On Fri, 21 Dec 2007 17:46:55 -0500, clare at snyder.on.ca wrote:
Author and small-scale cattleman Michael Pollan wrote recently in the
New York Times about what happens to cows when they are taken off of
pastures and put into feedlots and fed grain:
"Perhaps the most serious thing that can go wrong with a ruminant on
corn is feedlot bloat. The rumen is always producing copious amounts
of gas, which is normally expelled by belching during rumination. But
when the diet contains too much starch and too little roughage,
rumination all but stops, and a layer of foamy slime that can trap gas
forms in the rumen. The rumen inflates like a balloon, pressing
against the animal's lungs. Unless action is promptly taken to relieve
the pressure (usually by forcing a hose down the animal's esophagus),
the cow suffocates.
A corn diet can also give a cow acidosis. Unlike that in our own
highly acidic stomachs, the normal pH of a rumen is neutral. Corn
makes it unnaturally acidic, however, causing a kind of bovine
heartburn, which in some cases can kill the animal but usually just
makes it sick. Acidotic animals go off their feed, pant and salivate
excessively, paw at their bellies and eat dirt. The condition can lead
to diarrhea, ulcers, bloat, liver disease and a general weakening of
the immune system that leaves the animal vulnerable to everything from
pneumonia to feedlot polio."
All this is not only unnatural and dangerous for the cows. It also has
profound consequences for us. Feedlot beef as we know it today would
be impossible if it weren't for the routine and continual feeding of
antibiotics to these animals. This leads directly and inexorably to
the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These are the new
"superbugs" that are increasingly rendering our "miracle drugs"
As well, it is the commercial meat industry's practice of keeping
cattle in feedlots and feeding them grain that is responsible for the
heightened prevalence of E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria. When cattle are
grainfed, their intestinal tracts become far more acidic, which favors
the growth of pathogenic E. coli bacteria, which in turn kills people
who eat undercooked hamburger.
E. coli 0157:H7 has only recently appeared on the scene. First
isolated in the 1980s, this pathogen is now found in the intestines of
most U.S. feedlot cattle. The practice of feeding corn and other
grains to cattle has created the perfect conditions for microbes to
come into being that can harm and kill us. As Michael Pollan explains:
"Most of the microbes that reside in the gut of a cow and find their
way into our food get killed off by the acids in our stomachs, since
they originally adapted to live in a neutral-pH environment. But the
digestive tract of the modern feedlot cow is closer in acidity to our
own, and in this new, manmade environment acid-resistant strains of E.
coli have developed that can survive our stomach acids - and go on to
kill us. By acidifying a cow's gut with corn, we have broken down one
of our food chain's barriers to infections."
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