Do happy cows make better food? The answer to this question was attempted by Channel 11 WPIX, a television news station out of New York City. This biased news report features the opinions of one Conneticut farmer and Animal Welfare Approved (AWA). I wasn't familiar with AMA, but I discovered that their main goal is to stamp foods with the Animal Welfare Approved standard. These standards seek to ensure that cattle graze on green pastures; sows can build nests before giving birth; ducks are always able to swim in clean water; and chickens can forage, dust-bathe and spread their wings. AWA stands behind biased food books such as In Defense of Food and Fast Food Nation, and they definitely aren't a friend to conventional agriculture.
And, that's where the bias begins in this television report. To give you a hint of the tone of this video, it opens up with, "There are practices that the cattle industry does not want you to know about." Link here to view the video. I have listed below the numerous myths presented in one three-minute news report, and I need your help to counteract these myths. Read the list below with my rebuttal, and feel free to add your own in the comments section!
1. For us red meat eaters, there only seem to be two options... Turn a blind eye to how it got to our plate, or give it all up to a life of rice cakes.
How do we regain the trust of our consumers? How have the tides turned that a trusty, good hearted cowboy is now a greedy animal abuser? What can we do on a daily basis that will improve our image to the one that we really deserve?
2. Cows can't digest corn.
According to Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension, "The four compartments of the cattle stomach are the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. The rumen is the largest compartment, and it contains billions of bacteria, protozoa, molds, and yeasts. These microorganisms live in a symbiotic manner with the cow, and they are the reason cattle can eat and digest large amounts of roughage. The rumen microorganisms are adaptable enough that cattle can digest a large variety of feeds from grass, hay, and corn to brewer's grains, corn stalks, silage, and even urea."
3. Some grotesque scandals have even been well documented that show what a number of farmers will go through to get their cattle to pass government inspections.
There have been occasions in the past where bad apples have been identified and punished for their abuse and neglect to animals. However, the beef cattle industry does not support the actions of these individuals, and cattle producers are dedicated to using best animal handling practices when working with livestock. Many are certified with Beef Quality Assurance, which provides guidelines in cattle care from pasture to plate.
4. High confinement feedlots are essentially factories that eat, sleep and defecate all in one spot. They are forced to exist with their feces at all times. There is ample opportunity for bacteria to be spread from one cow to the next.
Feedlots look different than cow-calf and backgrounding operations because cattle do not graze on pasture. Rather, they typically are separated into herds of 100 animals and live in pens that allow about 125 to 250 square feet of room per animal. Waste management is a tool utilized on feedlots, and cattlemen follow the EPA's guidelines to help protect the environment.
Daily Quick Beef Fact: The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program was established in 1987 by The Beef Checkoff to provide cattle producers with the tools and training necessary to assure animal health and well-being as well as provide a safe, quality product. BQA is a pre-harvest supply chain management program that applies the latest science and technology to ensure beef quality and safety. It unites animal scientists, veterinarians, feed suppliers, animal health companies, meatpackers, retailers and state and federal regulators with producers to achieve this common goal.