The Truth about "Grain-Fed" Beef
Photo is of a Feedlot near Bakersfield, California: The U.S. is the biggest producer and consumer of beef in the world and originated 'feedlot' factory farming methods which have now spread around the world and are rapidly expanding in Australia with record numbers of cows, around 1.3 million currently in the 700 feedlots spread over our country.
In Australia, the scenario is better than its US or Argentinian counterparts, as most cattle are able to graze in grass fields for the first part of their life but then spend approximately 120 days being "fattened" up to ideal slaughter weight in a feedlot.
80% of beef sold in our supermarkets has come from a feedlot.
Feedlots are barren caged in yards, that are void of grass, trees and shelter, where the cows are kept in close crowded proximity and fed unnatural diets of grains, such as wheat, barley, sorghum or internationally, soya. The big issues with this is that cows are ruminant animals, meaning they normally would spend all day grazing, eating grass that is broken down by their 4 stomachs and softened by chewing the cud that aids the digestion. By feeding them grains they end up with digestive problems and bloating due to the acidosis that occurs. Keeping them in feedlots also restricts them of the exercise they otherwise get from their natural instinctive grazing habits.
Living in such unnatural close conditions to each other, approximately 10 m squared per animal, with up to 40,000 cows in one feedlot in Australia and more overseas, causes a host of disease, like in all factory farms. For this reason the animals are routinely given anti-parasite medication and antibiotics to try to avoid the illnesses, yet rates are still high of the cows suffering from pulpy kidney, foot rot, pink eye, heat stress and respiratory disease, such as BRD which causes 50-90% of all mortality in feedlots. Respiratory disease is such a problem because they are constantly breathing in the dust, from the barren floor, that is mixed with their huge amounts of manure.
A 450 kg steer produces29 kg of wet manure and urine each day, so a large feedlot with 30,000 animals produces 870,000 kg of excrement every day. Some of this is scraped away and used as fertiliser but much of it runs into the large "pools of excrement" that sit alongside feedlots. If you have read my blog on factory farmed pigs you will know how I feel about the terrible environmental impact of these pools, no matter what the industry claims. They are a shitty problem because of
TOO MANY ANIMAL LIVING TOO CONFINED IN UNNATURAL ENVIRONMENTS.
When cows graze on farm land in smaller numbers, their excrement really can act as manure giving nutrients too the soil, rather than acting as a toxic waste.
Photos of Australian feedlots. Below right you can see the "pools".
The cows in feedlots also are given hormone growth promoters to increase their rapid weight gain. This is unnatural growth rates, up to 2 kg per day and sometimes more. 220 kg steers take only 100 days to grow to 450 kg. By comparison it would take a grass fed steer at least 9 months to achieve the same weight gains.
This means that if you are consuming steak from our supermarkets, there is an 80% chance you are eating meat that has also had antibiotics, anti-parasitics and growth hormones in it and through the process of bioaccumulation you too consume it. Growth hormones have been linked to increasing your risk of cancers and over use of antibiotics renders them less effective when you really do need them. If you want to avoid this for your health, for the sake of the cows who have to endure this life void of fulfilling their natural instincts or to play a part in standing up for the environment and more sustainable farming methods, then always choose meat that does NOT come from "GRAIN FED" animals.
You want, grass fed, grass finished. Ideally organic if you can afford so. If not, I recommend to simply buy less meat but good quality rather than more crap-in every sense of the word.
A great global look into feedlots is explored in the book FARMAGEDDON by Philip Lymbory, which I highly recommend. Below is a very small clip showing part of what he found in the huge problems being caused by feedlots in Argentina, where the cows that were looked after by small family run farms have been removed from grazing on the land and are now all raised in massive feedlots, run by large corporations. Then the surrounding land is being used up for growing the grain and soya to feed them, on huge mono cropped, GM farms, again owned by large corporations. In this scenario, the locals loose a way of living and suffer a host of environmental impacts close to home from these farming methods such as water pollution and air pollution, the animals suffer and the land looses on so many fronts. The only one who wins is the large corporations pocket...