If you are a beef eater then there are some things you need to know about most Australian beef, and why you should think twice before you eat it!
Did you know most Australian beef is 'feedlot finished’ - generally called 'grain finished'? Grain finished means that the cattle are fed a ‘finishing ration’ for a minimum of 100 days (except during drought). They are fed for up to 300 days for the domestic market, up to 600 days for the export “Jap Ox”, and 600 plus days for Wagyu!
A feedlot is an intensive confinement feeding system for cattle, (a lot like the set up for battery fed chickens). Each animal has 5 to 10 square metres and is in a pen of 50 to 200 cattle. This system is so removed from their normal behavioural and biological needs and, needless to say, the cattle are stressed. Higher stress results in lesser meat quality.
When they arrive at a feedlot the cattle are vaccinated and:
- chemically drenched for worms,
- chemically treated for lice and external parasites,
- have a rumen bolus inserted (growth ‘enhancer’, i.e., hormones)
- fed a prepared ration mix (90% grain and protein by-products)
After this, the cattle are forced to stand and sleep for months in their dung and urine; this is converted to ‘hard pack’, which is like concrete when it’s dry. This 'hard pack' becomes 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. At some feedlots, the cattle are provided with ‘constant dosage’ to prevent respiratory problems.
Cattle are designed to eat roughage and grasses. They are ruminants with four stomachs (technically speaking it is four digestive compartments in their stomach). At the feedlot, they are fed 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 but is often less than 10% of their diet and is only provided to stimulate the rumen.
Feedlotting achieves unnatural growth rates of up to 2kg per day and sometimes more. The feedlots buy in steers at 200 – 220kg and ‘turn them off’ 100 days later at 450kg. Huge profits are made in a short period. It would take a grass fed steer at least nine months to achieve the same weight gains.
Grain finishing or feed lotting, 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 fats are not good for you, and this change happens after only one week on grain!
Unfortunately 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.
So, how do you tell the difference between grass and grain fed beef? The easiest way is to look at the colour of the fat. Grain fed beef fat is usually white, and while this may look good under the artificial lighting in the supermarket, it is not ideal. The fat of grass-fed beef comes in various shades of cream and creamy yellow. This natural colour is the result of the beta carotene content of the grass they ate in fresh paddocks.
If you want to do yourself a favour - eat grass fed beef. If you want to do a cow a favour - eat grass fed beef. If you want to do everyone a favour - ask your supermarket and your butcher to stock grass fed beef or go online and have it home delivered. For every animal that is grass fed, one less has to go through the hideous feedlot ordeal!
Can you imagine any animal in this paddock actually volunteering to go to a feedlot?! I can't.