To the Curious Consumer

Submitted in early October at 1:35 am. 

“Wow, I’m afraid I’m none too impressed with what you found out, as it doesn’t address any real issues of ‘meat production’ and the safety of what we’re eating (or the humane/inhumane treatment of animals).

I would like to know:

–How many hours daily/weekly are the cows ‘at pasture’? how many hours daily/weekly confined?

–List the ingredients in their food & the ratio of each (grains in too high of a ratio are truly unnatural/unnatural for cows – and should only be given in the dead of winter as a ‘supplement’ to their hay (alfalfa/clover).

–How many “chemicals” are added to their food? And why? (and who cares if the FDA “approves” them or not…poison is poison, eh?)

–Solid confirmation or denial of feeding animals GM grains (which have been proven to be horrendously toxic to any animal that eats them (including humans that eat those animals)

–the addition of selenium & Vitamin E is a MAJOR red flag. These things are NOT needed to prevent disease in animals that are provided food that is natural & healthy to them.

—What type (and how much) antibiotics are injected into these animals monthly? semi-annually? annually? And why are they needed at all (typically due to the rapid & rampant spread of disease caused by overcrowding, lack of Vitamin D {sunlight}, and grains/feed that are totally unnatural & stressful to the animal.

–What type (and how much) growth hormones are injected into these animals?

–What is the leading cause of disease/death, and why?
–How is disease managed in general?
–What is the most common disease? And how does that compare to animals that are pastured and fed healthy diets?
–What is done with diseased animals (i.e. do they make it into the food chain? ground up and added to animal/pet feed? {very common}, or disposed of properly?

If you’re not able/willing/whatever to ask these questions and post them answers, will you please email me a few of the email addresses of those who previously answered your emails? My mother is wondering if it is safe/healthy for her to consume ‘Amana Beef’, and since “meat” that has been ‘grown as a commodity’ in confinement operations has been proven to be a leading cause of disease & cancer, I would like to have the answers to provide to & for her.

Thank you!”

First and foremost, I have to apologize for the late response. My comment filter needs to be improved, because by the time I waded through 1,000+ spam comments relating to Louis Vuitton and other mildly alarming health benefits that are not of interest to me, I was extremely late in reading this comment.

While looking for the best answers for this reader, I had a very hard time responding, a sentiment which other agriculturists agreed with. It seems as though their mind is already made up, and coming into a conversation with such a negative attitude toward my writing shows me that I should answer with nothing less than solid fact, both personal and scientific. So here I go:

The hardest part about responding to this comment is the specificity of questions. In 2007, there were over 1 million cattle producers responsible for over 94 million head of cattle. Included in those million producers, there are more various types of operations than I could mention (and which would certainly bore everyone more than usual). Seed-stock or pure breed producers are in the business of producing the best cattle to maintain the great traits that producers have been able to emphasize in certain breeds. Commercial operations and stocker/backgrounding operations are probably what many people think of when they think of cattle production, raising light-weight cattle in preparation for finishing (finishing just meaning their destination before slaughter, whether that be pasture or feedlot). Feedlot operations are where it seems a lot of your concerns lie. Feedlots are where the cattle are fed primarily grain diets to increase weight gain efficiently. Then, within those varying operations, there are niche markets that producers can operate in. Organic, Grass-fed, Corn-fed, Freezer Beef, Locally Raised, Aged, Natural, Pasture-Finished, just to name a few. By asking questions about a brand of beef, you can’t narrow it down to one answer. In the original post, I quoted an Amana representative as saying that there are a number of farms that produce the beef that is processed by PM for Hy-Vee. While those farms primarily use the same production techniques, they cannot be narrowed down to the specific cow’s life history where your steak originated from.

I could try and research those specific farmers and get more production specifics for this reader, but I don’t really see the benefits of that. I researched the origins of my beef from Hy-Vee, and as I read, you are “none too impressed”. Remember as you do your research, and are asking questions, that producers will provide different answers as to beef steers, beef heifers, and dairy heifers, etc, depending on their experience, so be specific. In this post I use the word cattle as a general term, but will specify at points.

To answer your main concerns, I used a few personal friends and other agriculturists who raise beef  cattle:

As far as listing the ingredients in their food, feed ratios do vary in accordance to the cattle needs. On our farm, we use a very simple method to see if the cattle are being fed enough: are they cleaning their plate? Farmers and ranchers are very watchful- animal behavior is often the key clue that something is wrong after you have been around livestock for awhile. But, the cows on our farm are dairy heifers. The diet of cattle varies from type to breed to sex to goal weight. The point you bring up about grass vs. grain fed cattle is a long disputed one, which narrows down to most things: the farmer’s personal decision and economics. It would be great if there was enough grass to feed the cattle population, but as we have talked about before, the drought, for example, drastically reduced the amount of grass available (well, reduced every feed source too) and sometimes, while customer belief is that it should only be fed in the “dead of winter,” that is not financially possible, and in many cases, the meat is very similar, just overpriced to gain a label. And as far as chemicals added to the feed? None. Nobody I talked to considered that a valid question. Why would anyone add chemicals to their livestocks’ feed?

In terms of antibiotics and medications, I encourage you to do your research:

Antibiotics and Feed Additives


FDA Regulations on Drug Residues

Burning Question: Antibiotics and Meat

And before you point out an obvious fact; yes, some of these are people are supportive of agriculture. They have a positive outlook on farming and livestock production. But it is also their lifestyle, their passion. They aren’t farming for the money; aren’t blogging for money. They, as well as myself, just want to share what we know as we work and learn everyday where America’s producers grow the population’s food, on farms and ranches.

And to wrap up some quick answers, a beef producer from Illinois, after reading your question, responded that the leading cause of death for beef cattle is the owner of the meat locker. That’s funny. But also know that the cause of death depends on the cattle. One producer said her leading disease worry is foot rot, while others, like ours, which have pregnant cows, have higher cases of pre/post birth complications, although rare.

Your last question is a good one, as well as a concern to many people. What is done with diseased animals? Keep looking for my new blog post coming soon, concerning food waste vs. food system safety!

Also, make sure you look into the tweetchat at 1 p.m. today by following @USFRA on Twitter. It’s all about food and a great way to answer more questions! You can always backtrack to read other farmer/customer conversations.

Check it out! I would love to hear back on what you found interesting, and I challenge you to really think about the questions you asked me: were you hoping for an open dialogue? Were you really looking for answers, or did you just want to prove a point based on your opinion? Let me know how I can find more answers for you and understand your opinions and concerns as a customer! I’d love to carry this conversation out further.


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