My ‘Beef’ with Beef: Part 1

Up until now, I haven’t mentioned much about meat.  But, hear me out for my beef with beef.  As a pescatarian, I don’t eat beef (or poultry, other red meat, or other meat products), but surely loved a juicy Burger King whopper back in the day.  My personal lifestyle choice is in no way an affirmation of the way life should be lived, but for me, it’s the healthiest choice at the moment.  If I was in the position to afford grass-fed beef at $6.99/lb (my overwhelming student-loan debt is not as permitting for this kind of lifestyle), I would certainly eat beef in moderation.  But follow along for my story and my rationale…

I eliminated meat and poultry from my diet in 2001 when I participated in a USDA-sponsored internship.  As an intern, I toured farms and gained exposure to rearing practices in the cattle industry.  In fact, it was the fateful day when the interns were forced to vaccinate cows that this personal lifestyle change began.  Unknown at the time, but the subsequent events and knowledge gained throughout my life would reaffirm my decision.I believe “Moo Moo” the cow is meant for the consumption of man, but not in the manner cattle is raised and the amounts of beef that are consumed today.  Just as we are ill-adapted for the Western diet (overconsumption of refined grains, saturated fat, salty processed foods, and sugary beverages), as evidenced by the U.S. obesity rates, cows are not adapted for the diets that they’re currently subjected to. Lucky for us, we actually have the choice of what we put into our mouths.  Homo sapiens are omnivores designed for a varied diet including meat, fruit, vegetables, grains, and nuts.  Our dental structure and stomach acidity support this fact.  Similarly, cows were built for a specialized diet–fiber-filled grass.  In the name of profit, somewhere along the lines of history (coinciding with the increase in corn subsidies beginning some 30 years ago), there was a shift in feeding cows grass to feeding them corn. Nutritionally, corn is vastly different from grass (for analogy purposes, corn is to grass as brown rice is to lettuce). With this shift, there are now growing reports showing liver damage and lesions in the rumen of grain/corn-fed cows (read one such study here).

Corn subsidies have made corn much cheaper over the years, but corn likewise fattens cows up quicker allowing for a shorter turn around time for the farmers and a more tender meat.  Combine the current cattle diet with their lack of grazing and we have corn-fed beef that’s higher in the artery-clogging saturated fat which we should avoid (grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat and higher in conjugated linoleic acid, which has been shown to be beneficial for health).  And just as the cow is getting fatter, Americans and others around the world are too.  Interestingly, fat is the storage site for toxins in humans and likewise in other mammals (can we say, “Got Toxins?”).  We are what we eat! Stay tuned…

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