by John Bain
Consider steak. It’s so juicy, so wholesome. It boggles the mind to think of someone tampering with a thing so commendable and so simple.
As with everything else we put in our bodies, though, our society can’t leave well enough alone.
There are several problems with the beef industry. The worst is the use of large tracts of arable land to house and feed cattle when this land would often be better used to plant crops for human consumption. But that’s not something that ends up on your plate.
What does end up on your plate, though, is a hormone and drug-addled slab of meat that hardly resembles the furry aurochs humans domesticated some 10,000 years ago.
Beef cattle are fed massive doses of synthetic hormones, often the same substances used by professional athletes as steroids. The exact effects of this hormone-infused meat being eaten by humans is not entirely clear, but one study found lower sperm counts in the sons of women who consumed a lot of beef during pregnancy.
What is sure is that these hormones leech into the environment through contact with cattle, resulting in some seriously gender-confused fish: females are starting to resemble males due to cattle-runoff testosterone, and vice versa for males due to estrogen.
This is egregious, but most disturbing are the beef industry’s heavy ties to exactly the sectors of academia and government that are supposed to keep an eye on them.
The USDA is absolutely packed with meat and dairy partisans who used to work in the industry. It’s what’s known as a “revolving door” policy; executives leave Beef, Ltd. and immediately find themselves a nice high-level position in the USDA or FDA. Keep in mind this is the same USDA that allowed “pink slime” in kids’ lunches until the media firestorm, and that wasn’t all that concerned about Mad Cow until that hit the fan.
As I’ve said before: who watches the watchmen? It’s actually a miracle that we in this country have such an attack-oriented press to set these companies straight; civil society isn’t doing much, and government seems to be doing even less, or as some might allege, even colluding with Big Ag while our health is at stake.
Meanwhile, some beef ranchers are being played themselves. This Chronicle of Higher Education piece illuminates the issue. Apparently, cattle-growth drugs such as Zilmax are being promoted by academics who receive pay from the drug industry, often without disclosure. In fact, in 2005 a survey recorded that two-thirds of animal scientists at agricultural schools had received industry money.
These beef ranchers are also presumably losing out to Big Agriculture companies who pressure them into increasing quotas every year or else put them out of business in favor of big factory farming operations.
What suffers through all this (non-genetic, so far) modification is the quality of the beef. Many have noted that cows treated with Zilmax and hormones end up as meat that is less tender and less marbled than that of cattle au naturale.
So whatever the health effects, the consumer is losing out in terms of getting the quality product they paid for and expect.
Where’s the beef?
Category: Sustainable Small-B