Over the last 100 years, beef farming has experienced gradual change. In the pre-world war era, livestock farming was largely reliant on grass feeding. Beef farmers fed their cows from large pastures, with minimal addition of non-grass supplements.
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However, over time Beef production has largely shifted its reliance on grass as the primary source of cattle feed, to corn. Even though the shift has been gradual, it has had mixed results. Corn-fed cows are fatter, mature faster and have better aggregate weight as compared to grass fed cows. However, they are of poor nutritional value since corn contains more energy supplement which adds fats. This raises the cholesterol value in beef.
Additionally, corn based diet is deficient in good fats such as Omega-3and other essential proteins. This makes corn bred beef to be less nutritious while exposing consumers to certain health hazards. Additionally, the taste of food is compromised by the large amount of corn fed to animals.
Feedlots rely on corn as the primary fodder for beef cattle, and this has resulted in decreased intake of vitamins, proteins and essential fats by consumers of corn-bred beef, diminished animal health thus diminishing the overall taste, quality, and integrity of beef products.
As an alternative, other than matching the quantity of corn fed to the animals with the amount of grass and other normal feed by beef farmers, the FDA need to regulate the use of corn feed in order to mammies the abuse of animals.
Like any other industry, the beef industry has experienced dramatic changes over the past 100 years. These changes have been necessitated by an increase in demand for beef for human consumption and as well as beef. As a result, beef farmers have had to develop new methods of beef production to boost yields and meet the increasing market demand for beef.
Before 1950, beef farmers reared beef cows on pastures, which constituted a mixture of grasses, silage as well as other useful greens such as legumes. This implies that grass was the main source of cattle feed. While grass-fed cows take about two to three more years to mature, they have an added advantage over corn-fed cows; grass-fed cows are reared on natural methods with minimal intake of synthetic fodder and other artificial supplements.
As such, such cows are naturally developed and thus more nutritious, healthy and more tasty. To boost cows’ nutritional value, beef farmers added grain, but only as a supplement. However, the increasing demand for beef meant that farmers had to rely on other methods of beef production.
Consequently, farmers have gradually turned to corn as the primary feed for beef cattle (King Corn, 2008). Overtime, beef farmers have turned to corn as primary source of cattle feed (American grassfed, n.d.).
The use of corn as the primary fodder has had numerous consequences. The use of corn enables farmers to increase beef yields. As explained elsewhere, corn based diets constitutes, soy, barley, wheat, hormones, antibiotics and artificial supplements.
Corn feeding is widely practiced in North America, with farmers in counties such as Canada and The United States of America forming professional organizations that promote and market corn feeding as the primary livestock rearing method.
This has a number of implications on beef farming in these countries; grass-fed livestock farming methods have increasingly diminished and where practiced livestock takes more time to mature. This has significant effect on the cost of beef farming. Animal nutritionists assert that corn fed cows produce low quality beef.
Moreover, Cows fed on corn have high level of animal fats, thus reducing the amounts of consumable proteins (American grassfed, n.d.). Additionally, corn fed cows also rely on growth hormones and antibiotics. The combination of these hormones and antibiotics are meant to accelerate the growth rate and the increase the aggregate weight ratio in these animals. This further translates to increased profits.
For instance, a single regular intake of hormones cost about US $ 1.50, and results to an increase of about 50 pounds in weight. This ensures added returns, at least US $ 25 per intake of hormones.
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While the use of hormones results to faster growth of corn fed cows and increased profits for livestock farmers, there are health concerns amongst nutritionists, who claim that these hormones affect the health of beef consumers; these hormones are largely artificial and therefore not fully metabolized.
Thus, their residue is found to occur in beef. Scientists are concerned that these hormones are likely to decrease sperm count in males as well as result to early maturation in girls. Additionally, the use of antibiotics increases the growth rates as well as protects cows from bacterial infections.
However, such antibiotics lead to a rise of drug resistant strains of bacteria that not only poses other health risks to cows but also to consumers of beef (Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and Beef Information Centre, 2003).
Beef from grass fed cows has more nutritional value; it is less rich in animal fats but added volumes of nutritionally good fats such as omega-3, oxidation agents, and vitamins A and E (American grassfed, n.d.; Cross, 2011). This implies that feeding beef cows on corn reduces the amount of good fats.
In additional, as indicated earlier, grass-less cattle diet constitutes a mixture of corn, soy, legumes and other grains (Pollan, 2006). Corn based diet is also supplemented with hormones and antibiotics (King Corn, 2008). It is imperative to note that corn based cattle diet lacks in one of the most essential non-grass animal fodder, and which is a vital source of Omega-3 and other good fats such as conjugated linoleic acid.
In recent studies, health experts in animal nutrition have found out that linseed, or flax as it is popularly known, is one of the richest sources of Omega-3, essential proteins and other good fats. It evident that linseed conspicuously misses from corn based cattle diet, popularly used by farmers.
The studies also reveal that since linseed contains essential proteins, Omega-3 and other good fats, it is a valuable substitute for corn based fodder. As such, when fed to animals, linseed not only makes a healthy diet but also result to better quality beef (Maddock, Bauer, Koch, Anderson, Maddock, Barceló-Coblijn, Murphy and Lardy, 2006).
But since linseed is conspicuously absent from corn based diet, corn-bred cows are less healthy and have poor quality beef compared to grass raised beef.
Additionally, majority of the modern consumers are concerned with three vital qualities of beef. These are the price of beef, the taste and the nutritional value.
Despite the fact that grass raised beef is costlier than corn raised beef (Aubrey, 2010), grass raised beef has richer taste and added nutritional benefits for consumers. Studies conducted by Colorado State University reveals that corn bred cows have well marbled fats and thus have better taste than grass bred cows. The experts further found out that improved fat marbling resulted from meticulous grass feeding.
Beef from meticulously grass fed animals were thus found to have better taste than corn bred cows (Umberger, Thilmany and Ziehl, 2003). In addition to this, the combination of superior grass breeding habits and good breed selection produces superior tasting beef.
Superior beef breeds such as Hereford as well as Angus, when carefully bred using grass feeding methods produces a beefier taste as compared to corn bred cows (Maddock et al., 2006). Thus, raising beef cows on corn based diet reduces the nutritional value thus destroying the taste as well as the integrity of the beef.
The quality of food supplied to consumers is vital. As such, there is need to regulate rearing of beef cows. Raising cattle on corn produces fatter and heavier animals at a faster rate than raising cows on grass alone. However, as indicated earlier, raising cattle on grass produces learner animals, which takes a longer time to mature. Additionally, it is more expensive to feed cows on grass that on corn.
Grass-fed cows are also healthier than corn fed cows (American grassfed, n.d.; King Corn, 2008). To maximize on gains of both corn and grass feeding, it is imperative to equalize the amount of corn and grass fed to cattle through out their growth period. This will ensure that both the farmer and the consumer gains added benefits.
A study conducted by the FDA concluded that corn has significant levels of mycotoxins such as fumonisin (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001). Scientists consider fumonisins to be vital elements that enhance both human and animals health. Fumonisins are caused by many types of molds especially Fusarium moniliforme, either during storage or during manufacturing of grains.
There are various types of fumonisins which occur in both processed and raw animal products. These include fumonisin B1, B2 and fumonisin B3. Of the three mostly occurring fumonisins, fumonisin B1 is the most toxic. While Fumonisins are vital for good health, exceeding their standard limit exposes both humans and animals to certain health risks.
It is imperative to state that most of these fumonisins, including fumonisin B1 occur in grain especially corn, especially those produces using flooding. In this regard, Americans dietary habits are put into sharp focus since more than a quarter of their diet items contain corn (Pollan, 2006). Studies reveal that human intake of fumonisin is mainly via infected corn or minimally through beef.
Studies are ongoing to authenticate the fact that beef from cows which consumed fumonisin infected corn causes diseases amongst consumers. As a result of consuming fumonisin infected products, human beings risk contracting such health conditions as esophageal cancer (Turner, Nikiema and Wild, 1999).
Feeding cows on corn exposes them to health hazards such as toxic liver and kidney, leukoencephalomalacia as well as pulmonary edema. This exposes such cows and the consumers of resultant beef to these health risks.
Additionally, feeding cows on corn alone denies them the opportunity to acquire vital fats such as omega 3 found in grasses. This is possibly the reason why Cross (2011) argues that feeding cows on corn in inhumane. As a result, it is vital for the FDA to regulate such abuse.
This will be attained through FDA’s legal framework. Additionally, the FDA aims at attending as many international conventions organized by accredited bodies such as World Health Organization, and the UN, among others, to sensitize them on the health risk posed by fumonisins.
Additionally, the FDA will seek corporation from these bodies in regulating the use of corn as a method of raising beef cows (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001). While these are long term measures, there are other immediate measures that FDA, in collaboration with other authorities, needs to take to ensure that the level of fumonisin remains at the required level.
Most of the fumonisin affected corn occurs as a result of flooding during the production process. As such, FDA needs to either educate farmers on how to ensure that flood water does not come into contact with the edible parts of the corn crop to avoid contamination.
Additionally, FDA needs to educate farmers on how to adhere to safety standards during production of corn, and thus minimize microbial hazards (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011).
It is imperative to note the benefits of raising cattle on corn; faster growth, affordability, more weight and thus more profits. However, the use of corn as cattle feed needs to be strictly regulated due to associated consumer health risks.
As more people consume beef from corn bred cattle, the overall food quality is compromised. Additionally, if the use of corn is not regulated, people will largely remain uneducated on healthy consumption habits.
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King corn. (2008). Corn-fed: cows and corn. Web.
Maddock, T., Bauer, M., Koch, M., Anderson, V., Maddock, R., Barceló-Coblijn, G., Murphy, G. and. Lardy, G. (2006). Effect of processing flax in beef feedlot diets on performance, carcass characteristics, and trained sensory panel ratings. Web.
Pollan, M. (2006). The omnivore’s dilemma: a natural history of four meals. New Jersey: Penguin Press
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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2011). Guidance for Industry: Evaluating the Safety of Flood-affected Food Crops for Human Consumption. Web.
Umberger, W., Thilmany, D., and Ziehl, A. (2003). Consumer tastes & preferences: what research indicates. Web.