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Monday, November 19, 2007

"There's shit in the meat"

If you haven't seen "Fast Food Nation" on video, I don't recommend it over the book by Eric Schlosser. But this op-ed manages to summarize nicely why industrial-sized agriculture isn't always compatible with health and environmental well-being.

First, if you've missed the news:
over 30 million pounds of ground beef in 18 separate recalls have been necessary this year alone
Many of the leading public officials are calling for irradiation of the nation's food supply (bombardment with gamma rays) to kill harmful bacteria:
We should require that our entire food supply be subjected to irradiation before consuming it. Once again, we see a solution posed that is designed to treat the effect while ignoring the cause. It is somewhat akin to the cigarette smoker who would rather wait to develop cancer and then undergo treatment for it rather than just quit smoking.
See, the reason we have bacteria, on the shit, on the meat, is because of how we make meat:
Cattle are ruminants, and they have evolved to eat grasses and forbs. Feeding grain to cattle makes their digestive tracts abnormally acidic. Over time, the E. coli in their systems become acclimated to this environment, thereby rendering it more resistant to the acid shock of our digestive juices. However, few E. coli from grass-fed cattle will survive because they have not become acid-resistant. Consequently, when cattle are fed a diet of grass, our natural defenses are still capable of protecting us.
How much difference does the process make?
A study by Swedish researchers in 2001 found that 100 percent of calves raised in pens had some level of E. coli contamination, while those raised in pasture showed no signs of contamination at all.
Feedlot cattle stand around in dirt and fecal material. Grass-fed cattle stand on grass.

Maybe we should stop eating things that walk around in poop all day. Or at least get them out of the poop first. Just a thought.

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