What’s in Your Meat? (Part 1)

Ever wonder where that juicy steak you’re eating came from?  Did it look fresh, juicy and red when you purchased it at the store?  Well, of course it did!  But it was probably injected with gasses, preservatives, and other chemicals to make it look so.  And as an added bonus, you probably got some hormones, antibiotics, and other far less appealing ingredients and drugs.  Is that what you really want to be eating and feeding your kids?

With all the claims of the decreased nutritional value in meat and all the unnatural processes that were occurring, I thought I would research it for myself.  For the next several days, I will be touching on the highlights of the meat industry and the benefits of organic alternatives, but for a more detailed and eye-opening read, be sure to check out Mother Earth News.

Disclaimer: I am here merely to relay the information I have found, so that you can make your own informed decision.  Feel free to take this information and apply it any which way you like (or even toss it out, if you so desire!).  My disclaimer can be read in entirety here.

Courtesy of Flickr

Ever heard of CAFOs?  It stands for Concentrated (Confined) Animal Feeding Operations, otherwise known as factory farms and feedlots.  Though I do understand that there is a possibility that there would not be enough meat to serve the needs of the entire population if not for these types of industrialized farms, I personally chose to steer clear.

The meat industry seems to be in a hurry.  In a hurry to raise and mature cows, so that they can produce more at faster rates and a lower cost to you year-round.  Efficiency and low production costs are key for profits.  And since they are not held accountable for the nutritional content of their meat, it’s at just about any cost to the consumer (and the cattle).

How?  Hormones and grain.  The hormones make the cattle mature at faster rates, and the (unnatural) high-grain diet fatten the cattle far sooner than their pastured, grass-fed neighbors (not to mention achieve the preferred “marbled” look).

(Did you know that growth hormones are banned in the European Union?)

But hormones and grain-fed cattle open the door to a whole heap of problems.  In fact, cattle were not meant to eat grain.  It sickens them and even causes death.  How do you battle illness and death in these cows?  With antibiotics!  And in regular doses, too.

What’s so bad about giving cattle antibiotics and hormones?  Aside from the plethora of ailments in the poor cow, we’re ingesting them.  This, in turn, creates antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the hormones can contribute to the (human) health issues that an estrogen-dominant diet brings.

Does it stop at hormones and antibiotics?  Sadly, no.  This excerpt is taken from Mother Earth News:

To further lower the cost of feed, which accounts for 60 percent or more of the total cost of raising cattle, many cattle are fed “byproduct feedstuffs.” This can range from nutritious ingredients such as beet pulp and carrot tops, to junk: stale bread or candy and heat-treated garbage. As one feedlot operator told me, “Byproduct feedstuff is anything that is cheap, keeps the cattle growing and can be found close to the feedlot.”

In New York state, chewing gum has been used as a cheap feed supplement. The novel practice was recommended in a 1996 study in the Journal of Animal Science. The study concluded that stale chewing gum — still in its aluminum wrappers! — can “safely replace at least 30 percent of [cattle] growing or finishing diets without impairing feedlot performance or carcass quality.” In other parts of the country, cattle are being finished on stale pizza dough and candy bars, even heat-treated garbage. Feedlot operators drive to the manufacturing plants or municipal landfills and load up their trucks with this yummy fare, or they buy the used goods from middlemen called “jobbers” who offer a more varied buffet.

Let’s be fair…

Have a look from the “other side” of the fence.

Are all CAFOs bad?  No.  In fact, there are some large family farms that treat their cattle more humanely than documentaries accuse (giving them room to move and even grazing periods), have proper waste-managing techniques, give antibiotics only when needed and so forth…  But how do you know if it isn’t labeled on the grocery store package?  Moreover, a lot of times when you buy hamburger, for instance, it is a conglomerate of different meat sources.

Personally, I choose 100% organic, naturally-raised, fully grass-fed meat from a local source I researched from the Eat Wild website.  That’s a personal decision for me and my family.  It comes with quite a hefty price tag, but it’s worth it to me.  Plus, we are consuming a lot less meat these days to compensate.

After comparing different farms’ practices and costs, my big deciding factor in which organic source (or family farm) to use was largely due to this description on their website (and the fact that the rancher laughed about his cows being “spoiled”):

After grazing and having a few licks of natural mineral salt, and visiting the water tank their next stop is a back and head rub in the Cedar trees for an application of the natural insect repellant that Cedar provides. Our cattle enjoy the shade provided by our various deciduous trees during the summer and cedar tree shelterbelts during the winter. They bed on baled wheat and oat straw that we have prepared… Our cattle are finished naturally on a diverse diet of lush, native grasses, which are enhanced by naturally occurring native herbs. They also have access to protein-rich alfalfa.

Next we will talk about the benefits of grass-fed.

Happy cows make good meat!

Courtesy of Flickr


  1. 1

    This is why I am very selective about the meat we eat also. We also only eat meat a few nights or less a week in our house!

  2. 2

    What do you do – local farm, mail order?? I am always curious at what others choose. I purchased my first order from my chosen farm today. He was super nice and sent us home with over $40 of extra meat for free! We had been purchasing grocery store meat for almost a year now because of our move. Before that we had organic meat delivered and fully stocked by them in our garage freezer twice yearly (not local source).

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