want it fast and at an affordable cost.
Grass-Fed Beef Producers:
Bio ~ This group favors the use of responsible farming practices to provide reasonable amounts of meat to an increasingly-aware population.
How they feed ~ Grass only, normally consumed in open pastures
Primary Argument ~ Grass-fed is proven to be better for the animal and for the environment, which ultimately leads to a healthier, more responsible product.
Can you tell whose side I'm on yet?
I studied at Iowa State University for a little while, one of the absolute best large-animal veterinary universities in the world. In one of my Animal Science courses, we were privileged to meet a group of cows participating in a nutritional/digestive study. Each of these cows had a tube surgically inserted into their rumen (one of four stomachs)...the tubes acted as a safe, functional method for collecting samples directly from the cow's first stomach. I remember the instructor putting on this huge glove and reaching deep into that tube....the cow just munched away, didn't even flinch. He pulled out a mass of her stomach contents (gross, I know, but bear with me), and explained what they've found.....
Wanna know the Secret Tube Revelation?
Cows can't digest corn. Nope. The rumen was designed to ferment and digest only grass. Corn makes cows sick, deathly sick as a matter of fact.
Hmmm, funny. So if they can't digest it, how do we get that Big Mac? Well, I'll tell you. But it ain't pretty, so don't read this while you eat...especially if you're eating a Big Mac.
So when cows eat corn, the rumen releases a gas that stimulated the production of E. Coli. Yep. Read that right. The same E. Coli that kills humans, kills the cows we devour with that huge side of fries. To make matters worse, most sustainable beef producers raise cattle in commercially-organized feedlots, meaning the animals are shoved in an outdoor paddock with hundreds of other animals, all wading around in their own poo-poo, all fighting against the deadly E. Coli growing in their tummies.
Another awesome corn by-product? Sludge. Cows can't break down corn, remember? So instead of naturally-fermenting grass and healthy burps, corn creates this disgusting sludge inside the rumen, making it nearly impossible for the gas to escape. This in turn causes bloat, which suffocates the cows to death. They will also suffer ulcers, liver damage, and an essential breakdown of the digestive system.
To avoid massive product loss, sustainable beef producers will inject "science" into their cattle. Oh and by science, I meant antibiotics, those drugs we depend on, but are unfortunately rendering themselves useless against mutating bacterial cells...cells that are evolving quickly because of our abusive overuse of said antibiotics. So yes! Shoot 'em up! We wouldn't want to lose our
Don't worry, because in addition to injecting your cows to keep them healthy, some sustainable beef producers make sure your meat is squeaky-clean and ready for grillin by running it through a series of vats that spray massive amounts of ammonia all over it. That awtta do the trick. Science!
Other items I didn't touch on but you can read about anywhere: growth hormones, government bodies led by shady sustainable beef-producers, how humans don't need meat every single day, the fact that if you pick up a package of beef from the grocery store it will list five different countries as the "source," GMO corn feed, proven human risk and loss caused by E. Coli in beef....the list is endless, really. And sad.
I think it's important to mention these are not speculative views I'm presenting here. This is reality... all of it. And before you go thinking, "my grandma ate regular ol' beef and she lived 'till 108!" may I please remind you it often takes generations to realize the full consequences of a populations' poor choices. Smoking was once classy, people...even for pregnant chicks.
But all is not lost. Grass-fed, pasture-raised beef is becoming more readily available every single day. People are opening their eyes to the benefits of knowing where our food comes from and how it is processed. It does cost more for grass-fed beef, and rightfully so. We live in one of the most plentiful countries in the world. How is it we've created an economy that allows chemical-laden, addictive value meals to cost less than a bag of chemical-free carrots? As consumers, we have the power and responsibility to change what we demand from food producers.
Those of you living in Iowa or Northern Illinois can cash in on an incredible resource I've been using for just over a year now. Wallace Farms is a family owned and operated farm in Iowa. They raise animals the right way, are transparent in their practices, and deliver the food to a town near my home. Just tonight we had a batch of these bad boys:
In case you can't read it, let me please point out those are bacon and beef hot dogs. Yes.
They sell every meat product you could imagine, from well-fed pork to pastured cattle to turkey and chickens and ducks, oh my! Seriously just go check out their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed. I purchase in bulk during their frequent sales and get a huge amount of value for my money.
We're privileged enough to be witnessing a moment of true food revolution in our country. Educate yourself, your friends, and your family and then do something about it! Don't let another dollar of your money go to people who are more concerned with the dollar than the person behind it. Class dismissed!!
As a side note, Wallace farms did not endorse this post or pay me any money to write this. I love sharing good things with good people and let me tell you, this company is one incredibly good thing.