Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

A Toilet Bowl of Food – Roger Ingalls

Photo from greenopolis.com

A little E.coli here, a little E.coli there, a lot of E.coli everywhere. What’s the deal, why are thousands of people getting sick with many dying from Escherichia coli O157:H7?

This deadly bacteria came to light in the early 1980s as a contaminant in meat but is now found in nuts, lettuces, frozen pizzas, cucumbers and a variety of other food products. It was originally called the hamburger disease because contamination often occurred in ground beef.

But why has this foodborne disease become so prevalent over the past 30 years? Responsible farming has given way to energy intensive factory farms. As a result, there has been a change in how food animals are raised and crops are grown. Instead of many decentralized mom-and-pop farms feeding the local population, we now have a small quantity of mega-farms supplying the far reaches of the country.

Photo from Food Inc Movie

Grass-fed cattle ranches have been replaced by massive high-density feedlots where livestock are crammed together in manure saturated pens until they mature to slaughter age. If you’ve driven by one of these miles-long factories, you know how disgusting they are.

Since E.coli is found in the intestinal tract of animals and is spread to the outside environment through manure, the cramped feedlots create a perfect home for infectious diseases. To lower cost, the cattle are fed grains instead of their natural diet of grass that, in turn, increases acidity in their gut—E.coli thrives in an acidic environment. The livestock are given antibiotics to combat illness from fecal-hosted agents and an unnatural diet. Great care must be taken in the slaughtering and processing of cattle to ensure little to no feces comes in contact with the meat, especial since E.coli may be enhanced on the mega-farm feedlots.

Photo from HSUS Video

How does E.Coli get onto vegetables? One source of contamination comes from livestock manure that gets into irrigation water through run-off. Another source comes from wildlife migration through crop fields.

Run-off Photo from Belsandia website

The mega-farms process significant quantities of food which can compound the E.coli problem. When a single contamination occurs within one of these factory farms, the event can be catastrophic. People all over the country can get sick from food processed in one factory on any given day.

Science Photo Library

The solution is locally grown food. If an E.coli outbreak does occur, it is locally contained and only a few people are affected. Feedlots can be replaced with the healthier practice of decentralized grazing of livestock so manure is naturally composted and does not get into the water table. In addition, local production simulates the economy, creates jobs, uses less energy and has a smaller impact on the environment.


Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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