Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Vegan Visits A Cattle Feedlot

A mildly amusing post, that's pretty interesting, with a suprising conclusion:
"However, if I did eat meat, my visit to Magnum would have made me feel great about eating non-organic, non-grass-fed beef. Seriously. I can’t imagine the quality of meat would be substantially better with organic and grass-fed. Nor can I imagine the living conditions would be substantially better for the cattle."
I was surprised, and glad to hear. I don't think eating grass-fed, organic cattle is the key to a healthy diet. It's sort of like the cherry on top, if you can afford it.

I buy most of my meat from a farm whose cattle enjoy better surroundings than I do. (I've visited the farm, and travel past it on a regular basis, not to check up on it, but because it's in a scenic area.)

It tastes better, and I think that reflects my body's perception of better nutrition, but if I eat out feedlot cattle is something I wouldn't hesitate to eat.

So it was nice to see that the feedlot was not hell on earth. :)

It's always struck me that gullibility and a lack of critical facuties are crucial to become a vegan. The author reinforces these stereotypes, Sadly.
"...It’s also important to know that if we continue to eat 200+ pounds of meat per person per year in the U.S., grass-fed isn’t really an option. There’s not enough land."
I covered that last year, in "Grass-Fed Cattle vs. Grain-Fed Cattle"

Grass-fed cattle are better for the land, produce more food per acre (raising grain is wasteful, a point vegans don't like to make), and produce less "externalities": pollution.

..."A dairy cow living year-round in the great outdoors may leave a markedly smaller ecological hoofprint than her more sheltered sisters."
So that point's not good... And also ignores the fact that most of the dairy farms in New England have reverted to forest. We're not short of land.

"However, there doesn’t seem to be a relationship between feed and harmful E. coli contamination. Indeed, studies reveal no difference in E. coli O157:H7 prevalence or numbers between cattle fed grain vs. grass. And there are no studies that show superiority for one system vs. the other."
Well, this was surprising. I'd read quite a bit about how grain-feeding animals induced harmful E. coli growth! And one of the big concerns from eating feedlot beef is contamination from harmful E. coli strains.

Two seconds on Google proved the author wrong:
"Forage Feeding to Reduce Preharvest Escherichia coli Populations in Cattle, a Review (PDF)

"...Feedlot and high-producing dairy cattle are fed large grain rations in order to increase feed efficiency. When cattle are fed large grain rations, some starch escapes ruminal microbial degradation and passes to the hindgut where it is fermented. EHEC are capable of fermenting sugars released from starch breakdown in the colon, and populations of E. coli have been shown to be higher in grain fed cattle, and this has been correlated with E. coli O157:H7 shedding in barley fed cattle. When cattle were abruptly switched from a high grain (corn) diet to a forage diet, generic E. coli populations declined 1000-fold within 5 d, and the ability of the fecal generic E. coli population to survive an acid shock similar to the human gastric stomach decreased.
This is important because if the bacteria can't survive your stomach, they can't infect you. "Shedding" is a euphemism for exiting the cattle in poop when the cattle is being butchered, and making it into the meat you eat.
"Other researchers have shown that a switch from grain to hay caused a smaller decrease in E. coli populations, but did not observe the same effect on gastric shock survivability. In a study that used cattle naturally infected with E. coli O157:H7, fewer cattle shed E. coli O157:H7 when switched from a feedlot ration to a forage-based diet compared with cattle continuously fed a feedlot ration. Results indicate that switching cattle from grain to forage could potentially reduce EHEC populations in cattle prior to slaughter; however the economic impact of this needs to be examined...."
So much for that, then. My paleo sources are correct, the vegan is wrong.

Makes me feel better when he writes:
"Now, to be clear, we don’t require meat in our diet."
He's wrong about that as well.

I posted a link to a taste test of grass-fed versus grain-finished beef years ago. Grass-fed is hands-down much tastier. If the vegan author of this story would like to find out himself, I'd be happy to conduct the taste test.