I read some articles in the last few days that compared grass-fed beef to feed-lot raised cows. The articles, such as this one in Slate a few days ago state that grass-fed beef supporters say the E. Coli doesn’t actually grow in the stomachs of grass-fed beef. I was under the impression, and perhaps I was mistaken, that the connection between E. Coli and grass-fed beef was that the bacteria was much less likely to be found in grass-fed beef because the cows are given more space and are in generally cleaner conditions than those in feed lots, and because their feed is more closely regulated than feed lot beef. Just to get the clear picture out there… E. Coli CAN grow and live in any cow’s stomach! HThere’s always going to be some bacteria. It’s part of life. The problem is that in feed lot cattle, the living conditions are facilitating E. Coli growth by generally mistreating the cows. E. Coli will happen, but steps should still be taken to prevent their growth (and by more ways than inoculating them). There is an expectation for us to eat germ-free food…it’s never going to happen. The problem is when these germs are in foods they definitely should not be in (i.e., cookie dough…) or when we are exacerbating the problem by the way we actually raise farm animals in this country.
Just like you don’t eat an organic apple for it’s “higher nutrient content,” but rather for the environmental methods by which it’s produced, grass-fed cattle is there to alleviate many worries about feed-lot cattle, not just E. Coli and other food safety issues.
Long story short (can you tell I can get worked up about this??), eating grass-fed beef does not give 100% certainty that you won’t get sick from E. Coli. But your odds probably are a lot higher, and you can at least know that you’re doing better on many other fronts (keeping your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios down, letting the cows eat what they want and are meant to eat, have beef that is free from antibiotics, cows that are eating VEGETARIAN!! (as they should be….), not supporting a very large corn industry, happy farms, happy people, this list goes on…). So eat your grass-fed burger with a little less trepidation than your feedlot burger tonight.
I heard this great piece on NPR this morning about the land usage required to get the same amount of energy out of some renewable sources compared to traditional power plants. The numbers were staggering. It takes 72 more times the square acres for wind and (here’s the big one) 300+ times for ethanol production for every square acre of traditional power plant.
I’m currently reading The Omnivore’s Dillema, and Michael Pollen spends a lot of time discussing the monoculture of corn in the mid-west and it’s negative impact on the ecology of those areas, the farmer’s economic situation, oil usage to grow the corn at such high yields, pesticide application, and the fact that other crops are not being grown. I feel like adding government pressure to grow this heavily subsidized crop for fuel will exacerbate these problems. Plus I find of scary to have our food system so intimately tied to our energy generation. This piece struck me because the legislation to increase ethanol production is having a great effect on what is grown in this country, and how it is grown. Corn for ethanol production can be Genetically modified, sprayed heavily with pesticides, and most consumer’s won’t know or care. But all the while it will be having an effect, and we shouldn’t be ignoring it.
One great thing about the story on NPR was that the big solutions presented to our energy problem was greater efficiency (i.e., low energy consumption appliances/higher miles per gallon cars) and curbing consumption. Hopefully more people will jump on that bandwagon.