Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A reader responds!

Gail Jenner replied to my post about Organic Meat with additional information & a different perspective. She posted this as a comment, and I am merely copying it here so that it is more accessible to other readers.

Thanks to Gail for taking the time and energy to craft this response! She writes:

It took me a day to put this together, but let it first be said, I'm not saying NOT to eat organic meat! First of all, WE raise organic beef and as a wife, mother, rancher, teacher, writer, concerned citizen, I want the best for my family -- as do you and everyone!

What I was responding to was the list you gave; the items were NOT based on facts, but on fear. I hope you will check out my blog:

I apologize for making this such a long entry! But here goes anyway ....

1. In regards to Mad Cow Disease or BSE: Check out the 2007 Center for Global Food Issues website:

"With many special interest groups hoping to benefit by generating public alarm over mad cow disease, facts can be quite hard to find. Even the name "mad cow" has been used because of the emotional reaction it produces. The real name for mad cow disease, after all, is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, BSE. Despite the detection of a single case of the disease in the United States, BSE does not present a public health risk for the American population. Through, the Center for Global Food Issues hopes to provide concerned beef consumers with credible mad cow disease facts and related variant vCJD from recognized academic and industry experts."
"’To become infected with vCJD you would need to eat an enormous amount of brain, which is not possible.’ French Prion Researcher, Dr Jean-Philippe Deslys"

BSE is a chronic degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system of cattle. Cattle can become infected with BSE by eating feed contaminated with the infectious BSE agent. In 1997 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibited the use of most mammalian protein in the manufacture of animal feed intended for cattle and other ruminants. BSE is not a contagious disease. There is no evidence that the disease is transmitted through direct contact or animal-to-animal spread. BTW, there is no easy test for the disease, only a post-mortem autopsy, and that is true worldwide.

As to other bacteria: According to USDA, 35.2% of chicken broiler samples contained salmonellae; 12% of pork contained salmonellae; 1.8% beef samples contained salmonellae.

2. What do you mean ‘modified’ beef? There is no modified beef. Cattle are vegetarians and their meat is actually very clean and easily digestible. It is full of trace minerals, plus protein, iron, which is the BEST kind of heme-iron which augments the body’s ability to absorb other minerals, zinc, selinium, and other things—many of which our children are suffering from a lack of in this country! IN fact, check out my blog on this very issue.

Primary causes of food contamination come from HANDLING of food, or improper handling, and storage – not in the food itself. As to pesticide residues, there are more micrograms of naturally occurring carcinogens in one cup of coffee or slice of bread than in beef.

As to the use of hormones, more and more ranchers are avoiding any and all growth hormones, however, implants have the same effect on cattle as natural hormones produced by the animal’s body. In truth, the use of them produces leaner meat. Even a man’s body produces 15,000 TIMES more estradiol in a day than he ingests in a pound of meat, and a woman's produces several MILLION more times that amount. Europe’s distrust of hormones, btw, stems from the use of ILLEGAL stimulants a number of years ago, called DES, found in veal calves raised in ITALY, not the U.S. DES was been banned in the U.S., but as a result of Italy’s scandal, all imported beef had to be hormone-free.

But, again, producers on a large scale have stopped using any growth stimulants in their cattle, and others will continue to do so.

As to pesticides used in the U.S., far more are used in vegetables and plants than in animal production, but there are also thousands of times more natural pesticides in our environment than man-made; these include natural "toxic chemicals" that appear in plants and serve to protect them against fungi, insects and animal predators, as per a report by Biochemistry Dept., UC Berkeley, 1987.

3. Regarding the "humane treatment of cattle", animal welfare is a HUGE issue for most cattlemen! Basically, herds are kept on ranges and in pastures, not "holed" up somewhere.

Even time in the feedlots, if/when sent there, are for a limited time, perhaps 30-45 days. And most -- I wish I could say all -- these feedlots are characterized by large open lots. Not only do ranchers and producers care about their animals for the animals’ sakes, but "abuse and neglect of animals constitute or lead to severe stress and thus are clearly counter-productive; this practice by farmers would be just as clearly irrational," states Dr. Stanley E. Curtis, University of Illinois. And, according to Dr. Gene Rouse, Iowa State University, "We need to provide the best care in order to get maximum gain and the most efficiency."

But most of all, "We wouldn’t be in the business if we didn’t like animals," states Connie Grieg, Chairman of the NCA Animal Care subcommittee. One animal health expert, Dr. John B. Herrick reported, "I think the health of our cattle population is better than that of our human population."

4. Cattle are ABSOLUTELY "environmentally friendly" and are efficient recyclers!! Oh, this myth is so ridiculous!!!!

Most of the feed they consume is forage and grass/hay or byproducts, but not grain. And only 15% of all feed grains produced in the U.S. are fed to beef cattle. Cattle, or bovine, are ruminants, with four stomachs, just like the buffalo, thus they have the ability to convert forage and roughage, including discarded agricultural byproducts, eg: almond hulls, potato remnants, sugar beet pulp, corn stalks, grain screenings, oil seed residues, brewers’ grain and millers’ residues, then convert them into human food. They can use wheat and other grains that have been discarded because of early sprouting or as a result of adverse weather conditions. What better way to recycle what would otherwise by waste products? Harmless, natural, then converted into a sound and wonderful food. God made a miracle when He created the Cow . Cattle can also take dry matter in rangelands or on hillsides that are actually FIRE HAZARDS and convert them into muscle/meat.

Grass-fed cattle live in regions NOT conducive to crop production, whether because of elevation, water-accessiblity, or climate/topography. In fact, of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the total U.S., about 470 million are listed as cropland; approximately 19% of that is used for feed grain production, thus there is NO LARGE DISPLACEMENT of acreage from production of human food into production of feed fo animals. More than 85% of all grazing lands in the U.S. are actually not suited to crop cultivation.

Again, rather than consuming HUMAN food stuffs, almost 85% of the nutrients they consume comes from unusable (edible) sources or from regions not suitable for farming.

As far as water "consumption" and production of beef:
It takes 200 gallons of water to produce a pound of hamburger, but it takes 39,090 gallons to manufacture a car; 11.6 gallons to process one chicken; 1,500 gallons to process a barrel of beer; 1,851 gallons to refine a barrel of crude oil; 28,100 gallons to process a ton of cane sugar; and it takes 9.3 gallons to process one CAN OF VEGETABLES. It takes 137 gallons of water to produce a pound of irrigated wheat.

As to land that COULD BE a BETTER utilized RESOURCE (But which extreme enviros have eliminated), especially on this HUNGRY PLANET, is the issue of rangeland. More than 1.1 billion acres are listed as grazing land, roughly one half of the entire area of the U.S. Out of that 787 million acres are considered rangelands (and 82% of these rangelands are located in the 17 western states); 131 million acres are pasturelands; 157 million are grazed forest lands and 64 millions acres are croplands. More than 85% of all grazing lands are not suited for crop production, according to the USDA.

Grazing rangelands is an environmentally SOUND management tool, however; it converts dry matter, that could be called FIRE HAZARD, into a meaningful food source; ruminants can convert the roughage easily into muscle/meat.

According to one Oregon range manager, "Without controlled grazing, the forage on public lands will become wolfy (Not succulent), [and] big game will move to private lands." Moreover, grazing protects the environment by "building soils, protecting water and riparian areas, and enhancing habitat." In Canada, ranchers and farmers are PAID to take cattle, sheep, and goats into the mountains to help protect from major wildfires.

Wouldn’t that be a great PROTECTION tool for OUR mountain and hill regions????? Especially in 2008 as the West burns up.....where, oh where, are those cows now?????

As to the relationship of cattle to wildlife?

More than 75% of ALL WILDLIFE in the U.S. (excluding Alaska) is supported by PRIVATE, NOT PUBLIC land. Private land, eg: ranches and farmlands, provide habitat, water, wetlands, and food for big game and waterfowl. In the eastern U.S., that figure increases considerably; almost all wildlife is dependent on private lands. Most of the spawning and rearing habitat for migrating fish also occur on PRIVATE ranch lands. Yet we've been condemned over and over.....

From 1960 – 1990, it was estimated by BLM that public lands (rangelands) had seen a marked improvement in habitat and herd restoration: elk populations increased by nearly 800%, big horn sheep by 435%; antelope, by 112%, moose by 500%; and deer by 33%.

Note: Their hooves act to stir the soil, move and transplant grass seed. They do not overgraze, by nature; they roam naturally and continually. They are also creatures of habit, crossing streams in a line, not damaging the banks like many people assume. MOREOVER, according to recent studies, GRASS-FED BEEF ARE BELIEVED TO HELP REVERSE THE GREEHNOUSE EFFECTS. Pastures and grasslands store carbon, vs. releasing it into the atmosphere!

As to nutritional value, the nutrient content of 1 lb. of beef is superior to humans for its mineral/protein content than the 4.1 lbs. of grain or the 20.3 lbs. of grass used to produce that 1 pound of beef. In addition, the fossil fuel energy used to produce 70 lbs. of beef (retail) is equivalent to 12-25 gallons of gasoline per year.

As to global methane production, this argument is really up for grabs!

According to Texas A & M University experts, cattle are NOT a significant contributor; it is responsible for 2.9 Tg per year – which translates to about 0.5% of the total estimated world production of methane each year. Only 7% of world methane production likely comes from cattle. Driving to the store to shop for groceries accounts for 100 times MORE "greenhouse gas" than a hamburger. Moreover, centuries of buffalo/bison across the North American continent would have been just as culpable as today’s cattle.

In addition, claims that U.S. forest land converted to grazing/farm lands has been spurred on by cattle, are misleading. Between 1900 and 1980, the number of U.S. forest lands converted to other uses was 64 million acres; in fact, forest land decreased by only 9 percent. Millions of forest lands are reforested every year, which means that timber is a resource that is being conserved, not used up.

Much more important and significant have been the conversion of woodland and FARMLAND lands into urban HUMAN development. Farmers are under attack in this area and succumbing daily.

5. As to helping neighbors, by all means, YES! But recognize that MOST producers do NOT live near large population centers and cannot participate in open farm markets! They are dependent on the market price they get and they have little control over those variables. Animals and plants cannot be set on a shelf to 'wait out the bad times....' Unfortunately, agriculturalists have to make it despite the double-digit increases in costs, etc., with the dips in income. Helping one's neighbor might really mean giving credit to ranchers and farmers who voluntarily work for the improvement of habitat (at their own expense) and for the improved quality of their products.

In truth, support for agriculture is more important than ever. More than 75 farmers leave the business daily; agriculturalists represent less than 2% of our total U.S. population, and YET, 1 out of every 4 jobs is dependent on farmers/ranchers. ALSO, agriculture constitutes the most efficient and positive aspect of our export trade balance. In CA alone, agriculture is the #1 industry and if CA were a country, it would be 6th in the world. At the same time, farmers and ranchers there are facing increasing regulations about water use, development pressures, taxation and fees payable to the state, and very LITTLE support from the average consumer.

And yet, cattle sales actually represent one of the largest portions of the total farm market sales; cattle are produced on farms and ranches in more states than any other agricultural commodity, and is the largest segment of the farm economy. Unfortunately, prices for live animals are WAY DOWN and farmers/producers in this country are quickly falling into the lowest economic category. Rural poverty rates are higher and on the increase; more farm wives work outside the home than in any other ‘occupation’. The average farm/ranch in the U.S. is about 400+ acres and MOST corporations are FAMILY-OWNED (in fact, more than 95% of them!). These are not huge conglomorates taking over the world of agriculture; these are neighbors and generations of farm families who are beginning to go under.

U.S. Cattle and Beef Industry, 2002-2007

* Retail equivalent value of U.S. beef industry:
2002: $60 billion
2003: $63 billion
2004: $70 billion
2005: $71 billion
2006: $71 billion
2007: $74 billion

It would be good for consumers to also know that some 97-99% of EVERY ANIMAL is used, whether as food or in some byproduct. Some of the lesser known byproducts supplied by beef animals include: fats and fatty acids for cellophane, ceramics, cosmetics, crayons, detergents, insecticides, insulation, linoleum, paints, plastics, shaving cream, textiles, floor wax. Material from hooves and horns is used in making piano keys, combs, imitation ivory. Hair from cattle goes into brushes; leather goods are important in sports equipment, boots, luggage, upholstery. Collagen is used in adhesives, wallpaper, and other products. Gelatin is used in photographic film and other products. Fats go into heavy lubricants, while tallow is used in the steel and textile industries. Glycerin goes into nitroglycerin. Blood is used in pigments and other kinds of manufacturing. Insulin is used for diabetics, although synthetic insulin is growing in popularity. Cortisone is used for pain and arthritis and other kinds of treatments. Epinephrine is used to arrest hemorrhage and for other purposes. Thrombin from the blood is used in producing blood coagulants. ACTH, from the pituitary gland, is used in treating anemia. Beef aorta valves are used in heart surgery.

Some of the sources I’ve used include: reports/resources produced by Cornell University, Texas A & M University, University of Illinois, USDA reports, State and County Soil Conservation District materials, Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University, EPA materials, FDA materials, Department of Food Microbiology and Toxicology, University of Wisconsin, and many others.

FINALLY, here is a list of recent facts released about agriculture!

In the United States, 98 percent of farms are family farms.

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture decreased 4.2 percent from 2001 to 2006.

From 1990 to 2005, overall methane emissions decreased 11.5 percent.

Most large feedlot owners have a dedicated environmental engineer either on staff or on contract who ensures the operation is in compliance with strict government regulations
This year, 46,000 upland acres of private land, mostly on working farms and ranches, were restored to benefit the grizzly bear.

U.S. consumers spend a smaller percent of their disposable income on groceries than consumers anywhere else in the world.

This year, 120,000 acres of private land, mostly on working farms and ranches, were restored to benefit the bald eagle. In the Eastern and Central United States, wildlife is almost entirely dependent on ranch, farm and other private lands; so, ranchers play an important role in the survival of native species.

Grazing cattle can minimize the invasion of non-native plant species.

Farmers’ and ranchers’ landowner agreements restored or enhanced 445,000 acres and 885 river miles of habitat for fish and wildlife.

Today's American farmer feeds about 144 people worldwide.

Today versus 1960: 1.8 million less farms are feeding a U.S. population that has increased 61 percent.

Controlling dust has been a priority land-management practice on cattle operations for generations.

Agricultural productivity in the United States has more than doubled in the past 50 years.

Grazing cattle reduces the risk of wildfires by decreasing the amount of flammable material on the land.

Because 85 percent of U.S. grazing lands are unsuitable for producing crops, grazing animals more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food.

Rangelands and pastures provide forage and habitat for numerous wildlife species, including 20 million deer, 500,000 pronghorn antelope, 400,000 elk and 55,000 feral horses and burros.

Cattle serve a valuable role in the ecosystem by converting the forages humans cannot consume into a nutrient-dense food.

Last year, more than 2,000 ranchers and farmers entered into landowner agreements with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

About a billion acres, or 55 percent of the total land surface in the United States, is rangeland, pasture and forages

Calculate your personal greenhouse gas emissions using EPA’s calculator:
EPA’s Clean Water Act sets forth requirements for protecting our nation’s water resources. Animal manures are a valuable fertilizer and soil conditioner.

Beef producers consider the rate of growth and consumption of plants in a given area when deciding how to rotate cattle to new pastures.

Cattle grazing plays an important role in maintaining the wetland habitat necessary for some endangered species.

The United States has 16 million more acres of forestland than it did in 1920.


Sherri Patterson said...

The information we get on these blogs is truly enlightening. I learned about yours through Chele and now read it daily along with hers and Jules and several others. I didn't realize how much I was already doing on the ecological front until I started to think about it.

All the information we're being bombarded with eventually sinks in.

And, Gail, I am a 62 yr old meat lover and have to say that the meat we are buying in the better grocery stores today seems much higher quality than that I shopped for 30 years ago.

Thanks for the great blog...and I love my crockpot(s), too!


Charry Hen said...

Thanks for the blog
HRM 531 Entire Course