We eat meat. It was with a heavy heart that I first started eating meat again after being a vegetarian. Yet, my health improved dramatically as my diet whole, veg*n foods was much impoverished without animal foods. Yet, with a better understanding of what animal foods meant for my health and a fuller understanding of just how the nutrient content of traditionally raised animal foods differed from the animal foods that resulted from industrial processes, I absolved myself of that lingering guilt to the overall benefit of my general health.
CAFO stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, and it means just that. The animals are concentrated together within a very confined space and fed. They are fed, however, an unnatural diet and that concentration equates to confinement. The confinement coupled with the poor and inadequate diet results in poor and inadequately nutritive meat.
Cows begin their lives in the fields and they are, generally speaking, grass-fed from the beginning. And though that beginning is right, the end is not. They are eventually transferred from the fields where they can graze on their natural diet of grasses to a concentrated operation in which they’re fed a slurry of corn, soy, antibiotics and sometime even candy. Yes, you read that right: candy as in gummy bears and lemon drops. You see, the unnatural living conditions and unnatural diet make them so ill that it is more effective to simply treat every cow with antibiotics than on a case-by-case basis.
As the cows are fed on an unnatural slurry, their meat loses much of its nutritive value. Indeed, by the time the animal is slaughtered its meat is virtually devoid of those powerhouses of health: Omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, the meat of these animals is lacking in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is known to fight cancer. Then there’s vitamin E. Animals in concentrated operations are systematically supplemented with extra vitamin E, yet their meat contains significantly less of the vitamin than the meat of grass-finished animals who never receive such unnatural supplementation.
Beyond the nutritional differences, there’s the very real issue of pathogenic bacteria. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that we harbor know odd concerns over bacteria; rather, we encourage its proliferation in a variety of foods; however, like everyone else we’re concerned about pathogens. E. Coli is a real and dangerous threat, yet cows grazing on their natural diets are unlikely to be contaminated by the bacteria as compared to CAFO-animals. Indeed, one study indicated that animals in concentrated operations harbor 314 times the amount of E Coli bacteria cells per gram than animals that are grass-fed. Further data indicates that the acid-resistant forms of these bacteria are virtually non-existent in grass-fed animals.