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

Archive for the tag “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations”

The Big E: It’s Back – Roger Ingalls

Just like clockwork, E coli in beef rears its ugly head every year or so. This time it’s 23,000 pounds of tainted ground beef coming out of Kansas.

E coli is found in the intestinal tract of warm blooded animals and is spread to the outside environment through manure. Today’s cramped feedlots (aka: cattle or beef factories) create a perfect home for infectious diseases such as E coli. 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 thrive in an acidic environment so the problem is compounded. In the past, “mom and pop” farms raised their cattle on grass and E coli was a rarity.

Why has this foodborne disease become so prevalent over the past 30 years? Grass-fed cattle ranches have been replaced by massive high-density feedlots where livestock are crammed together in manure saturated pens until they mature to slaughter age. Essentially, small private farms and ranches have been gobbled up by Wall Street backed farming conglomerates that put priority on profit over a healthy food system.

from Food Inc. (movie)

from Food Inc. (movie)

The entire beef food chain is unnatural. Cattle now eat an unnatural diet of corn, this creates an unnatural elevated acidic environment is their gut, E coli bacteria multiple at an unnaturally high rate and then people get poisoned. Corn is subsidized by the government creating an unnatural “free market” economy; grain products have unnaturally low prices, Wall Street demands high profits so farm conglomerates feed cattle an unnatural diet of corn which lowers the manufacturing cost of beef. People eat more beef because, normalized to inflation, it is unnaturally cheap.  An unnatural amount of beef is consumed causing heart disease, animal fat related diabetes and other health problems.

No worries, it’s all self-correcting. Global warming and peak oil will increase grain costs and beef prices will eventually follow. Steaks and burgers will no longer be the food of the masses and the health of people and cattle will return…provided extinction doesn’t intervene first.

There Back: Killer Cantaloupe – Roger Ingalls

I’m starting to sound like a broken record with my reoccurring posts about the far reaching poisoning caused by industrialized farming. Today, a single mega-farm can have a single quality oversight and people across the country will get ill or die. It happens two or three times a year.

Here are my previous posts on the subject:

1)      Killer Cantaloupe, September 2011

2)      A Toilet Bowl of Food, June 2011

3)      Strawberries to Die For, September 2001

It’s August 2012 and here we go again with two more occurrences of produce poisoning; a lettuce recall due to E.coli and cantaloupe illnesses due to salmonella. These recent events have caused death and sickness across multiple states.

When will we learn that a centralized food system is not only environmentally disastrous but also puts too many people at risk? It’s amazing that we continue to endorse this food system.

Responsible farming has given way to energy intensive factory farms and as a result, there’s 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.

The solution is locally grown food. If an E.coli, listeria or salmonella outbreak does occur, it is locally contained and only a few people are affected. In addition, local production simulates the economy, creates jobs, uses less energy and has a smaller impact on the environment.

We have choices. Save your life, your family and the planet by buying locally produced goods.

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.

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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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