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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 168

Thoughts: Today is Earth Day!

Earth Day is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find resources of strength that will endure as long as life lasts”...Rachael Carson (This blog is thanks to Earth legend Diana Mitchell!).

My blog today is from Mother Earth News "What You Need To Know About The Meat You Eat".

Supermarket beef is an unnatural, industrial product. The good news is there are better and safer options. Learn how to avoid hormones, antibiotics and other unwanted chemicals in your food; stay safe from mad cow disease and E. coli, and choose better beef, including grass-fed, organic and locally raised options.

Today’s industrialized process reduces the nutritional value of the meat, stresses the animals, increases the risk of bacterial contamination, pollutes the environment and exposes consumers to a long list of unwanted chemicals.You can’t see it. And you can’t always recognize it by reading the label. But the beef in your supermarket has gone industrial.

Before factory farming took hold in the 1960s, cattle were raised on family farms or ranches around the country. The process was elemental. Young calves were born in the spring and spent their first months suckling milk and grazing on grass. When they were weaned, they were turned out onto pastures. Some cattle were given a moderate amount of grain to enhance marbling (the fat interlaced in the muscle). The calves grew to maturity at a natural pace, reaching market weight at two to three years of age. After the animals were slaughtered, the carcasses were kept cool for a couple weeks to enhance flavor and tenderness, a traditional process called dry aging. The meat was then shipped in large cuts to meat markets. The local butcher divided it into individual cuts upon request and wrapped it in white paper and string.

This meat was free of antibiotics, added hormones, feed additives, flavor enhancers, age-delaying gases and salt-water solutions. Mad cow disease and the deadliest strain of E. coli — 0157:H7 — did not exist. People dined on rare steaks and steak tartare (raw ground beef) with little fear.

What’s in Your Beef?
Today’s industrialized process brings cattle to slaughter weight in just one or two years. But it reduces the nutritional value of the meat, stresses the animals, increases the risk of bacterial contamination, pollutes the environment and exposes consumers to a long list of unwanted chemicals.

The beef contains traces of hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals that were never produced by any cow. That hamburger looks fresh, but it may be two weeks old and injected with gases to keep it cherry red. Take a closer look at that “guaranteed tender and juicy” filet of beef. The juiciness may have been “enhanced” with a concoction of water, salt, preservatives and other additives.

More ominous, the beef also may be infected with food-borne bacteria, including E. coli 0157:H7. Some experts believe this toxic E. coli evolved in cattle that were fed high-grain diets. Every year, hundreds of thousands of pounds of beef products are recalled. One of the largest recalls to date took place in October 2007 when Topps Meat company recalled 21.7 million pounds of hamburger because of potential E. coli contamination. The massive recall actually put the company out of business.

And now there’s mad cow disease, a mysterious disease that is not destroyed by cooking and has been fatal. You could ingest “prions” (abnormal proteins) by eating even a well-done rib roast. These prions infiltrate your brain, perforate it with holes, and cause death in a few years’ time.

After the calves are born, they spend the first seven to nine months grazing on grass, the same way calves have been raised for generations. But when they reach 500 to 700 pounds, they are herded into trucks and shipped to auction barns where they’re sold to new owners and trucked to distant feedlots. The journey can take up to a week. Upon arrival at the feedlot, the stressed, thirsty and hungry calves are herded down chutes and subjected to a number of procedures, which can include dehorning, castration, branding and tagging. Then they are dewormed and vaccinated against various diseases. A common practice is to mix antibiotics with the feed, whether the now-stressed animals show signs of illness or not. Tetracycline, an antibiotic important for humans, is one of the most commonly used medications.

Lastly, the calves are implanted with pellets that contain growth-promoting steroid hormones that lose their effectiveness in a matter of months. Many animals are given new implants of higher potency to replace them. The aggressive use of hormone implants can add 110 pounds of lean meat or more to a calf. Every dollar invested in implants returns five to 10 dollars in added gain for each animal in the six to 12 months they spend in the feedlot.

Hormones are just one way to speed the growth of young calves. Another strategy is to feed them an ultra high-grain diet, the standard fare in most feedlots. One reason calves are switched from grass to grain is that grain is a more concentrated form of energy. Calves fattened on grain reach maturity months ahead of grass-fattened calves. The less time cattle spend in feedlots, the greater the profit they return. Corn is the grain of choice because it’s especially high in energy.

According to a May 21, 2007, article in The Wall Street Journal, reliance on junk food has shot up in recent years because the cost of feed corn has doubled due to the increased use of corn for ethanol production. According to the article, one farmer now feeds his cattle a ration that is 17 percent stale candy and 3 percent stale “party mix.” Another feeds a 100 percent byproduct diet, including French fries, tater tots and potato peels.

Some byproduct feedstuffs are high in protein and are considered a welcome addition to a high-grain diet. This list includes chicken feathers, salvaged pet food, ground-up laying hens (known as “spent hen meal”) and urea, a non-protein source of nitrogen synthesized from ammonia and carbon dioxide that is widely used as fertilizer. Urea can sicken cattle if not mixed carefully with feed.

The USDA does not require producers to tell you what the animals were fed.

An Industry Gone Mad
Beyond the obvious “yuck” factor, there is a compelling reason to restrict the use of byproduct feedstuffs in cattle production: It can spread mad cow disease, the most frightening disease in the history of the cattle industry. Until 1997, many of the cattle in the United States and Europe were fed blood, meat and bone meal from other cattle. Scraps of meat and bone left over from the slaughtering process were rendered (heat-treated), ground into meal and then fed back to the cattle. In essence, cattle were being fed to cattle, turning herbivores into carnivores — and cannibals.

The meat industry now uses a mechanical process called Advanced Meat Recovery (AMR) to strip every scrap of meat from the bones. AMR increases the risk that spinal cord and other nervous tissue that can harbor BSE will enter the food supply. The Food Safety and Inspection Service has tightened the regulations about which parts of the animal can be stripped, but the process is not risk free.

So You Want Better Beef?
Finding an alternative to industrial beef takes effort. The cattle industry is highly consolidated,but you can find beef from cattle that were not fed filth, pumped up with hormones or treated with unnecessary antibiotics. And you can make sure it’s good and fresh. Better choices are beginning to pop up in natural and specialty grocery stores, on the Internet and in a growing number of traditional supermarkets. Here are a few pointers on how to find them:

•Opt for organic. The use of growth-promoting hormones and antibiotics is not allowed in certified organic beef production. Nor is feed made from animal byproducts, including meat, blood and bone meal from chickens, pigs and ruminants.

•Go for the grass. Choose beef from cattle that were 100 percent “grass-fed” or “grass-finished.” These animals are raised on their natural diet of grass from birth to market, and are not routinely given antibiotics and hormones. Look for a comprehensive grass-fed label from the American Grassfed Association in the coming months.

•Look at labels. Check for phrases like “Naturally Raised,” “No Hormones Added,” “Raised Without Antibiotics” and “Never Fed Animal Byproducts.” But don’t be afraid to do a little detective work; these kinds of labels rely primarily on the integrity of the producers, rather than independent certifying agencies.

•Comb your community. Don’t be afraid to ask your local producers how they raise their beef, and beware those who don’t want to answer you! You can find producers near you at farmers markets and on the Web. Try or

•Poke the package. Look for thin, flexible plastic wrap that clings to the meat. Modified atmospheric packaging, or MAP, requires meat to be wrapped in thick, gas-impervious plastic with enough head room to trap the gases that keep the meat looking fresh for an unnaturally long time.

•Deduce the date. Meat must have a “Sell by” or “Use by” date that states how long the meat is likely to remain safe to eat. But producers are not required to tell consumers when the meat was packed. Processors who use MAP avoid listing the packing date, as it would spoil the illusion of freshness. Look for meat that tells you exactly when the meat was packaged for sale.

•Buy beef and nothing but. It’s easy to avoid injected beef. The large print usually boasts “Extra Tender and Moist” or “Marinated for Flavor.” But the fine print of the label reveals injections of up to 30 percent of a mysterious water-and-chemical concoction.

To read the full article go to the link below

Challenges: Watch FOOD INC. It's a documentary film that examines corporate farming in the United States, concluding that the meat and vegetables produced by agribusiness have many hidden costs and are unhealthy and environmentally-harmful. You see how they treat the cattle, then how the meat is cut and processed and packaged after they are slaughtered. You even see a farmer sticking his arm right into the cows stomach WHEN THE COW IS AWAKE! Yep I didn't believe it until I saw it either.

Triumphs: Organic!!! Thank you to all the organic farmers out there who are constantly challenged, make less money and do it for us and the earth!

What I ate today:

Breakfast: Water with lemon squeezed in it. Strawberries. A nectarine.

Lunch: Raw cauliflower. A cucumber. Strawberries.

Dinner: Salad, green lettuce leafs, avocado and spinach mmm mmm!

Dessert: No dessert.

Snacks: Grapes.

Exercise: The only exercising I did today was my mouth hehe rehearsing a video audition for Ward Parry :)

197 days to go!!!

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