Bunk and Milk Myths
By Angela Starks
are plenty of tall tales out there about cows, beef and dairy, most of which
we take for granted.
Intensive grazing of cattle helps to maintain the land; they are natures
lawn mowers, gently keeping grass and foliage from overgrowing.
The overstocking and overgrazing of cattle may be the most potent cause
of desertification in the U.S. Over a billion cows are each consuming at
least 900 pounds of vegetation a month, disrupting the natural balance
plant species and wildlife. In the process their hooves compact the earth;
this reduces the topsoils ability to hold water, so it dries out
and erodes at an alarming rate.
Its good that we have all that manure from cattle farming; its
needed to fertilize the land to grow crops to feed everyone.
A huge amount of animal waste is produced, leaving us with a costly
and hazardous disposal problem. It largely ends up dumped as untreated
directly into our water systems. Some manure is used to fertilize crops,
but much of the resulting plant foods are simply fed back to livestocknot
Down on the farm cattle enjoy the easy life...just chewing the cud in
large green pastures.
In intensive farming ranches, cattle are treated as mere industrial
products for the duration of their short, miserable lives. Many suffer an
array of pain and indignities, such as removal from their mother at an early
age, confinement in feedlots where they are pent-up side-by-side, dehorning,
castration, force-feeding (perhaps with sawdust, sewage and animal remains
added to the feed), being milked to exhaustion, suffering from infections,
and then finally death by slaughter.
Beef is an efficient and convenient source of nourishment since the animal
concentrates nutrients from whatever it eats into its own flesh.
Cattle, the Cadillacs of farm animals, are energy guzzlers
and one of the most inefficient converters of feed. Only 11 percent of
the cow eats ends up as actual beef. At least one-third of world grain
is fed to cattle and other livestock; just think how many people that could
Modern cattle farming helps to provide lots of cheap food for everyone.
The real cost of factory farming includes massive government subsidies,
the demise of rural communities, the waste of natural resources, pollution
problems, and health risks from the products themselves. These hidden elements
have worsened rather than improved poverty, malnutrition and disease both
in the U.S. and worldwide.
The separation of the calf from its mother is not distressing to either.
Professor A. Web-ster, an expert in animal husbandry, says The
most potentially distressing incident in the life of a dairy cow is the
removal of her calf. So that the cows milk can be collected
for human consumption, most calves are removed as soon as possible; they
may remain together for only a matter of hours, whereas in nature the calf
would suckle for six months to a year. Most of these calves end up in dark
crates where they are purposefully kept malnourished and unexercised in
order to produce soft, white veal.
Efficient slaughterhouse techniques mean cattle suffer little distress
and pain on the killing floor.
Animals can see, hear, and smell the horrifying activity going on in
the slaughterhouse. Downersthe sick or injured cowsare
kept waiting at the scene to be killed last or are left for dead in a pile.
In the rush to kill as many cattle as possible, many may not be properly
stunned prior to the tortuous slaughter process and are therefore still
alive during the initial stages, often being hung upside down writhing
a hook by one leg, which breaks from the weight.
Inspectors monitor the standards in slaughterhouses, so that beef is
a safe, good quality product.
The National Academy of Sciences announced in the 1980s that inspection
procedures were inadequate to protect the public from meat-related diseases.
However, there are even more shortcuts in a new streamlined
inspection procedure which will result in fewer carcasses being checked
and requires that beef need not be free of all contaminants but merely aesthetically
The antibiotics given to cattle do not show up in the meat, so consumers
have nothing to worry about.
Meat often contains antibiotic residues which are passed onto the consumer,
making the human population vulnerable to increasingly resistant strains
of bacteria. The industry claims to have discontinued routine use of antibiotics
in cattlefeed, but they are still administered to dairy cows, which make
up 15 percent of all beef consumed in America.
Beef is safe to eat compared to vegetables, which are full of herbicides
Beef is the most dangerous food in terms of herbicide contamination
as a result of the extremely high levels in cattlefeed, which accumulate
in the animals flesh. Eighty percent of the herbicides sprayed in
the U.S. are for corn and soy which are used primarily to feed livestock.
There is no evidence to suggest that the consumption of beef increases
the likelihood of cancerthats just vegetarian propaganda.
Between cultures that eat beef and those that do not, there may be up to
a tenfold difference in the prevalence of colon cancer. Various scientific
studies confirm the correlation between red meat consumption and cancer;
the director of the largest study concluded the optimum amount of
red meat you eat should be zero. Diets high in meat and dairy have
long been associated with prostrate cancer, and scientists are now linking
red meat to breast cancer.
Lean beef is perfectly OK as part of a diet to reduce heart disease.
This recent myth is largely the result of a misinterpreted study funded
by the National Cattlemens Beef Association. The research actually
showed that a red meat diet lowered cholesterol by only one percent; the
researchers themselves proved this to be statistically irrelevant and that
it could have been mere chance. By comparison, research has shown that
diets can reduce cholesterol by more than 20 percent, which is as effective
as some cholesterol-lowering drugs.
We get iron from red meat, which is why vegetarians and vegans are at
risk of anemia.
There are plant foods that are rich in iron, including dried fruit,
whole grains, nuts, leafy green vegetables, seeds, and pulses. It is true
that more of the iron in meat is absorbed compared to iron in plants, but
if dietary intake of iron is moderate, vegetarians are compensated with
an increased absorption rate. Vitamin C, which is higher in plant-based
diets, aids the absorption of iron. Studies show that vegans usually have
a high iron intake, on average two or three times the recommended amount.
Their iron status is usually normal and they are no more likely to be deficient
in it than the general population.
Human anatomy and physiology are designed to digest red meat.
Even though we seem able to cope with some meat in our diet, the fact
remains that it is difficult for the human digestive system to break it
down completely. The average American may die with pounds of undigested
meat in his/her intestines. True carnivores, such as lions, produce a more
acidic digestive juice in their stomach in order to break down the high
protein content of meat. They also have a digestive system that is much
shorter in length than ours so that the putrefying meat does not hang around
inside them for so long.
Beef is a perfect source of proteinvegetarians dont get
This depends on what you mean by perfect. Beef is high in
useable protein, yes, but regular consumption of meat provides far more
protein than the body needs and this overload is difficult for the body
to process. The perfect protein notion came about largely from
archaic, misinterpreted studies on rats whose nutrient requirements are
very different from humans. Beef is not a good way to obtain protein
since it also provides us with excess saturated fat, a high concentration
of herbicides, and other undesirables. Studies show that vegans consume,
on average, at least the recommended amount of protein (and no, they dont
have to bother with protein combining at each meal). Plant
proteins also provide fiber and additional nutrients.