Meat: Second Helping

It is fitting, indeed, and just, that we offer a second helping about meat in America. After all, Americans alone consumed 100 billion pounds of meat in the recent year of 2017. You read previously, (if you are paying attention, that is,) about the disparities between industrial beef and small herd, grass fed animals. The topic is much broader than often suspected.

A raving 2006 report by a functionary of the United Nations called the Food and Agriculture Organization wrongly asserted that the global livestock industry impacted greenhouse gas emissions to a greater extent than the transportation sector. It was a dramatic statement and eventually deemed spurious. However, the FAO flaw of comparing apples and oranges should not give cause to overlook exactly how damaging industrial livestock production is to the planet. And it’s not just about the specious argument that mocks cow farts. Industrial livestock production is a moral and environmental failure. Our second helping is a potpourri of informative tidbits that should benefit any carnivore.

Pathogen production. The unnatural, confined, inhumane and festering methodology used to produce industrial livestock is a breeding ground for pathogens that impact human and planetary health. Consider one: the infamous E. coli. E. coli is a bacteria that contributes to our health… until it doesn’t. There are trillions of E. coli in each person’s gut. We need them. But there is a subset of the bacteria, the most prominent one being O157:H7 that can cause an ailment that can kill humans.

Though foodies like to theorize that O157 was “discovered” in 1982 and is linked precisely to the 1970s shift in livestock diets to intense corn-feeding, deep research supports that the bad strain of O157 has been around for centuries, at least. But here’s why the corn/coli link has a kernel of truth and is so compelling.

Cows aren’t supposed to eat corn. It renders their digestive system dangerously acidic. A simplified difference between strains of “good” E. coli and “bad” E. coli is that the bad version is acid resistant. That means it will thrive in the acidified substrate of the cornfed cow. Research has shown that a grass-fed cow switched to corn will show a dramatic increase in O157 population. In a nutshell, feeding corn to cattle increases production of pathogenic, acid-resistant E. coli.

And acid-resistant is bad for humans. Most E. coli strains perish in the peptic bath of digestive acids. O157 persists and makes it to the intestine where it makes one sick.

Industrial livestock production results in other zoonotic pathogens, in case the reader has forgotten about “bird flu” and “swine fever.”

Nutritional profile. If “you are what you eat,” then animals are what they eat, too. Feed livestock junk food and they produce junk meat. That is borne out in a number of studies illustrating the different nutritional profiles of naturally produced animal products. When poultry or beef is raised in pasture, eating what nature provides, sometimes embellished with adjunctive feed, human carnivores will get natural nutrition. The old saw used to be that a serving of meat should be no bigger than the palm of your hand or a deck of cards. When was the last time you followed that one? Eaters who dine on meat that is naturally more nutritionally dense often find that a serving that size is fulfilling. The point of eating is nutrition, not economics nor gluttony. Four ounces of nutritious filet actually fills the bill. This nutrient thing is true from beef to bacon to eggs.

Questionable inputs. In order to keep a conventional livestock animal alive — be it pig, chicken, turkey or cow — in the typically disgusting environment of a confined animal feed operation or CAFO, heroic efforts ensue. Medications and additives go into the track. Consider one known as ractopamine. It’s a common drug given to livestock to promote unnatural rapid growth. It also acts like speed. Ever see a fat meth addict? And that stuff persists, making its way to the table. Dozens of other drugs and additives may go into industrial meat and never show up on any label. There has been some recent movement in the industry to remove ractopamine from the feed stream for pork because over 160 countries ban its use.

It’s not about farts. The impact on the planet linked to industrial livestock production covers the gamut of planetary abuse: feed crops deplete topsoil; water usage is immense and pollution extreme; energy and carbon fuel use excessive.

It has been 115 years since Upton Sinclair’s landmark The Jungle profiled the deplorable conditions of the meatpacking industry. (“They use everything about the hog except the squeal.”) It is mind-boggling that any thin exposé of meatpacking would overlook mentioning that fact. Perhaps just a mention here will inspire intellectual curiosity to learn.

Next up: “You want fries with that?”

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit


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