The Problems with The Beef Industry & How to Be a Part of The Solution

As consumers, we are inclined to only look at one side of the story. When we buy products we usually consider how it affects us. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is another side that we should consider. What went into this product? How was it produced? What is the impact of their methods towards humanity and the environment? Do I support the way they run their operations?

Over the last few decades, food production in the US has shifted to a system that is dominated by industrialized factory farms, owned by only a handful of corporations. The rise of industrialized farming has run smaller local farms out of business. In addition, there are a handful of concerns with the impact of  factory farming. Among them is the beef industry.

Irresponsible Use of Antibiotics

80% of antibiotics used in the US go to farm animals, including livestock.

distribution of antibiotics

Why? Cattle in industrialized farms are in small overcrowded spaces which are stressful to the animal and make infections spread more easily. The counteract this, many industrialized farms give their cattle low-levels of antibiotics to prevent infection and promote weight gain.

Why is this bad? Using low-levels of antibiotics in crowded spaces encourages the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance has become of the greatest public health threats our world faces, this threat is in part due to inappropriate use of it. Easily treatable infections can once again become life threatening as they were before antibiotics.

Farm to Fork

The FDA recently added rules to phase out the use of antibiotics. These rules are on a volunteer bases and only cover specific drugs that are commonly used to treat humans. While this move may  improve public image, it really doesn’t do much to end inappropriate use of antibiotics in livestock.

Hormones

 Most cattle in the U.S. are given anabolic hormone implants to promote faster growth. There are six steroids used, in varying combinations.

  • Natural: estradiol, testosterone and progesterone
  • Synthetic: estrogen compound zeranol, the androgen trenbolone acetate, and progestin melengestrol acetate

Giving steroids to beef makes them grow more muscle and makes them grow faster, this makes them cheaper to raise and gives the beef industry more meat to sell.

Is it safe? While the U.S. government claims the use of antibiotics is safe, the European Union has banned meat that have been given hormone implants. There is a surprising lack of research given how widespread hormone added meat is. Despite the lack of proof that it is actually safe, the majority of the U.S. beef industry continues the practice with little concern for what that means for anything beyond their own profit.

What are the concerns? There are concerns that the hormone additives that are in the meat may cause birth defects and change the sexual development in children. There are also concerns that it may cause cancer.

The Environmental Impact

What goes into a burger

Animal Manure: Factory farms are overcrowded. The high concentration of animals in a small space makes managing waste complicated. The disposal of the waste harms the air, water, soil and nearby farms. To add on to this, livestock waste is not processed for sanitation. The waste is often mixed with water which is then sprayed on crops. This can spread infectious diseases such as E. Coli (which they also may have helped in making it resistant to antibiotics). When the manure/water pits become overfilled, it can leak which can eventually end up in surface water.

Air Pollution: Factory farms pollute the air with methane and hydrogen sulfide. These gases contribute to global warming and may cause harm to those living nearby. Air pollution is often the result of the overuse of machines, mismanagement of waste and harmful feeding practices.

Animal Welfare

The industrialized cows have to live through unnecessary cruelty.

factory farms

  • For identification purposes, cows are branded with a hot iron causing third degree burns.
  • Male calves testicles are ripped from their scrotum.
  • The horns of cows raised for beef are cut or burned off.
  • Livestock fed diets high in grain often suffer from chronic digestive pain and conditions such as acidosis.Rather changing their diet to grass-fed, they are given low-level doses of antibiotics so they keep growing. The antibiotics don’t do much for the suffering of the animal.
  • The feedlot air is filled with ammonia, methane and other harmful chemicals. These gases cause chronic respiratory issues.
  • The livestock are often in very crowded environments. These environments are uncomfortable and very stressful to the animals.

What You Can Do About It

One of the best ways to change the way to food system operates is through voting with your wallet. If you do not support the practices of industrialized farming, then do not support them. There are a number of ways you can go about this…

Support Small Local Sustainable Farms: Small farms are having an increasingly difficult time competing with the bigger industrialized farms. It is important for both economical and environmental sustainability that local farms are supported.

  • You can find local Certified Humane products here.
  • You can find local sustainable food here.
  • If you find a local farmer and make a seasonal deal, you may be able to get a discount on the meat.

USDA Organic: Items that are “100 percent organic” are certified to have been produced using only methods thought to be good for the earth. “Organic” means the item contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients.  Prohibits the use of hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering, radiation, synthetic pesticides, and fertilizers.

American Grass-fed Certified: Applies to beef and lamb. Requires humane treatment, open pastures, and a grass-only diet for all animals and prohibits use of all antibiotics and hormones.

Certified Humane: No Cages, No crates, no tie stalls. animals must be free to do what comes naturally. A diet of quality feed, without animal by- products, antibiotics or growth hormones. Producers must comply with food safety and environmental regulations. Processors must comply with the American Meat Institute Standards (AMI).

Eat Less Meat: You can reduce the amount of meat you consume or stop eating it all together.

Spread the Word: The more people that know about factory farms and other problems with our food system, the more pressure there will be for legitimate regulation and reform.

 

Read More: 

Tips for Sustainable Living

The Meatrix

Industrial Livestock Production

What You Need to Know About The Beef Industry

Growth Hormones in Beef Linked to Adverse Affects on Male Sexual Development

Decoding Meat and Dairy Product Labels

Glossary of Meat Production Methods

Factory Farming: Cruelty to Animals

Visualizing a Nation of Meat Eaters

Food Economics

Animal Welfare

Environment

 

 

Got Milk?: The Dairy Debate

Dairy first entered the human diet during the shift to agriculture in the Middle East about 9,000 years ago. Since then it has spread across the globe and is consumed in the form of milk, butter, cheese and yogurt. As humans continued to consume dairy, a genetic mutation emerged and spread throughout Europe that allowed humans to produce lactase and consume milk into adulthood.

The USDA is one of the biggest advocates of dairy. Their reasoning is primarily for calcium and the promotion of bone health. While some studies have found favorable evidence, others question the claims. Dairy products can also be a good source of protein and various vitamins such as Vitamin D.

Nutrition Facts of Dairy Products

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Butter Nutrition Facts

Butter

Fage Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt Nutrition Facts

Fage Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt

Dairy Free Eating

The benefits of dairy products are especially questionable to the 75% of adults worldwide and 25% in the U.S. who are lactose intolerant. If you are not lactose intolerant, then dairy consumption shouldn’t be a huge concern. When in doubt, listen to your body.

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Calcium & Other Nutrients: Chia seeds, tofu and dark leafy greens are among the richest dairy free sources of calcium. The other nutrients can easily be covered by eating a wide variety of plant based products.

Dairy Free Milk: Almond milk, soy milk, rice milk and coconut milk.

Cheese: I often substitute cheese with avocado. There are many other options such as nutritional yeast and soy-based products that try to be like cheese.

Read More:

18 Dairy Free Sources of Calcium

Dairy: Food of the Gods or Neolithic Agent of Disease?

Got Propaganda? Why All of the Milk Industry’s Health Claims Have Been Proven Wrong

Guide to Dairy Free Eating

30 Day Vegan Adventure: Days 1-15

I have spent the last 15 days eating a vegan diet. So far I have been successful in sticking to the diet, but it has been testing for me. I have had to pay attention to areas of my diet that I don’t have to regularly. In addition, I have had to cut out some of my favorite foods, which hasn’t been easy.

Sodium:

Sodium works with other electrolytes in helping muscles contract and relax, maintaining fluid balance in cells and helping transmit nerve impulses throughout the body.

Humans need at least 500 mg of sodium per day for our body to function. However, you can lose over 1,000 mg of sodium per hour while exercising. I run over 30 miles per week in addition to weight training, so I do my fair share of sweating.

The average American consumes 3,436 mg of salt per day, most through processed foods. Most unprocessed plant foods have little to no sodium in them, so a vegan diet is low in sodium.

To make sure I get enough, I have been adding a little bit of sea salt to my meals.

Protein:

Getting enough protein is also work on a vegan diet. I aim for about 100 g of protein per day. To get enough, I have been eating a lot of beans, nuts, nut butters and seeds. I also have been eating grains that are high in protein. I haven’t been meeting my goal regularly on this one, but I have been getting at least 60 g each day.

Temptation:

The hardest part for me is being tempted to eat delicious foods that contain animal-based products. The cravings peaked about 1 week in and have decreased since. I really only crave it now when I see it or smell it… other than that is isn’t an issue.

I have found a new appreciation for Oreos, since it is basically the only junk food I can have.

 

 

Dieting and The Deprivation Mindset

I think one of the most prevalent pitfalls in many approaches to healthy living is the deprivation mindset. What I mean by this is a diet that is revolved around what you can’t have. Personally, I don’t believe in cutting anything out of your diet 100% unless you are allergic to it.

When I try to cut foods that I love out of my diet, I just end up wanting it more. Eventually, when my willpower is exhausted, I end up feasting on it and having an increased appreciation for that food for a few days. When I simply focus on eating healthier, I naturally end up eating unhealthier foods less often without having to consciously say no to it.

I think dieting with a deprivation mindset can create a forbidden fruit effect on what we are cutting out. Trying to cut delicious foods out makes it all the more enticing. Every time we see it, we are reminded how we can’t have it and we want it… and we all know what happened in the Garden of Eden…

My Alternative to Deprivation Dieting

I’ve noticed that what I think about is kind of like gravity. If I think about cookies (or not eating cookies) then I find myself pulled towards eating cookies more. When I think about eating fruits and veggies, the more I feel drawn towards eating fruits and veggies. So basically, not eating cookies when you are frequently thinking about not eating cookies is kind of like fighting gravity.

Shift your focus to the solutions rather than the problem. Focus on what you should have more rather than what you should have less. Focus on eating healthier foods more often. Focus on eating more fruits and vegetables. Focus on eating more natural foods. Focus on drinking more water.

If you are having a hard time shifting your focus, try changing the information you are exposing yourself to. Don’t keep junk food in the house, buy it when you really want it in a single serving. Watch less TV shows since those are filled with junk food commercials and product placements. Watch Youtube videos or read articles about healthy foods/behaviors. Every time you see something (or something you associate with something) in your environment it is like it is telling your brain “Reminder: I exist!”. So when it comes to foods you aren’t supposed to be eating, this can be problematic.

Also Read:

Embracing Your Inner Fat Kid

Health is about Balance

Playing Vegan for 30 Days

Level 5 Vegan

I decided to go on a dietary adventure by eating a vegan diet for 30 days.

Why?

  • For the challenge (vegetarian would be too easy).
  • By significantly limiting myself I will have to get creative and come up with new recipes.
  • Curiosity and experimentation.
  • Learn more about plant-based eating.
  • To practice the art of being charmingly difficult while eating out.
  • To shake things up and keep things interesting.

For me the hardest part will be not having greek yogurt and my daily dose of chocolate. I also eat meat, eggs and cheese somewhat regularly… but that will be easier to not have. Eating enough protein will also be a bit of a challenge. I will also have to put more thought into it because animal proteins have all the essential amino acids, but this isn’t the case with plant-based proteins.