[ExI] Corn, soy, and cattle (was Soy, brain aging, and false advertising)

J. Stanton js_exi at gnolls.org
Sun Dec 12 19:46:05 UTC 2010

From: Dave Sill <sparge at gmail.com>
> 2:01 PM, J. Stanton <js_exi at gnolls.org> wrote:
>> >  Note that cattle can't digest soy or corn properly either (they're ruminants
>> >  -- grass-eaters), which is why they need to be pumped full of antibiotics (a
>> >  primary cause of the worldwide antibiotic resistance problem -- far more
>> >  antibiotics are fed to cattle than to humans) in order to stay alive in
>> >  feedlots.
> How many cattle have you raised, J.? I've raised a dozen or so, so
> far, and none of them had any trouble digesting feed with corn and
> other grains without*any*  antibiotics. I don't doubt that there's
> antibiotic use and abuse at some large feedlots, but a lot of cattle
> are produced by smaller operations that don't engage in the alleged
> abuses and excesses of the larger, corporate operations.

I certainly won't tell you how to raise cattle :) but I'm going off 
sources like this:

Referring to this paper (caution: paywall)

"Domestic ruminants in developed countries are often fed an abundance of 
grain and little fiber. When ruminants are fed fiber-deficient rations, 
physiological mechanisms of homeostasis are disrupted, ruminal pH 
declines, microbial ecology is altered, and the animal becomes more 
susceptible to metabolic disorders and, in some cases, infectious 
disease. Some disorders can be counteracted by feed additives (for 
example, antibiotics and buffers), but these additives can alter the 
composition of the ruminal ecosystem even further."

That being said, I'm sure the positive health impact of NOT raising 
cattle in feces up to their ankles is substantial (skip to about 5:30):

So part of the effect of grain-based diets on cattle is direct 
(digestive problems) and part of the effect is indirect (concentration 
of animals into feedlots, which is only made possible by a grain-based 
diet).  Then there is the problem that grain-based diets for cattle 
create and spread acid-resistant E.coli (the strains that cause actual 
sickness and death in humans because they can survive the digestive tract).

It's clear that if you want to make cows as fat as possible as quickly 
as possible without regard to their health, you should feed them lots of 
grain and grain products.  I think there is a lesson here for humans.

That being said, I don't blame anyone for feeding grain to their 
cattle...when we subsidize it so heavily to make it so cheap, it's the 
obvious thing to do.  And sustainable grazing is actually a lot of work, 
because you're moving the cattle around daily with small electric fences 
in order to mimic the movement patterns of native grazers (like 
buffalo), which move around continually and let the grass regenerate 
instead of eating it down to the ground where they are before moving on.

>> >  In fact, the entire term "vegetable oil" is false advertising, because it's
>> >  not made from vegetables at all: it's an industrial product, extracted from
>> >  seeds using industrial solvents (hexane).
> J., you've got good arguments against vegetable oils, but claiming
> that calling them that is false advertising isn't one of them. One of
> the accepted definitions of "vegetable" as an adjective is "derived
> from plants", and that's how it's used in "vegetable oil"--to
> distinguish it from oils of animal or mineral origin.

By that standard, fruits and nuts are really just vegetables because 
they're derived from plants.  That may be technically true, as 
"vegetable" is not a precisely defined term -- but commonly understood 
usage, including the "food pyramid", defines "vegetables" as separate 
entities from other plant products such as fruits, nuts, grains, and 

Wikipedia gets it about right: "The noun vegetable usually means an 
edible plant or part of a plant *other than a sweet fruit or seed.* 
[emphasis mine] This usually means the leaf, stem, or root of a plant.

However, the word is not scientific, and its meaning is largely based on 
culinary and cultural tradition."


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