My mind has been blown yet again by reading an article in WAP Foundation’s Wise Traditions written by a small meat processor, Bob Martin, who works for a small USDA processing plant. Now, there is already a lot of information out there about how the factory farmed meat industry in this country is a pretty foul and scary operation. Some great books out on the subject include Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, Barbara Kingsolver’s, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. They all do a great job explaining the conditions of CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and the ramifications of eating meat and dairy products tainted with antibiotics and rBGH. rBGH, according to organicconsumers.org was manufactured by Monsanto, who sold it to Eli Lilly. It forces cows to boost “milk production by 10%, while increasing the incidence of mastitis, lameness and reproductive complications.”
I make it a point to buy good quality meat, and even though it is more expensive, I feel that I’m doing a favor for my body and supporting ranchers and farmers who also put an emphasis on high quality care and feed. And even though I feel pretty knowledgable about the conditions of factory farmed animals, I’m always amazed when I find out more unsettling facts. Read on please.
1) Large meat processing plants can process up to 2500 animals a day, with 20-30 USDA inspectors and each of them literally have 3-6 seconds to inspect each piece of beef! The particular plant that Bob Martin works for processes 10 animals a day and inspectors take as long as they need to.
2) Many of the animals killed at slaughterhouses have a dark red color to their meat, meaning that the animals are stressed before they are killed. The stress releases a rush of adrenaline into their muscles which affects the tenderness of the meat.
3) The contents of the stomachs must be removed, and for those animals being fed grain, the contents of their stomachs smell putrid and repulsive, while those being fed grass have virtually no smell.
4) Livers are heralded as being extremely nutrient dense, but the livers of grain fed cows are often abscessed and instead of being firm to the touch you can poke your finger all the way through! Ew! Cows are not supposed to eat grain, so it can be very hard on their livers, making them abnormally large and filled with fatty deposits. The liver of a healthy cow fed only on grass are firm to the touch and a normal size.
I don’t necessarily need MORE reasons not to buy meat from factory farmed conditions, but it never fails to surprise me to learn of all the different ways the health of the animal is severely compromised simply to make meat cheaper for the producer and for the public to buy.
At the very least, buy your meat organic which will ensure that your meat has not been fed GMO feed, and that your farmer has not used antibiotics or growth hormones. Look for meat that has been grass finished, not just grass fed, because most animals are on pasture for the first 3 months of their lives. And better yet, have a conversation with a person who sells meat at your farmers market and ask them to describe the way in which they raise their animals.
And if expense is a real issue, don’t forget about using the bones for bone broth! Which is the best way to get nutrients and a little more protein into our diets.