Where does the meat you buy in your local grocery or supermarket come from? How is it produced? Why is it becoming more difficult to find really good meat today, even at high prices? And what is the solution to this growing problem?
The average person in one of the “have” nations consumes an average 230 pounds of red meat and poultry each year. This fact, by itself, makes meat a vital factor in human diet, and health. Yet few today seem to know or care how this important food is produced and brought to their table. Too many housewives and consumers are concerned only with its price. They do not think beyond their local market when considering where their meat comes from.
But drastic changes have taken place in livestock feeding, management and marketing during the last few years. The same is true of poultry. Yet many consumers are totally unaware of the effect these far-reaching changes are having on the quality of the meat they eat.
Let’s look “behind the scenes,” using beef, the most popular of all meats, as an example. Let’s see what happens to a calf, from birth to the time it becomes a juicy steak for your dinner table.
The wobbly legged calf is born. If he happens to be a dairy breed, the very latest practice is to whisk him from his mother about twelve hours later and deliver him to a mechanized feeder, a Metal Mother.” He is put into a small individual pen where every four hours around the clock a large metal tank with nipples protruding from it automatically come along a rail within mouthing distance. After six to eight weeks the calf is parted from this mechanized mother and sent to a larger pen for more growing up.
The beef calf has a more carefree life until it is five to seven months old. Then it is given a shot of antibiotics to help deter the possibility of shipping fever, and shipped from five to 1500 miles to a feedlot by truck or rail.
Upon arrival at the modern feedlot, the calf immediately goes through what is called “feedlot preparation.” In some of the most modern feedlots the calf is weighed, and put through a squeeze chute where it is dehorned, castrated, branded, given five shots of various types, and put through a 20-foot-long dipping vat filled with chemicals all in as little as three minutes time! After standing a few minutes to drain, it’s on to the feeding pen. Feedlot operators say the average animal put through this ordeal will lose 30-40 pounds of unregainabale weight. Now the calf will be put in a pen which allots him about 25 square feet in which to live out the rest of his life. From this day forward the animal will live under constant stress.
Feedlots vary in size from relatively small family-farm-type operations to huge 100,000 head lots that are virtual “beef factories.” Lots of 10,000 head or more are common. An estimated 80 percent of all U.S. beef come from large feedlots and the trend is toward even more of these huge operations.
Whether large or small, today’s feedlots are geared to forcing every ounce of production from the animals in the shortest possible time and at the least possible cost. These intensive feeding programs force on the calves an unbelievable diet of medicated, often cheap, high-grain feeds and roughage. Some feed formulas are highly advertised to “include everything your animal need.”
Medication is automatically put in all commercial feed mixtures except by special contract. Tons of antibiotics and chemicals are being given to livestock without professional guidance and often with the attitude of “if a little is good, more must be better” even though most antibiotics and drugs used in feeds today are not selective in the organism they kill.
Producers have latched onto these additives because they improve the rate of feed conversion into meat and stimulate the growth rate; they control certain low-grade infections and other ill-defined subclinical disease; and they permit producers to substitute less expensive feeds in place of more expensive feeds. All this might help the producer make a profit, but what is it doing to the quality of the meat and public health?
An investigating committee appointed by the Food and Drug Administration felt that these additives were totally or potentially hazardous to public health in four ways: 1) when antibiotic residues are ingested by humans, they may destroy the intestinal bacteria which have not as yet been scientifically described. 2) The residues may produce allergic reactions in humans (some of which have been fatal), 3) they may counteract the effectiveness of other antibiotics being administered as treatment for some human disease, 4) most serious of all, they could promote the development of resistant strains of disease organisms in humans and animals alike.
The “Queen of the Hormones”
Perhaps the most powerful substance given to meat animals is the artificial sex hormone known as stilbestrol. Research going back several years has shown repeatedly that gains go up about 15% and feed efficiently is improved 12% when this “queen of the hormones” is given to cattle.
Today more than 80% of the fed cattle which are marketed have been treated with this hormone. But like many other additives, stilbestrol benefits the producer rather than the consumer. Its use is said to produce an additional 675 million pounds of beef annually in the U.S. But is mere bulk our only concern? Once again we ask, what about the quality of this meat?
Former USDA meat inspector, Dr. John N. S. White, says of stilbestrol-treated cattle: “Very often the animals will appear to be in excellent condition on the hoof, and even the sides of beef from those cattle will show a beautiful finish. But when they are quartered, the absence of quality is apparent.” The main effect is the “lowering of grades of carcasses derived from cattle fed with the drug. Furthermore it gives a watery, mushy appearance to the meat in many cases.”
Cattle producers are strongly advised to use stilbestrol either as an implant or orally with feed, but not both. The prescribed legal daily limit is feed is 10 mg. per head, and it should be withdrawn from the feed at least 48 hours before slaughter. But are these limits adhered to?
Growth hormones are also widely used in poultry with the same dangers and effects. Could widespread exposure to such hormones in our meat be one of the reasons we see so many weak, effeminate men in our society today?
Here is another danger from stilbestrol:
Judge Luther M. Swygert of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled several years ago that: “The record shows that DES (stilbestrol) is definitely a cause of cancer in animals and possible a cause of cancer in man” Yet we continue to use this hormone and to detect residues of it in our meat supply.
Now a new man-made hormone is becoming popular. Effective only on heifers, it is called MGS (Melen Gestrol Acetate) and acts as an estrus suppressor which keeps feedlot heifers from coming into heat. Then it acts as a growth promoter by taking the energy of the heifer’s normal reproductive cycle and putting it to work building extra pounds of beef. Its use is supposed to bring four times as large a return per dollar as stilbestrol.
The cow is a ruminant and chews its cud. This means it has a four-chambered digestive system which can break down cellulose and a number of fibrous wastes into usable form of energy. Due to this ability, the poor cow is subject to being fed all kinds of wastes in an effort to cut down of feed costs.
Fattening rations for cattle used to contain more than 30% good quality roughage. But today most finishing rations in large feedlots have less than 10% roughage, and it often is poor quality and low in mineral content, says Dr. L. S. Pope of Texas A & M.
Ground newsprint mixed with molasses and sawdust has already successfully been used as roughage. However, the quality record is not encouraging. Feed costs were reduced 40-50% in feeding trials at the University of Missouri’s dairy research. A reduction of 40-50% in milk and butterfat was also recorded. On the list to be tried are paper industry by-products, waste paper, pulp by-products from the fruit and vegetable industries, cereal by-products, textile wastes, recovered straw and other bedding materials from stockyards, corn cobs, and many more reports Drovers’ Journal.
Years ago some cattle were being (and may be still doing it today) fed three pounds of polyethylene plastic pellets as roughage at the start of the feeding period. Once taken into the rumen (first stomach) most of this material remains through the entire finishing, thus doing away with the need for ordinary roughage or more plastic pellets. It keeps the cow’s stomach sufficiently full and provides the “scratch effect” ruminant need.
Because of depleted soil, much feed and forage for animals does not contain all the nutrients it ought to have. This fact, coupled with the goal of intensified, speed-up, high-grain production, makes feed supplements a major concern of the modern producer. He is especially concerned about protein supplement, and getting them cheap.
To this end some farmers are experimenting with cutting feed costs 50% by feeding cows grain mixed with chicken litter. Ninety percent of our chickens are raised on arsenic-treated feeds, and it remains to be seen whether this arsenic residue is the litter as well as poultry disease micro-organism will transmit to cattle.
Other producers are feeding their cattle “wastelage” the cattle excrement mixed with hay! And believe it or not, stored fresh manure and ground hay produced 26% cheaper gains in a Auburn University test. All carcasses were graded “choice,” but steers on ordinary standard ration suffered rumen parakeratosis and all tripe was condemned. None of the wastelage-fed cattle has this problem (Farm Journal).
But does this mean that raw manure is good food? Or does it indeed show the miserable failure of the standard ration?
A source of protein that is skyrocketing is popularity is urea. U.S. farmers used some 500,000 tons of urea to replace over 2 million tons of oilseed meal or other protein supplements.
Urea is a synthetic nitrogen compound chemically derived from gasses. In the past it has been used as fertilizer and in plastics manufacture. It is not a feed and animal can’t naturally digest. But bacteria in a ruminal stomach, with the help of plenty of carbohydrates (such as corn) can convert urea into digestible protein at a considerable savings over oilseed meal. When properly used, urea can constitute up to one third of the total protein ration. Without fermentable carbohydrates to use the urea, however, a cow will quickly die.
In the poultry business there is a similar quest for cheap protein. As with cattle, rations using the bird’s own litter is one source of being tried. The waste products of poultry processing heads, feet and internal organs have also been turned into a supplement that is mixed with other feed.
We could go on and on with a seemingly endless list of other feed mixtures and additives that are either widely in use or being experimented with. Insecticides in feed to kill lice on the cow’s back, tranquilizers to keep movement and energy loss at a minimum, charcoal in feeds to filter out pesticides, etc. But you ought to be getting a picture. One other widespread practice, however, must be mentioned.
The penalties for this unnatural practice of artificially impregnating the female animal with the male sperm are beginning to come to light. For a generation or two ther may seem to be no ill effects. But over a period of time this unnatural tampering with the sexual patterns of animals is at least partially responsible for extremely human-sounding problems like homosexuality and nymphomania.
Animals need contact with each other. In the continued absence of a male, the female reproductive cycle becomes upset, estrus (the mating phase) is likely to be delayed, and the likelihood of conception may be reduced. Also it can lead to a kind of mania in which cows remain constantly “in heat.” In an affected herd, several cows are likely to run amok and try, on occasion to act like males. The result is a dramatic drop in milk production among dairy cows, and sometimes appalling accidents occur in which limbs are broken (London Sunday Times).
Yet scientists are now trying to produce “litters” of calves in order to get more profit per cow. This is done with the use of hormones and artificial insemination. One hormone (pregnant mare serum) causes cows to develop more than one ovum per estrus cycle. The other, chlorion ic gonadotropin, causes the ovary to shed the multiple ova so they can be fertilized. However, man-induced multiple births are associated with retained placentas in the cows and a high mortality rate in the calves (Western Livestock Journal).
Other researchers are experimenting with “superfetation” artificial insemination which produces a second pregnancy when the initial pregnancy is several months in progress. When and where is interference with nature going to end?
The End Result: Sickness and Disease
What is the end result of all the chemical, drugs, hormones cheap feeds and wrong practices? We don’t exactly know the far-reaching effects yet, but meat animals, as well as you, are what they eat. If they are fed inferior feeds, the quality of their health suffers. We could be in for a mountain of animal, and consequently human, sickness, disease and degeneracy.
When manure is so loaded with chemicals that the normal process of decomposition is hindered (as happens today), can the animal that produced this waste be completely healthy?
When chickens turn to cannibalism in the broiler house, as they often do, the birds clearly have something wrong with them. The solution is not to give the birds colored eye glasses, anti-peck paste, and metal anti-peck guards or to burn off the ends of their beaks as it widely practiced by chicken farmers. That is merely dealing with the effect and ignoring the cause or causes. Is it illogical to ask if this cannibalism could be caused by a compulsion to eat blood and flesh in a last-ditch effort to supply nutritional deficiencies? Or by conditions of overcrowding, etc.?
A government report states that over 90% of chickens from most flocks in this country and abroad are infected with leukosis (chicken cancer), even though a much smaller percentage develop overt neoplasm or tumors. That means a lot of poultry with some degree of leukosis is probably slipping onto your dinner table.
So far there is no evidence that the disease can be transmitted to humans, but there isn’t any proof to show it can’t be transmitted either. Remember, leukosis is just one of many chicken diseases.
With cattle the situation is similar. A USDA report shows that more than 10% of the 30.1 or more million cattle carcasses approved by federal inspectors underwent some post-mortem whittling for removal of offending parts (tumors, sores, etc.).
An article in The National Observer (May 6, 1968) reports: Most Americans, if they are to eat much meat at all, must still consume diseased meat and meat from which diseased or unfit portions have been trimmed. This meat is made safe only by proper cooking, freezing, curing and other processing.
If we were to condemn and destroy the entire carcass of every defective meat animal, says a top USDA official, a severe meat shortage would result. So your meat is not necessarily safe just because it has received the U.S. Inspected stamp.
Under the present inspection system the U.S. inspector must determined, in as little as two seconds the wholesomeness and freedom from infection of the meat of a chicken, cow, sheep, or pig that we are to eat. This, of course, is impossible to do since salmonella organism can only be seen if a microscopic and bacteriological examination is made.
Once the meat reaches the packing plant it is subject to a whole new round of additives which preserve, age, cure, tenderize, color, flavor, season and scent the meat, and reduce the processor’s costs or increase his profits.
Some processor now injects enzyme tenderizers such as papain into the animal prior to slaughter. We are told that this “on the hoof” tenderizing is absolutely safe. Yet the enzyme causes such rapid and extensive cellular break-down that internal bleeding can cause the animal to die if it is not slaughtered within 30 minutes.
Most additives are used strictly for profit. Moisture-retaining phosphates to make corned beef hold extra water and thus weigh more. Paprika to make hamburger appear deceptively rosy for up to two weeks. Sodium nitrate to make ham, bacon, corned beef, bologna, frankfurters and other cured meats red.
And then there is the matter of “extenders.” Today “edible offal” includes practically anything that “falls off” including head, feet, hide, intestines, liver, kidneys, lungs, blood, stomach, bones, etc. Most states allow 30% fat plus this “edible offal” to contribute to luncheon meats, frankfurters, hamburger, chicken pie, sausages, soup stock, etc. It is only a joke that processors use “everything but the squeal”?
Well, where does all this leave you? What can you do about the meat you eat?
Most certainly we are not going to advocate that you stop eating meat. Other produce has pollution, too. You can’t stop eating. But you can make an effort to obtain meat that is of higher quality.
The ideal, of course, would be to live in a rural area and produce your own meat. For the vast majority, this is not possible. So the next best thing would be to purchase meat that is more likely to be less polluted. In some areas a few producers specialize in providing additive-free meat. An ad in a newspaper or a sign by their property might read: “Naturally Produced,” “Chemical Free,” “Organically Grown,” or something similar. Also, many small operators are less likely to include most additives and can be more easily checked.
When meat purchases must be made at regular meat markets, be selective. Especially be selective when considering those meats likely to contain the most additives, luncheon meats, frankfurters, sausages, etc.
For protection against meat-borne disease, proper storage, quick processing and freezing, plus proper cooking are the best safeguards. All this is good and well, but it is by no means the complete solution to the problem, as you can undoubtedly see.
The problem of farming and ranching methods is merely one in a series of highly interrelated and complex errors which have been made in our technologically oriented world.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution we have attempted to specialize, concentrate and assembly-line produce everything from cattle to cars. It is this kind of Industrial Social Order which has been at the root of many of our dilemmas.
We are swiftly racing to the place, like it or not where we must decide: Do we want food which is fit to eat, or to recklessly pursue materialism and the resulting problems?
But the necessary changes to put us on a same course of food production can, must and will be made. The only thing that will save us is the return of Jesus Christ. He will save us from this life style we have made for ourselves and bring in the New Word to Come. The wonderful world tomorrow that will teach us how to live and be disease free and healthy.