What Are Our Cows Eating?

It must be the lazy, hazy days of summer getting to me, but I was at a loss for subject matter for this post when the day began. Then I sat down to read The Wall Street Journal and was reminded once again why we cannot trust our commercial meat industry to care about the the health of the animals they process. And we have no good research (that has been made public) that addresses how eating unhealthy animals may affect our long-term health.

cow.jpgLast week, one of the drug makers that supplies additives to the meat industry withdrew a feed additive from the market that is fed to beef cattle to increase lean-muscle weight gain in the final weeks before slaughter. Tyson Foods had previously announced to cattle suppliers that it would no longer buy cattle for processing that had been fed a feed containing the same additive, known as Zilmax. This is just one of many chemicals added to cattle and other animal feed to prevent disease and enhance growth.

At the same time that the meat industry is pushing through legislation at all levels to make it a criminal offense to surreptitiously film what goes on in a meat-processing facility, the drug makers and their biggest U.S. customer are stepping in to address the issue.

The WSJ article opened with:

A growing number of cattle arriving for slaughter at U.S. meatpacking plants have recently shown unusual signs of distress. Some walked stiffly, while others had trouble moving. A few even sat down in strange positions, looking more like dogs than cows.

According to the story by Jesse Newman and Kelsey Gee, drug-maker Merck & Co. will now perform a new “study of the drug’s effects on cattle, with an animal-health advisory board made up of company-appointed researchers who will design the study.”

What I would like to see is a study done by an independent group of scientists of the drug’s long-term affects on humans who eat the beef. I have a feeling that if they did not care enough about the cows to take a couple of years to study their reaction to this additive, they haven’t done anything to look at its effects on our own health. And even if they had, should we believe them?

We now have choices both in the grocery store and at the farmers’ market. Beef, pork, lamb and chicken are all available at markets from farmers who do not feed additives to their animals. The animals are free to roam and eat what they choose.

Even at slightly higher prices for free-range, additive-free, and grass-fed beef, it’s worth the money to know what you are eating and what your body is absorbing from those steaks on the grill. You can just eat a little less meat to stay within your food budget and keep your family safe.

Photo by David B. Gleason