This is part 2 of a 3 part series on Grass Fed Beef. You can find part 1 HERE. We decided to write these posts not only to inform you, the reader, but also to give you confidence in making a case for getting grass fed beef at your school.
Part 2: Animal Health
If you ask a layman what a lion eats, they will tell you that a lion eats meat. If you ask a mother what a baby eats, they will tell you it eats breast milk. If you ask someone what a chicken eats, chances are, they have no idea. And yet, we eat the chicken anyways. Maybe I am underestimating the average persons knowledge, but the fact is, we are so far removed from our food these days (especially on college campuses) that it makes little difference how our food was treated, etc. Cows started eating corn around the year 1970, and few people knew about it. 40 years later, we are starting to feel the effects of that mistake.
Cows are not humans.
Lets start with a quick biology review: For starters, humans are members of the Hominid family while cows are members of the Bovid family. What does this mean? Well, it means that cows have a four, count ’em FOUR!! chambered stomach while humans (sadly) only have one. This makes cows ruminants and not monogastrics (single stomachers like us).
Well thats all well and good but what does that mean for the health of the cattle?
The reason cows have a four chambered stomach is so that they can properly digest the foods they eat. These foods tend to be high in anti-nutrients (the stuff that makes those foods harder for us to digest) and one of the functions of the cows stomaches is to ferment the food they eat. This fermentation process reduces the antinutrients and allows the cows to eat the fermented food (which they puke up and then eat. YUM!).
Specifically, cows like to eat grass. In fact, along with the four chambered stomach, cows are evolutionarily built to eat grass. Cows have a specifically designed mouth that allows them to grab a clump of grass and shred it apart. Cows are also equipped with the enzyme that allows them to digest cellulose, one of the organisms found in grass.(Humans do not have that enzyme.)
What Grain By-Products do to Cows:
- To simplify this whole thing, grain by products, which is the bulk of what grain fed cows eat, causes an acid build up. Then, infectious bacteria enters into the blood and eventually the liver, which is where the problems start.
- Another problem that can come up when feeding grain to cattle is when grain accumulates in the animals intestines. Cows lack the enzyme necessary to digest starch. This leads to an overgrowth of a bacteria called Clostridium perfringen, which causes sudden deaths to countless feedlot cattle across the nation.
- Lastly, a grain based diet can promote E.Coli within cattle which can poison a human who eats said cow.
Some Issues with Feedlots:
I think we can all agree that factory farming and feedlots are a bad thing. Cattle are beaten, forced into tight, cramped areas, live horrible lives and are slaughtered in the most horrifying ways. Here are some other issues feedlots can have on cattle:
- Overuse of antibiotics in order to temporarily “cure” the cattle of disease can cause the cattle to create antibiotic resistant microbes. This means that antibiotics won’t work. Over-use of antibiotics also makes animals sick just the same way as it makes humans sick. It literally kills every kind of bacteria in your system. That means that all that good bacteria in a cows gut that works on digesting food is being terrorized and destroyed.
- Small confinements and abuse in feedlots cause cows to be more stressed. Again, stress can affect cows just as badly, if not worse, than it effects the health of humans.
- A Cow that sits in its poop and its friends poop all day is probably not going to be healthy. That’s just science. Don’t sit in your own poo.
It’s not that complicated. If you just let nature do what its supposed to do and let cows graze the land, they will be healthy. Nature doesn’t usually mess up. If cows are healthy and happy eating grass and grazing through fields, why change it? It’s that simple.
Questions? Comments? Concerns?