80 E. coli Outbreaks in a Decade? The Real Cost of Cheap Meat – Part II
In an effort to compare the prevalence and types of bacteria found in conventionally raised beef vs. pasture raised beef, Consumer Reports conducted a series of tests on 458 pounds of meat from 26 cities, both conventionally and pasture raised beef-meaning never with antibiotics and usually through organic or grass-fed methods. The results showed that the conventionally raised beef was not only more likely to harbor bacteria, but also twice as likely to harbor harmful bacteria resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics than pasture raised beef.
In addition to these findings, the CDC’s article titled “Understanding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and Their Impact on Communities”, states that ‘there is strong evidence that the use of antibiotics in animal feed is contributing to an increase in antibiotic-resistant microbes and causing antibiotics to be less effective for humans’ (Kaufman, 2000). The CDC recognizes that conventional beef methods are a double edged sword because the “transfer of pathogens among animals is higher in confinement”, as are the livestock in AFOs, and because it is contributing to general antibiotic resistance in humans.
Consumer Reports’ research, in unison with countless others, shows that pasture raised cattle consistently harbor less harmful bacteria when compared with conventionally raised cattle. It should be noted that the method of meat processing is one of the largest factors in the prevalence of bacteria. According to Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, conventionally raised beef is processed in massive corporate factories at a lightning speed of 400 head per hour. He says that processing meat at this speed is irresponsible. It causes accidents to happen like manure getting into some of the meat during evisceration of the cow. This bit of contaminated meat is then mixed into tons of other meat and eventually “the whole lot can be contaminated”.
Conventional processing methods stand in stark contrast to the conscientious methods adopted by countless smaller-scale, pasture raised cattle farms. One such farm, White Oak Pastures of Georgia, while still an impressively sized farm, processes only 30-35 cattle per day in contrast to 400 cattle per hour. White Oak Pastures, as well as countless other responsibly raised and processed cattle farms, understand that placing efficiency as the top priority of the company leads to contaminated meat and an overall lower quality product.
For these reasons, it is extremely important that consumers start to take an active interest in how their meat is raised and processed. According to an article by Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, “there is a growing body of scientific research pointing to the benefits of grassfed beef over conventional beef” making it more readily available to consumers than ever. Amongst the various endeavors of pasture raised and responsibly processed beef, increased food safety and public health is at the top. Consumers are encouraged to seek out their local farmers and become part of the movement to increase pasture raised beef themselves.