The Stuff We Eat in Our Meat

Sunday, December 29, 2013
Posted in category Food Politics

Mother Jones ran a piece this month, “5 Surprising Things We Feed Cows.” Sawdust, chicken shit, candy, crab guts, ground limestone. Two things to note that are wrong with this piece. First, it’s not “we” – it’s the industrial system propped up by subsidies and government dictates favorable to unsustainable, unhealthy, industrial farming practices. The second mistake is leaving out the fact that cows get fed dead cows that have been ground up. Michael Pollan wrote about this in the New York Times way back in 2002.

Of course the identical industrial logic — protein is protein — led to the feeding of rendered cow parts back to cows, a practice the F.D.A. banned in 1997 after scientists realized it was spreading mad-cow disease.

…Until mad-cow disease, remarkably few people in the cattle business, let alone the general public, comprehended the strange semicircular food chain that industrial agriculture had devised for cattle (and, in turn, for us). When I mentioned to Rich Blair that I’d been surprised to learn that cows were eating cows, he said, ”To tell the truth, it was kind of a shock to me too.”

Joel Salatin has also spoken about this often, except everything that he attempts to do outside of the industrial system, as a small grower, is illegal. The demand for grass-fed beef is increasing exponentially, and the market response is an upswing in suppliers who are stewards of the land.

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One Response to The Stuff We Eat in Our Meat

  1. Dave says:

    December 30th, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Hi Karen, I’ve enjoyed reading your articles for some time now. The chicken shit surprised me a little; the sawdust, candy, crab guts, and ground limestone (calcium carbonate) do not. As I’m sure you know, cattle have rumens (microbial-filled chambers) that allow them to utilize a wide variety of ingredients.

    I’m all for ending subsidies and all government interference in the food supply, but I don’t think vilifying farmers for trying to be as economical as possible is the best approach here. After all, they are dealing with sky-high feed costs, at least part of which are due to government intervention. And, everyone likes to dump on industrial agriculture, and “factory farms”, but the truth is, people love to eat meat and animal products. Assembly-line production and fast food would have likely developed in a free market. But, let’s make a free market and find out…

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