by: Stephen B. Blezinger
Ph.D., PAS

Part 2

Previously we began a series discussing the challenges beef producers are facing in the marketplace to demand and revenues for their product. Hopefully the first part of this series helped dispel some of the misinformation that has circulated for years concerning the detrimental effects that beef consumption has on our health. On a day to day basis every producer has the task of bringing consistent, accurate information to the marketplace in an effort of promote the beef product and to support this way of life. Understanding the challenge this presents in the marketplace and in the media is an important part of the battle and is the reason for this series of articles.

As we finalize the “health” portion of this discussion consider a few more comments: Many researchers, doctors, nutritionists and so on have generated report after report indicating how “bad” beef is for you. They have been supported by the popular media, who has long ago shed the need for accuracy and fact in reporting. The fact is, while many studies do report negative effects in beef consumption on health, in most cases, these studies have been performed with individuals who are already being treated for some other health issue, thus the data is confounded.

As a population, many people and groups are looking for a “smoking gun” upon which to blame the decline in the health of the American public. The truth of the matter is that NOTHING replaces a balanced diet and an active lifestyle. Over consumption of calories and inadequate exercise will always lead to weight gain and this, in turn can result in reduced healthfulness of the population. It is not due to the consumption of one particular food type, although some individuals may, in fact be more susceptible to some specific health issues (i.e. high cholesterol, high HDLs, high triglycerides, etc.) but in many if not most cases, these problems may be as related to genetics as anything else. Certainly, the individual who consistently overindulges in a specific food type (i.e. foods high in fats) may increase their chances of developing a health problem related to this behavior. But, above all, the situation we have here is that many of our health problems are more related to our eating patterns (quantity as well as quality) and level of exercise than the consumption of a specific food type.

We know that beef is a sound part of a healthy diet. It is high in protein and energy as well as critical minerals such as iron and zinc. It is all about balance.

Other Agendas

Another challenge to beef consumption is the agenda of groups such as “animal rights” proponents as well as the more extreme vegan/vegetarian groups. In many cases these groups are interlaced and often include an environmental component as well. This makes the subject very complicated with the exception that they believe eliminating beef – all meats for that matter – from our diets will solve a whole host of problems. Even when beef/meat production is not even truly a factor. The one thing the beef industry could learn from these individuals and groups is promoting of information (even though the vast majority of theirs is inaccurate or just wrong) and passion for a cause. And it always fascinates me how people (especially celebrities) can weigh in on these issues even when they truly have only a very limited understanding and when they “don't even have a dog in the fight.” But that's another soap box.

Let's begin with the vegan/vegetarian groups. Frankly as with any group of this nature there are plenty of folks that practice this lifestyle/eating habit that are not contemptuous of other people's choices. They simply have made their choice and that is great. This is the option we all should have. However, that is not the case. If you peruse the internet and other media sources you find a variety of “platforms” that they build their cause and argument on. The following is a list of some of the points these groups make:

1) Eating vegetarian foods is inexpensive and accessible. Eating vegan dramatically reduces your carbon-footprint.

2) “Factory-farming” is cruel to animals and unsustainable.

3) Raising animals for food, especially cattle, is one of the leading causes of global climate change. In 2006, the UN release a study called Livestock's Long Shadow which made the point that raising animals for food is the largest contributor to global climate change. The biggest environmental problem with raising animals for food is the greenhouse gases that they produce--methane and carbon dioxide. Feeding cattle grass instead of corn or soy is somewhat of a reduction of resources, but does not address the issue of greenhouse gases. It does not matter whether the cattle are located on a giant mega-factory-farm or on a small farm in Central Massachusetts, each cow still produces a huge amount of greenhouse gases.

4) Even small operations are far from kind to animals. Cows are forcibly impregnated--a grotesque and cruel procedure. Many calves are taken from their mothers shortly after birth, to be sold to a veal farm or used as dairy cows. Many small farms send their animals to the exact same slaughterhouses as factory farms? In the slaughterhouse, animals are shocked with electric prods, hung upside-down and are slowly bleed to death.

5) If you eat meat, you are increasing your risk of developing E. coli. There is true whether it is from grass-fed beef or factory-farmed meat. E. coli is transmitted through contact with fecal matter and all meat has fecal matter contamination.

6) All beef is full of saturated-fat, cholesterol and growth hormones. It may be true that beef from cattle that are fed grass is somewhat better for your health than meat from animals who live their entire lives confined on feed-lots (illustrates how little they understand of the beef production system). It has been known for years that beef consumption is linked to the major killers: cancer and heart-attack.

7) It is common knowledge that all animal products contain hormones, but you might be surprised to hear that grass-fed beef can also contain added artificial hormones. A short time before being slaughtered, grass-fed cattle are often fattened-up by being fed corn, soy, as well as being given unnatural growth hormones. If you eat meat, those hormones go right into your body.

8) Grass-fed beef is not a viable alternative for factory-farming. It is expensive and there is not nearly enough grassland in America to raise that many cattle. Every year in the United States, over 10 billion land animals are raised and killed for human consumption.

9) Eating vegan helps animals, the planet, and is healthy.

10) Eating vegetarian foods is inexpensive and accessible. Eating vegan dramatically reduces your carbon-footprint. It's the best thing you can do to help animals, and it is great for your health!

So if we consider only these talking points one very glaring point becomes obvious – how little many of these groups truly understand about production agriculture or even the magnitude of production (10 billion land animals annually?).

Another aspect these groups thrive on is that they are not confused by the facts. This is a factor that the beef industry absolutely has to recognize. Every producer has to know the facts. We owe it to ourselves and our industry to be well informed and that our information be based on sound science. We do have this on our side. Yes, beef, like every other food is not perfect. But again, as part of a well balanced diet is it healthy. We know that animal agriculture is not a significant contributor to the “carbon footprint” because this information is highly inaccurate as well. The BEST thing we can do is farm in a highly productive and efficient manner as it does reduce emissions – IF we choose to accept that these arguments have any validity.

Finally, we know that farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of the land and caretakers of the animal population there are. You simply cannot do this job and not care about your resources.

In the final part of this discussion we will delve into the animal rights issues. Remember, it is up to every member of the beef industry to be well informed and to promote and defend the industry and our lifestyles as passionately as possible.

Dr. Steve Blezinger is a nutritional and management consultant with an office in Sulphur Springs, TX. He can be reached at (903) 885-7992, [email protected] or for more information at


Don't forget to BOOKMARK  
Cattle Today Online!