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Irradiation feedback

Regarding Dennis Swan's letter promoting irradiation (October BEEF, page 18): I have been involved in food irradiation worldwide since the 1980s and have been an aggressive proponent of this technology. I have learned irradiation is an alternative, not the all-encompassing answer. First there must be a HACCP (hazardous analysis and critical control point) plan in place. This must start at the farm

Regarding Dennis Swan's letter promoting irradiation (October BEEF, page 18): I have been involved in food irradiation worldwide since the 1980s and have been an aggressive proponent of this technology. I have learned irradiation is an alternative, not the all-encompassing answer. First there must be a HACCP (hazardous analysis and critical control point) plan in place. This must start at the farm level.

Irradiation also has limitations. Apparently, Swan doesn't believe this. Irradiation will not eliminate all the pathogens at the approved dose. Even at higher-dose levels, there are limitations. Higher doses usually cause an off-flavor.

Then there is the issue of how much benefit will the American cattleman get from 55¢/lb.-hamburger patties. It will benefit the beef importers and those using poor-quality meat scraps.

The E. coli O157:H7 issue is not that easily solved. There will always be emerging food microbes that will require more focus on the farm. This is where more effort must be put.

Yes, irradiation is an alternative, but not the final answer.
Joseph Butterweck, DVM, Director
Environmental Medicine Programs
Aerospace & Environmental Medicine Group

Joe Roybal responds: The headline that led off Dennis Swan's October issue letter — “Irradiation is the answer,” is one that I wrote, not Swan. As such, the finality of the headline may have confused the point of Swan's letter, leading readers to believe that irradiation is the only intervention step needed to guarantee consumers a safe ground beef supply.

Swan says his intention wasn't to promote irradiation of ground beef as the single answer to food-borne contamination of ground beef. His intent was to promote irradiation technology as another tool to be used in conjunction with other intervention efforts to remove the threat of food-borne pathogens in ground beef. I apologize for any confusion.

BEEF In The Classroom

We, the 17 members of the Advanced Beef Production class at the Pennsylvania State University, would like to extend a heartfelt thanks for the donations of your magazine. BEEF magazine, being such a reputable periodical, will be an integral part of our class as we learn the latest trends, market information and health issues of the industry.

In fact, our professors Dan Kniffen and Erskine Cash assigned us a project on alliances the first week of class. Your magazine is our primary resource for this project and will prove to assist us in the future. Thank you again for your support. It is truly appreciated.
Advanced Beef Production Class
Pennsylvania State University

Corn-Fed Vs. Grass-Fed

I have been reading articles about tests that were performed on corn-fed beef. A USDA government official sent me an article covering a talk that Tilak Dhiman gave at the University of Nebraska. In it, he says that 100% grass-fed meats and milk are up to 500% higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)than meat and milk fed conventional high-grain diets.

Another article on the Web site claims that meat that tested for Omega-6 to Omega-3 fat ratio was 2 to 1 in pasture-finished beef but ranged from 5 to as high as 13 to 1 in feedlot-finished beef.

Since my wife is a diabetic and I have acute arterial atherosclerosis, we both follow a pretty strict diet. We were both advised by doctors and dietitians against eating red meat and anything other than low-fat dairy products.

This was not satisfactory to either of us, so we started doing our own research. We found that when we ate red meat and dairy products from grain-fed animals, blood sugar and cholesterol would go up. Eating wild game, meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals actually lowered blood sugar and LDL cholesterol. It looks to me like a lot of checkoff dollars are being spent promoting something that we could do with a lot less of.

I can give anyone interested a firsthand testimonial of what it is like to lay on that table watching that screen while the doctor is putting four stints in your arteries. I would like to hear any comments that anyone would like to make about grain-fed vs. pasture-fed meat and dairy products.
Ed Pendergrast
Lawson, MO

BEEF Goes To Washington

Can I get a copy of the Mike Byrne-Trailblazer edition of BEEF magazine? I'd love to have one to show my boss. Better yet, send me subscription information so that our office can subscribe. It would be great to have BEEF magazine displayed in our office.
Brian MacDonald
Chief of Staff
Con. Greg Walden (R-OR)

McDonald's And Imports

Regarding your November issue interview with McDonald's executive John Hays (“What's Up, Mac?” page 46), I'd would like to comment on what Hays didn't tell us.

Hays referred to a lack of lean beef in the U.S. What he should have said but didn't is that there isn't enough CHEAP lean beef for McDonald's to buy in the U.S. Believe me, there are enough lean yearlings running around to stampede all of the Ronald McDonalds into producing a really GOOD tasty hamburger void of all the condiments.

Not only does McDonald's tells us they can't find enough lean beef while our rangelands are full of lean beef, but the cheaper beef they buy in Australia and New Zealand is packaged to U.S. consumers in lower-quality beef products that drive our potential customers toward more tasty competitive proteins. This reduces the value of beef.
Scott Bodie
Burchard, NE

Telling It Like It Was

I enjoyed your article “Why Future Beef Went Under” (November BEEF, page 40). I was one of the plant-level managers and moved to Kansas for the opportunity to work at such a great new company. Since the Future Beef Operations (FBO) plant closed, there has been a lot of bad press locally. It's nice to see someone finally print what I and other employees see as the truth about what really happened.

I'd also like to thank Ronnie Green, FBO's vice president of cattle operations, for his honest opinions in the story. Others in the ivory tower seem to feel like it was all someone else's fault, and they're usually the ones talking to the media.
A former FBO employee
Name withheld by request

It's Simple Arithmetic

I think you put an extra zero in your story on the page-34 commentary in the November BEEF (“The Way We Were”). It looks like it should be 200, not 2,000 years, between 1974 and 2174.
Bruce Billick
Paullina, Iowa

Editor's Note: You're right, Bruce. Thanks for the heads up.
— Joe Roybal

I Found No Documentation

I talked with author Doug McInnis following my reading of his article, “High On Grass (BEEF, April 2002, page 62). At that time, I went on the Internet to check out the sites he referred me to on the benefits of omega-3. There was quite a lot on omega-3, but after more than three hours of looking I found nothing to prove that grass-fed beef is higher in omega-3 than omega-6.

As a Beef Quality Assurance ranch in Texas, I next contacted the Texas Beef Council. I was referred to Steve Smith in Texas A&M University's animal science department as one of the foremost fatty acid experts in animal science. I contacted him and his response follows this letter.

I'd like to suggest that you require authors of future articles to provide documented scientific references or studies from reputable universities or laboratories. I feel that the article “High On Grass” should not have been published as I have found no basis for the author's claims.

What's more, in your July issue, Jim Weber writes in “Reader's Viewpoint” (page 11), in positive reference to the April article. Apparently, the article was taken as quite believable because it was printed in a reputable agricultural publication such as BEEF.

Bear in mind that just because many of us are grass feeding our beef doesn't mean we're doing it because of a scientific study or finding. The economics of feeding something that is less costly or labor intensive is most likely the reason.
Connie Krause

Letter to Connie Krause from Steve Smith of Texas A&M University:

Dear Ms. Krause:

There is an excellent article by Dan Rule and others in the Journal of Animal Science, 2002, volume 80, pages 1202-1211. I have known Rule for 20 years, and he does excellent work.

In his article, the author describes fatty acid composition in meat from bison, cattle, elk and chickens. The animals (except elk and chickens) were range- or feedlot-fed.

For beef loin, omega-3 fatty acids were 0.64% of the total in feedlot cattle and 2.90% in range-fed cattle. This is quite a difference, but the concentration in range-fed cattle still is too low to be of practical significance to people wanting to increase their omega-3 fatty acid intake.

Omega-6 in beef loin was 5.66% in feedlot cattle and 3.92% in range-fed cattle. So omega-6 fatty acids are lower in range-fed cattle, according to this study done by a reputable laboratory.

There still is quite a bit of omega-6 fatty acids in range-fed beef, and not very much omega-3. The values I give you are percentages of total lipid. As you would guess, meat from feedlot cattle contains about four times as much lipid as grass-fed beef. That means your total intake of omega-3 fatty acids would be about the same from a serving of feedlot and grass-fed beef.

You also would be taking in about six times as much omega-6 from feedlot beef. But even this amount is small compared to what we get in the diet from other sources (primarily foods made with vegetable or soy oils).

I have calculated the amount of beef that you would have to eat to meet your daily adequate intake recommendation of 1.6 g./day of omega-3 fatty acids. For feedlot beef (5% lipid, medium Choice), you would have to eat 14 lbs. of beef daily. For grass-fed beef (1% lipid, Standard), you would have to eat 12 lbs. of beef daily.

If you were able to achieve good marbling (5% lipid, low Choice) in grass-fed beef, then 2.4 lbs./day would provide your adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids. The problem is that grass-fed beef cannot marble to this extent.
Steve Smith
Texas A&M University

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