Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Food Does Your Food Eat?

I am currently reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, and I'm finding some of the information in this book shocking. I haven't finished it yet, so I haven't reached his conclusions, but the book examines what humans eat and what happens to the food before it ends up on our plate. Suffice it to say, I think reading this book is going to have a dramatic impact on my eating habits.

I've lived in Nebraska before so I've certainly heard of corn-fed beef, but originally never thought about why the cows were eating corn? If you've never driven through the heart of our country, you may not know how much corn our country produces, but that will give you the beginning of an answer. The picture is from my drive earlier today in a rural area near my home. I don't know if these are beef cattle, but it was nice to see them munching on grass!
Corn is incredibly plentiful which gives the agricultural industry a way to raise beef cheaply. Cows used to be slaughtered at 4-5 years; today, they're slaughtered at 14-16 months. In order to fatten them that quickly, they need to be intensely fed, and a simple diet of roaming around and eating grass doesn't produce quick enough results.

Antibiotics are added to the feed to make sure the healthy cows don't get sick. That makes me wonder about all the lectures parents get from doctors about not giving children antibiotics at the drop of a hat. I agree with that, but who is out there saying that perhaps feeding our children with antibiotic-laden food (i.e. meat) on a daily basis isn't a good idea either?

Unfortunately, the problem isn't limited to beef. Chickens, turkey, even farmed salmon are being raised as cheaply as possible on a diet of corn and antibiotics. Is organic food the answer? I don't know, but I do know that we need to be aware not just about what we are feeding our kids, but also when animal products are concerned, what those animals are eating. What can you do? For starters: educate yourself, read labels, and get acquainted with your local farmers. Also, this blog has been all about meat, but don't forget the meatless options of fruits, vegetables, and grains which all have much small footprints on our Earth.

I have a local friend (check out her blog First Hand Food) who is experimenting with raising cattle and we have committed to purchase 1/4 of a cow from their small farm in January. The cows aren't certified organic (which is a very expensive process), but we know that they're wandering around right now eating grass, not antibiotics and corn. We bought 2 chickens from her earlier this year and the results were yummy!


  1. Hi Erika
    I would recommend also watching Food Inc. It is quite startling how just a few select companies have control of our food. Also learning about Community Supported Agriculture in your area. I work part-time in Southwest Florida and Worden Farms in Punta Gorda has about 250 members and supply I think over 2,000 families a week with food! Amazing. I'm glad I found your Blog - I Blog about Environmental Education with Music and Story - I am at:
    Look forward to learning from you!

  2. What a great combination - music, story, and the environment - for really connecting with children. Your blog looks really interesting and I'll enjoy following it.

    Thanks for the movie tip - I haven't seen it yet, but now it's on my list.