80 E. coli Outbreaks in a Decade? The Real Cost of Cheap Meat- Part I
Over the past three decades, meat production in the United States has been revolutionized by the shift from small-scale family farming operations to large-scale corporate livestock operations. Today, more than 80 percent of the beef produced in America is the product of four companies. The conventional methods used by these companies continue to incur serious and adverse health effects on public health. Between the years 2003-2012, there were 80 outbreaks of E. coli O157 caused by contaminated beef alone. Ground beef in particular, remains one of the top carriers of harmful bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella, causing food poisoning in America.
An overwhelming portion of the corporate livestock operations which produce American meat are known as Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). In fact, the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency published that between the years of 2011 and 2017, the U.S. witnessed the establishment of a staggering 1,400 new CAFOs. AFOs and CAFOs are agricultural corporations in which livestock, their feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations are confined within a compact area. CAFO refers to an even larger and more concentrated AFO. A Beef CAFO is qualified by the housing of over 1000 animal units for over 45 days or as any size AFO which disposes of manure and wastewater through a man-made ditch.
These AFOs threaten the safety of meat production because of their perfect bacteria-breeding conditions. Furthermore, the manure saturated runoff from these farms threatens the contamination of neighboring agricultural farms, as well as the water table.
The efficiency and quantity-based production of the conventional beef raising method allows for minimal cost and maximum income. A conventionally raised cow is typically ushered from a pastured farm to a feedlot at only a couple months of age, where it will be served cheap GMO grain and soybeans, and rejected candy from factories. Then, the cow is pumped full of growth stimulating hormones and antibiotics; the first is aimed to increase its growth to the point of obesity and the second, to counteract the gross spread of harmful bacteria caused by the close quarters of the cattle. The Weston A. Price Foundation explains why pasture raised beef is far more expensive than conventionally raised beef by saying, “grain-fed cattle may be slaughtered at sixteen months and weigh thirteen hundred pounds, while grass-fed cattle are… slaughtered at twenty-three months and only weigh eleven hundred pounds. Grass-fed takes longer and weighs less”. The speedy turnaround and the large quantity of meat yielded from conventionally raised cattle allows large corporations to keep their prices almost as low as their standards for the meat they are producing.
Livestock factories have become the center of what is arguably one of the largest public food and health safety controversies to date. Countless parties have conducted and published research which reveal the adverse effects on public health due to the irresponsible treatment of livestock. These include illnesses from food poisoning, as well as poor nutrition and other less obvious health effects. The increase of yearly food poisoning cases and recalls related to bacterial contamination of beef, demands a closer look be given at smaller-scale, pasture raised beef methods.