Feedlot cattle system stinks

By From page A10 | December 31, 2013

I have read recently that the Food and Drug Administration wants to reduce or ban use of antibiotics used on feedlot beef cattle.

This sounds like a good thing because we are breeding antibiotic-resistant bacteria, consuming antibiotics in the meat and polluting the environment. However, we need to understand the entire dynamic.

The farmers fattening beef do not use the antibiotics because they are “slap happy” and want to throw away money on this considerable expense. They put antibiotics in the daily feed because the conditions under which the cattle are kept are so unhealthy they would get sick and die, or at least not grow very well, if they did not.

We need to review the entire process. Feeding of cattle on concentrated feed, mostly corn grain, defeats the whole benefit of ruminant animals. They can, using the micro-flora in the rumen, produce valuable proteins out of crude fiber, like grass. Antibiotics kill the micro-flora and we reduce them to simple stomach animals.

Another result of this is that the E. coli bacteria they produce are low-pH-resistant and therefore more virulent. Grass-fed beef cattle produce E. coli that is low-pH-sensitive, that dies quickly in our acid stomachs. Furthermore, the feedlot cattle come in for slaughter covered in excrement so the chances of contamination are much greater.

The profit margin is very narrow, so without the use of artificial hormones, the growth is not fast enough and not profitable. These pollute the meat and the environment.

The whole system stinks, literally and figuratively.

But what would happen to all the corn farmers if we abandoned this system?

They should grow hemp, which is far more valuable, producing valuable fiber, materials convertible to methanol for fuel, valuable healthy food oils, valuable feed for chickens and pigs and humans, and more. This would be a step in the right direction away from fossil fuels.

Gabe Lewin

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