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

Dave Sill sparge at gmail.com
Sun Dec 12 23:03:26 UTC 2010

On Sun, Dec 12, 2010 at 2:46 PM, J. Stanton <js_exi at gnolls.org> wrote:

> "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."

Like I said, I don't doubt that antibiotics are necessary and used on
the major industrial feedlots. I'm just saying that in my experience,
which I think is typical for smaller producers throughout the
southeast US (and probably elsewhere), grain finishing doesn't
automatically mean antibiotics are required. My neighbor raises a
couple dozen head/year. He buys calves at auction, raises them on
pasture, finishes them on grain feed a month or so, then sells them at
auction. From there they go right to slaughter. They're already
finished, so feedlotting them wouldn't make sense economically. He may
be able to buy grain below cost due to subsidies, but believe me, the
margins in farming are sufficiently tight that they get no more grain
than he thinks is necessary to properly finish them.

> 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):
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69gT9LBCMxg

Extreme overcrowding like that is never healthy.

> 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).

It's the caloric density of grains, which allows cattle to be fattened
rapidly, and the customer's preference for grain-finished beef that
makes feedlotting economical. But feedlots could be feeding hay or
silage if grain weren't an option.

> 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).

Yeah, that's an overcrowding problem.

> 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.

I agree. I just happen to think that moderate amounts of grain
products are perfectly OK for most people.

> 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.

No, that's not true. I already explained, back in the paleo/primal
thread, that subsidies don't make grains cheap. They make them
cheaper, but they're already cheap. Furthermore, cattle aren't fed
grain routinely while they're being raised. It's too expensive and
pasture/hay are cheaper and readily available. Cattle are finished on
grain because Americans like a nice, marbled steak, and you can't do
that with grass.

> 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.

It's not that hard. The easiest way is to keep the number of livestock
low enough that they'll do that on their own. If you want to push it,
a little cross fencing and more active pasture maintenance is all it

>> 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 starches.

First, you're confusing "vegetable", the noun, with the adjective.
Fruits and nuts aren't vegetables, but they are vegetable--they come
from organisms in the vegetable kingdom, AKA "plants".

> 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.

Yes, Wikipedia does get it about right. But you stopped reading too soon:

"As an adjective, the word vegetable is used in scientific and
technical contexts with a different and much broader meaning, namely
of "related to plants" in general, edible or not — as in vegetable
matter, vegetable kingdom, vegetable origin, etc."

Seriously, nobody thinks vegetable oil comes from carrots and
cucumbers. Corn oil is in the gray area because most people consider
corn a vegetable, but peanut oil, soybean oil, olive oil...everyone
knows where they originate. Probably 95% of the population has no idea
what a "canola" is, but you can't blame the rapeseed industry for
using a different name.


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