September 27 2013
The Comparative Health Effects of Consuming Corn Fed Beef to Grass Fed Beef Are all cows created equally? What makes any one piece of beef superior to another? This thought leads one to question what one is putting in one’s mouth, and what is being put in the mouth of the animal one is consuming. The meat production industry in America today has quite a few mouths to provide for, and a limited amount of time in which to do it. Because of such a high demand, the meat production system has morphed to its growing pool of consumers by learning how to produce large quantities, quickly, and at a low cost. One major alteration is the diet on which our beef is raised. Questions have been raised regarding the health repercussions of a corn-based diet over the bovine’s natural herbivorous diet. Grass fed beef is more nutritious to consume than corn fed beef because animals that feed on grass are healthier and yield a more chemically beneficial product. For one to fully understand the nutritional value of the meat one is eating, one must first understand the nutritional value of the food one’s meat has eaten and the biology of the animal itself. A man or woman does not only eat the meat on their plate, but the food that has been presented to their meal. By nature the cow is not only an herbivorous animal, but also a ruminant, meaning that it exclusively feeds on grass. It seems however, that industrialized cattle are being fed anything but grass these days. Today, most of the beef that the average American consumes includes a long list of ingredients: grains such as corn, rendered animal protein, marine bi-products, animal waste, restaurant food waste, antibiotics, and added vitamins and minerals (Walker). Along with these identifiable components to the feed mixture cattle are consuming often times come harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli (Walker). Polly Walker cites a 2005 study in which Dargatz revealed that 38.7% of 514 E.Coli isolates we resistant to cephalothin, an antibiotic commonly included in animal feed. Another 53.4% of this number was resistant to a combined number of three other common antibiotics. E. Coli contamination is very serious, and sometimes fatal to the human body. Food Inc., a documentary about the changing industrial food system, highlights the story of one family who lost their young son to E. coli poisoning after eating a contaminated hamburger from a “Jack in the Box” restaurant. Cattle can often host E. coli without ingesting it through their feed. Margot Roosevelt explains the biological problem that is raised when cows eat a steady diet of corn or grain in her article, Grass Fed Revolution. Biologically, cattle are ruminants, exquisitely evolved to graze grass, and researchers have found that a grain diet raises the acidity in steers’ guts. This breeds an acid-resistant form of E. Coli that can spread from feces contaminated carcasses to meat. In 1993, 600 people in Seattle got sick and three children died after eating E. coli- tainted hamburger. According to USDA research, more than ½ of grain-fed cattle have been found to have acid-resistant E. coli in their feces; the proportion drops to 15% if they are switched to hay (Roosevelt 5). Not only does corn fed cattle pose the threat of an E. coli infection, but the possibility of other detrimental side effects. Walker sums up her journal by reviewing some of these possible side effects. Currently the use of animal feed ingredients, including rendered animal products, animal waste, antibiotics, metals and fats, could result in higher levels of bacteria, antibiotic resistant bacteria, prions, arsenic, and dioxin-like compounds in animals and resulting animal based food products intended for human consumption. Subsequent human health effects among consumers could include increases in bacterial infections and increases in the risk of developing chronic diseases such as vCJD (Walker 668)....
Bibliography: Stephanie Larson, et al. "A Review Of Fatty Acid Profiles And Antioxidant Content In Grass-Fed And Grain-Fed Beef." Nutrition Journal 9.(2010): 10-21. Web. 19 Sept. 2013.
Polly Walker, et al. "What Do We Feed To Food-Production Animals? A Review Of Animal Feed Ingredients And Their Potential Impacts On Human Health." Environmental Health Perspectives 115.5 (2007): 663-670. Web. 19 Sept. 2013.
Turner, Lisa. "The Real Beef." Better Nutrition 70.7 (2008): 46-49. Web. 19 Sept. 2013.
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