Mad Cow disease comes to cows that have eaten other dead animals, that are ground up and served to them on their buffet line. Unbelievable? No, that is reality. In the commercial meat industry, the cow factories - I really hate to give them any correlation to a real farm, so I call them factories - they are constantly on the lookout for how they can reduce their costs and increase their bottom line. You say, "heck, we all do that". OK, but will you do it at the health and safety of your neighbor? your siblings? your child?
Composted cow manure, and the manure of other animals, is a regular component in the feed of the meat that you eat. So is ground up, dead sheep, which is where Mad Cow comes from. Let me say, I don't remember exactly how he explained it, so I'll do my best. Back in the mid 1990s our butcher came out for our sheep, and explained to us that we had to keep the heads because the brain matter of the sheep is where cows get Mad Cow disease from. He didn't want it their heads going off to the rendering plant and asked us to compost them instead. No problem. (For those who think you can't compost meat, I have a whole other story coming about what you really can add to your compost pile).
|One of the hundreds of feed lots we drove past in the mid west|
Wait! If you think these practices are limited to just your beef, let me stop you right there! It's not. Not even close. Pork and chicken are on that list as well. UGH!
So, if you're like my momma, you ask, "Well, what AM I supposed to eat then?" Two options: go to your grocery store and buy organic. What if they don't have it? Ask for it. Tell them you won't be buying anything less now that you know. Or change stores. Plenty of grocery stores are selling organic options. I can already hear a few of you saying, "Oh my gosh that stuff is CRAZY expensive!" Is it really? That beef was fed with carcasses of dead animals, their own poop that was "composted", corn that makes them bloat and get sick, fed a boat load of antibiotics to keep them from dying while they are in the feed lots and kept in a small space so tight that they can hardly move around. Is that really cheap? Do you seriously think that this will create good beef?
OK, I said two options and here's your second. Go directly to your local-ish farmer and buy a cow. Or a half. Go in with another family member or friend and share a half. In most parts of the country, you will pay $3 or less per pound for premium, grass fed beef. $3 for hamburger? Yes. And $3 for T-bones, filet minion, gorgeous roasts and some other amazing cuts too. Let me add in here that typically, it will not, yes NOT be organic. Who needs to be certified organic if all your feeding is good, old fashioned grass. But wait! You need to be specific in what you are asking and I'll share that with you right here.
1. Do you raise your cows from birth? Not critical, but it's good to know a supply line.
2. What do your cows eat? This is critical. Grass and hay should be the only answers.
3. Do you finish with grain? If yes, how long and what kind? Really, this is a stopping point for me. If the answer is yes, I say thank you and end the call. Typically the feed/grain will be a corn/soy meal mix and it's bad for cows, but will fatten them up quickly & cheaply.
4. What are you fertilizing & controlling weeds with in your fields with? I said before you probably won't get organic, but I feel it's important to know what your cows are eating. Chemical fertilizers are out, composted manure is in. Letting the animals do it themselves (by pooping in the fields) is better.
5. What age are you butchering at? Typically 18-20 months max. The younger, the more tender typically. You'll also pay more for really young, sometimes called "Pastured Veal". But instead of being locked up in those horrible, tiny crates, they are out on pasture and just butchered earlier.
I hope this gives you hope for healthier food. It IS out there!