The truth about most Australian beef, and why we won’t eat it!
Most Australian beef is 'feedlot finished’, you may know it as the benign sounding "grain finished". This means that the cattle are feed a ‘finishing ration’ for a minimum of 100 days (due to the drought and cost of grain, this has been temporarily shortened to a 60 day minimum) and up to 300 days for the domestic market, up to 600 days for the export “Jap Ox”, and even more than 600 days for Wagyu!
What does ‘feedlotting’ mean? And what is a feedlot?
On arrival at a feedlot the cattle are:
- chemically drenched for worms,
- chemically treated for lice and external parasites,
- have a rumen bolus inserted (growth ‘enhancer’ aka hormones)
- fed a specially prepared ration (90% grain and protein by products)
A feedlot is an intensive confinement feeding system for cattle, the best analogy is battery fed chickens. Each animal has 5 to 10 squares metres and is in a pen of 50 to 200 cattle. It is fair to say that the cattle are stressed by this system as it is far removed from their normal behavioural and biological needs. Higher stress results in lesser meat quality.
The cattle are forced to stand and sleep in their own dung and urine; this is converted to ‘hard pack’, which is like concrete when it’s dry and a sewer slurry when it rains. When it’s dry, the dust generated by hooves is primarily faecal particulate, and this causes respiratory problems for the animals. The cattle are ‘treated’ for these respiratory problems with antibiotics. Some feedlots are providing ‘constant dosage’ to prevent respiratory problems.
Cattle are ruminants with 4 stomachs designed to eat roughage (grasses). Instead they are feed a diet of grains, rumen ‘modifiers’ (selective biocides that favour maximum growth), urea ( toxic at high levels) and a chemical ‘premix’. Hay or straw is used as a grass substitute, and is often less than 10% of their diet and is only provided to stimulate the rumen.
What does this diet mean? Amazing unnatural growth rates are achieved, up to 2kg per day and sometimes more. So the feedlots buy in steers at 200 – 220kg and ‘turn them off’ 100 days later at 450kg. Big profits are made in a short period of time. By comparison it would take a grass fed steer at least 9 months to achieve the same weight gains.
Grain finishing or feedlotting, changes the omega 6 and 3 ratio from the ideal of 3:1, to the unhealthy range of 24:1 Grass fed beef has the same healthy ratio of essential omega 3 and 6 fatty acids as found in fish!! Grain fed beef's fats are not good for you, and this change happens after only one week on grain!
In short when most Australians buy beef, they are buying chemically and drug enhanced meat that is unbalanced and possibly bad for their long-term health and well being.
Mountain Creek Farm beef is grass raised and grass finished. In times of grass feed shortage we will supplement the natural pasture with quality hay.
How do you tell the difference between grass and grain fed beef? The easiest way is the colour of the fat. Grain fed beef's fat is usually white, and this looks 'good' with the artificial lighting in supermarket displays. Grass fed beef's fat is various shades of creamy yellow, and this is the result of the beta carotene content of the grass they ate.
For more info visit www.eatwild.com/basics
© 2007 by Michael Croft and Mountain Creek Farm, All rights reserved.