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The Making of a Beefburger

How is a modern, industrial steak or beefburger Born in a nearby birthing shed, the 80-pound calf
M produced? How is it different from steaks a hun- is turned out on pasture with his mother as soon as he
dred years ago? Does the difference affect your stands up and begins nursing.
1 health? You will be surprised to learn the facts. After a few weeks, the calf is supplementing his
4 We are going to follow in the steps of a cow, mother’s milk by nibbling the delicious food provided
from birth to death. If you regularly eat their meat, for it by nature: a variety of native grasses, such as west-
you owe it to yourself to find out what is in that ern wheatgrass, little bluestem, and green needlegrass.
meat. The little calf is doing exactly what the Lord designed
that it should do: a life on the range, drinking clean
There are thousands of “cow-calf” operations in
water and eating prairie grass.
America. These are ranches in the Western states which
But leave it to modern man to change all that beauty
have Herefords or Angus beef cattle. While the pork and
into a hideous perversion which ruins the animal and
chicken industries have consolidated the entire life cycles
of those animals under a single roof, beef cattle are still can hurt those that later eat it. For, in October, the calf’s
life will entirely change.
born on independent ranches.
Like sheep and other grazers, cows are ruminants.
But this is only done because the cows would not
They have the unique ability to convert grass—which
bear enough young if kept in cattle yards. Yet, because
single-stomach creatures like us cannot digest—into
of it, the calves live their first few months in a gorgeous
high-quality protein. It is the 45-gallon fermentation tank
field full of various kinds of native grasses. It is too bad
they cannot remain there. inside them that makes the difference. The bacteria
within the tank changes the grass into acids and pro-
Mail-ordered straws of bull semen (at $15 each) for
artificial insemination means there are no grown bulls
to be seen on these ranches. The bull was a registered But October changes all that. You see, men want the
bull, distinguished by the size and marbling of his off- cow to grow larger, faster. Greed for more money and
springs’ steaks. (“Marbling” means lots of tasty, but quicker money is the motivation. And no one is particu-
dangerous, fat in the meat.) larly concerned if either the cow’s body, or yours, is in-
Calving season begins in late winter and continues jured in the process.
Cows raised on grass take longer to reach slaughter
on until March. In April comes the first spring roundup
weight than cows raised on a richer diet. A hundred
to work the newborn calves (branding, vaccination, and
years ago, it took 4 to 5 years. In the 1950s, it had been
castration). Then more roundups in early summer, to
shortened to 2 or 3 years. Now it is done in 14 (some-
inseminate the cows again, and weaning in the fall. If all
times 16) months.
goes well, a typical ranch herd of 850 cattle increases to
1,600 by the end of the year. Steaks and beefburgers have become “fast foods” in
more ways than one. The cow has been industrialized,
just like the chicken in your soup; the porker in your
bacon; or the feed-fed pond or river fish swimming in
This article contains material not found in
the contaminated waste from the feedlots, which you
the author’s book, International Meat Crisis. catch on a hook.
That book is filled with referenced data on mad Well, you might wonder what it is that gets a beef
cow disease; diseases of food animals; the anti- calf from 80 to 1,200 pounds in 14 months. I will tell

biotics, insecticides, and hormones given to food you what it is: enormous quantities of corn, “protein
animals; contents of the feed given to livestock; supplements” (composed of parts of dead animals and
unsanitary conditions at slaughterhouses and chicken manure), and drugs—including antibiotics and
processing plants; the deadly “food-borne” bac- growth hormones.
teria in the meat; and diseases you can contract Although it all comes at quite a price—in problems
from eating meat (excessive overweight, cardio- for the cow and you—the cattle business has been trans-
vascular disease, cancer, etc.). formed into a high-volume, low-margin industry.
International Meat Crisis—176 pp., Single Yet, ironically, in the old days, ranchers made more
copy: $7.00 postpaid / Boxful: 16 case, $16.00 money on 250 head than they now do on 850. Cattle are
+ $6.00 p&h = $22.00 in U.S. / Foreign: Add produced faster, but everyone makes less money. Ac-
cording to Cattle-Fax, a market-research firm, the re-
$10.40 p&h per box.
2 Waymarks
turn on an animal coming out of a feedlot has averaged the center of it must mix a million pounds of feed every
just $3.00 per head over the last 20 years. Someone is day. Every hour, a tractor-trailer pulls up and unloads
reaping immense profits, but it is not the cattlemen. another 25 tons of corn. It is ground by two immense
steel rollers. Steamed corn kernels are crushed into
In October, the calves are weaned—separated from
their mothers. The cows bellow and mope for days; and,
On the other side of the mill, tanker trucks back up
due to the change in circumstances and diet, the calves
to silo-shaped tanks and pump thousands of gallons of
tend to get sick.
liquefied fat and protein supplement. That “enriched”
Most calves are immediately shipped to the feedlot.
Loaded into trucks, they are shipped hundreds of miles supplement includes molasses and urea.
It also contains the powdered remains of dead ani-
to a place you would not want to visit.
mals which were too diseased to be brought to the feed-
After many grueling hours, the truck finally pulls in
lot. Fearing mad cow disease, the FDA banned the feed-
at a gigantic feedlot. Most have 30,000 to 100,000 in-
ing of rendered cow parts to cattle in 1997. But as re-
habitants. It is an immense city of square backlot pens,
cently as six months ago, the FDA admitted that it is
stretching to the horizon and beyond, each one home to
150 animals standing dully or lying around in a grayish still quietly being done.
The FDA continues to permit blood products, fat,
mud—that is not mud. The pens line a network of un-
and beef tallow from dead animals to be fed to cattle,
paved roads that go around vast lagoons. At the center
swine, and chickens. Also legal are feather meal, pig
of this strange city is a tall silver-colored feed mill.
and fish protein, and chicken manure.
It is not a pleasant city, with its crowded tenants
As I show in my two books on mad cow disease
living in filthy, smelly pens with open sewers, unpaved
roads, and choking air. The combination is a recipe for (International Meat Crisis and Mad Cow Disease Can
Kill You), the various forms of mad cow disease attack
disease. It is only the daily dose of drugs that keeps the
the entire body and are in the blood and other organs,
entire population from dying off before it reaches the
even though it is the brain that succumbs first.
slaughterhouse. You have arrived at a modern cow town.
Cattle are vegetarians, yet we are making cannibals
Four giant meatpacking companies (Tyson’s subsid-
of them. Cattle are taken from grasslands, then sick-
iary IBP, Monfort, Excel, and National) now slaughter
and market more than 80 percent of the beef cattle born ened on a heavy corn diet. With their bodies in a con-
tinually weakened condition, they are then fed parts of
in America.
animals which died of disease. Then we eat the cows.
Arriving at the feedlot, each calf is placed in a hold-
But there is more to the story.
ing pen. Immediately, he is given part of his new diet:
Nearby are stacked pallets with 50-pound sacks of
Rumensin, a powerful antibiotic that he will consume
Rumensin and Tylosin (another antibiotic).
with his feed every day for the rest of his life. Cows need
Along with alfafa hay and corn silage for roughage,
no medication when they eat grass; but, in the holding
pen, they tend to get sick. The problem is the feed. The all these ingredients are mixed together and then piped
into dump trucks—which keep eight and a half miles of
changeover to a “hot ration” of grain so disturbs the
feed troughs constantly filled.
cow’s digestive process, especially its rumen, that it can
Corn is the basic vegetable part of the ration be-
die if it does not continually receive antibiotics.
cause no other feed is as cheap or plentiful. Your taxes
Every day between now and the slaughter date, each
pay for federal subsidies which enable it to be sold for
cow will convert 32 pounds of feed (25 of them corn)
into another three and a half pounds of flesh. $2.25 a bushel, 50 cents less than the cost of growing
If you were to walk around the feedlot, you would
But the result is an 80-million-acre monoculture that
find it an interesting place. Grain is constantly trucked
consumes more chemical herbicide and fertilizer than
in and sewage is constantly pouring down on the ground.
any other crop. From that crop flows a nitrogen runoff
The grain consists of corn. Growing the vast quan-
that goes all the way down the Mississippi into the Gulf
tities of corn, needed to feed industrialized U.S. live-
stock, requires immense amounts of chemical fertilizer, of Mexico, where it has produced a 12,000-square-mile
“dead zone.”
which in turn requires vast amounts of oil. It takes 1.2
Ever since World War II, the government’s policy is
gallons of petroleum oil to produce a bushel of corn.
to use field corn to fatten animals for market. Corn also
Out on the range, the cow ate food produced by energy
has the advantage of being more compact and portable
from the sun; now it eats food requiring energy from
than grass or hay.
Near Eastern oil fields.
By the time the feedlot cow reaches a weight of 1,250 We have all heard of “corn-fed beef.” But did you
ever stop to think that a cow does not have a stomach
pounds and is ready for slaughter, it will have eaten 25
able to digest corn?
pounds of corn a day. It took 284 gallons of oil to pro-
Corn, as a diet, not only works havoc with a cow’s
duce that corn. We have industrialized the cow into a
digestive system, but it also damages its flesh. Scien-
fossil-fuel machine.
tists have discovered that the meat of grass-fed livestock
For a feedlot holding 35,000 cattle, the feed mill at
has far less fat than grain-fed meat, but the type of fats
W The Making of a Beefburger 3

1 found in grass-fed meat is more nutritious. of feedlot cattle are found at slaughter to have abscessed
1 Unfortunately, the USDA’s grading system classi- livers.
8 fies well-marbled meat as the best. But “well-marbling” And that brings us to the antibiotics. These trusty
is a nice way to describe lots of intermuscular fat. While
aids lengthen the amount of time the cow can survive at
nutritionists everywhere warn us not to eat much ani-
the feedlot, so he can gain additional weight. Rumensin
mal fat, the USDA wants us to eat meat filled with it.
inhibits gas production in the rumen, and tylosin helps
If you ask a feedlot manager what is in the protein control liver infection.
supplement, he will reply that he really does not know. One of the most dangerous aspects of this process
His supplier only says that it is 40 percent protein, with- is the fact that most of the antibiotics sold in the United
out saying much more. If you phone the supplier, he will States are put into animal feed! This practice, of course,
tell you the feed supplement has “proprietary ingredi- leads to variant strains of bacteria in the meat which
ents.” you eat!
There are a number of deep, dark secrets in the It is modern cattle, hog, and chicken production
meat industry. They have to be kept secret or the cus- methods which, in great measure, are causing the in-
tomers would empty out of every fast-food meat restau- creasing number of maladies immune to medicinal drugs
rant in the country. Every day the cows on the feedlot are fed a dose of
Compared with dead animals in the rations, corn antibiotics, whether they are sick or not. This leads to
seems downright wholesome. But the stomachs of cows the development of “superbugs.” The drugs are given to
cannot handle it. At an average feedlot, you will find a keep the cows from getting too sick from the food they
college-trained staff veterinarian overseeing eight or ten are fed. But if they were turned loose onto rangeland to
cowboys who spend their time riding around the hold- eat grass, they would not be sick.
ing pens, looking for the sickest cows. Roping them, What happens to the massive amounts of stored-
they bring them to the vet for treatment. up antibiotics in the flesh of those cows, when they are
Then there is “feedlot bloat.” The rumen normally slaughtered? You guessed it; you get it all in your next
produces large amounts of methane gas, which is ex- meal of steak, burger, bacon, or fried chicken. Why is
pelled by belching as the grass is chewed. But the corn everyone so fond of “chicken soup” that they fondly write
diet contains so much starch and so little roughage, books about it? Guess what is in the soup.
that rumination essentially stops. A layer of foamy slime Oh, yes, we must not forget another dangerous ad-
forms in the rumen and it traps the gas inside.
dition to your meat meal: hormones. As soon as new
The increasing gas causes the rumen to balloon and
calves arrive at the feedlot, they are immediately run
press against the lungs. Soon the poor creature cannot
through a shed where each one receives a hormone im-
breathe. The vet’s cowboys have to rush to the scene,
before the cow suffocates,—and force a hose down its
The calves are funneled into a chute, herded along
throat, so the gas can get out. by a painful electric prod, then grabbed by a restrainer
Since that is not done very tenderly, the cow suffers
device that holds them while a slow-release pellet of
terrible pain in the process, and cuts made in the throat
Revlar, a synthetic estrogen, is injected into the back of
and esophagus can infect.
the ear.
That cow goes through a lot of suffering, so you can
Think not that this is a matter of little importance.
enjoy your beefburgers.
Folk in Europe seem to have more sense than their cous-
The corn diet gives the cow acidosis. Unlike our stom- ins in America. The European Union has banned hor-
achs which are highly acidic, the stomach (rumen) of a
mone implants in food animals throughout Europe. They
cow has a neutral pH. The corn gives the poor animal a
know that humans should not eat meat which, for
type of weakening heartburn.
months, has received a steady buildup of hormones!
Acidotic cows stop eating their feed, pant and sali-
But as long as it tastes juicy and fatty, Americans
vate heavily, paw at their bellies, and start eating dirt.
do not seem to care.
Soon they have diarrhea, ulcers, more bloat,—and liver Measurable amounts of hormones are in all the com-
disease. The entire immune system is so weakened that
mercially produced meat that is eaten in the U.S. This
the cow is susceptible to a variety of illnesses, ranging
produces a gradual buildup of estrogenic compounds
from pneumonia to feedlot polio.
in humans, which produces falling sperm count, pre-
It is an intriguing fact that, like clockwork, the cow
mature maturation in girls, and other hormonal and
is taken from the feedlot and slaughtered—at just that
physical problems. If you have hormone problems, your
point in its life when it has become so sickened by the diet may be the cause.
corn/animal feed diet, that, if it would stay alive a month
Synthetic growth hormones have been found in feed-
or so longer, it would die!
lot wastes. They flow into waterways and are eaten by
A sustained feedlot diet of corn and dead animals
fish. Scientists have found fish exhibiting abnormal sex
destroys the cow’s liver. As the acids eat away at the
wall of rumen, bacteria from the digestive tract enter
Each implant costs $1.50 and adds 40 to 50 pounds
the bloodstream and collect in the liver. A large number to the weight of a cow at slaughter, for a return of at
4 Waymarks
least $25. For an extra $25, why worry about the con- that shoots a seven-inch steel bolt into the cow’s fore-
sumer? head. (Sometimes the animal “wakes up” later while his
If you were to step into a holding pen where the cows hide is being removed.)
Every hour, 390 animals are slaughtered on each
are kept for months, rather quickly you would find that
“assembly line.” In my book, International Meat Crisis,
you are ankle deep in a mush of manure and urine. In
I go into detail on how, in the early 1990s, the USDA
between several pens are these “lagoons.” Examining
okayed two things the slaughterhouses wanted: permis-
them more closely, you will find they are the runoff from
sion to greatly speed up their work and do their own
the pens. In some areas, they flow into creeks and riv-
ers; elsewhere, because it is illegal to do so, they just plant inspections.
The result is much more danger of manure contami-
quietly seep into the ground, polluting the water table
nating the meat and causing sickness and deaths in the
eating public.
This urine-manure mixture is full of nitrates, anti-
biotics, and hormones. It also has Escherichia-coli bac- After the animal is shot, a worker wraps a chain
teria. around his foot and hooks it to an overhead trolley.
You might wonder why E. coli 0157:H7 is so ex- Hanging upside down, his throat is then cut. Stunner
tremely deadly, since E-coli are in everyone’s bowel. Yet guns are kept on hand, here in the bleed area, for those
people in the U.S. are regularly dying from attacks of animals which are not dead yet.
that bacteria when they eat contaminated meat. The Next comes the de-hiding of the animal and evis-
answer is corn-feeding the cows. ceration of the bowel. This is done to keep the manure
Normal cows have an alkaline digestive system; but, from coming in contact with the meat. But that is not
in feedlot cattle, it becomes acidic. More than half of easy to do when 390 animals are eviscerated every hour
feedlot cattle have E. coli 0157:H7, and ingesting as few on each line. (Recognizing this terrible danger of E. coli
as 10 of these microbes can cause a fatal infection in 0157:H7 contamination, European nations mandate
humans! It was not until the 1980s that E. coli 0157:H7 much slower lines.)
was isolated in the laboratory. Prior to the 1950s, when Because the contaminated and uncontaminated meat
the feedlot craze began, that terrible bacteria hardly ex- is ground together into beefburgers, the pathogens can
isted among cattle. be spread to millions of burgers.
By the time the average cow is 14 months, he will The meat eventually reaches the grading room, where
move stiffly from fat-laden overweight and will weigh over a USDA inspector glances quickly at a little hole punched
1,200 pounds. He is then loaded into an arriving cattle in the rib area of a cow; then he stamps “select,” “choice,”
truck and hauled off many miles to another “city.” This or (rarely) “prime” on the side. The “reject” stamp is
one has a very large central building complex, sur- hardly ever used.
rounded by trailers and tiny shanty-like houses, the The carcass next travels to the fabrication room,
homes of Mexican and Asian immigrant workers. where the carcasses are broken down into cuts or sent
on to the burger room.
Upon his arrival, along with truckloads of others,
Steaks made from corn-fed beef are more tender and
the cow is placed in a holding pen outside the factory.
“marbled” (filled with fat) than grass-fed beef. This is
While there, he is loaded up with more antibiotic, and
because the protein in the corn-fed animals has been
other, injections. (Not many weeks later you will eat it
damaged from what it was fed during its miserable life
all.) Shortly afterward, a plant worker opens a gate and
begins herding cows into an alley that makes a couple at the feedlot.
turns—and then narrows down to a single-file chute. It It is difficult to decide what is the most dangerous
leads to a ramp; and the animals walk up it to a sec- thing about this meat. It came from an animal kept alive
ond-story platform. with antibiotics and hormones. It has a high fat con-
One by one, the cows are led through a blue door tent—the kind of fat that is dangerous to your health. It
into the “kill room” of the plant. No one from the media may have been contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7. The
is permitted in there, not even the cattlemen. feed supplement fed to it may have contained mad cow
Just inside the blue door, the chute has high sides and a variety of other diseases.
so the cow can only see the rump of the cow in front of In addition, researchers have found that eating meat
him. Next, an ingenious set of devices drops the floor can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, car-
from beneath him, placing him on a conveyor belt, with diovascular disease, cancer (especially colon and breast),
his feet dangling. obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, gall bladder disease,
Above on a catwalk stands the stunner. That is a arthritis, rheumatism, and Crohn’s disease. See my
nice name for “killer.” He fires a pneumatic-powered gun book, International Meat Crisis, for much more on this.

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