Kansas Green Grass Beef

























A grass diet reduces the risk of E. Coli and other diseases

Cattle are just not designed for a high grain diet!  Feedlot beef as we know it today would be impossible if it weren't for the routine and continual feeding of antibiotics to the animals. To combat the various health problems associated with feedlot cattle, the most potent antibiotics available are used to protect their substantial investment. This leads directly to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These are the new "superbugs" that are increasingly rendering our "miracle drugs" ineffective. All of this is not only unnatural and dangerous for the cows, it also has profound consequences for us. The end result is a USDA inspected product that may be acceptable to most consumers but leaves a great deal to be desired for those consumers who are thinking of healthier eating habits, health concerns and much better tasting beef.

Most microbes, originally adapted to live in a neutral-pH environment, get killed off by the acids in our stomachs. The grass-fed ruminant gut is more neutral, but the digestive tract of the modern feedlot cow is closer in acidity to our own. In this new, manmade environment acid-resistant strains of E. coli have developed that can survive our stomach acids — and go on to kill us. We have broken down one of our food chain's barriers to infections by acidifying a cow's gut with grains.

  • Pile of milo

"A grain diet raises the acidity in steers' guts. This breeds an acid-resistant form of E. coli that can spread from feces-contaminated carcasses to meat. Although USDA inspections are supposed to detect E. coli, the system is not perfect. According to USDA research, more than half of grain-fed cattle have been found to have acid-resistant E. coli in their feces; the proportion drops to 15% if they are switched to hay." - TIME, The Grass-Fed Revolution, June 11, 2006

2000 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that as many as one out of every three cattle may play host to the deadliest strain of E. coli bacteria (0157:H) This is ten times higher than earlier estimates.

Refering to the trend of grass-feeding, USDA microbiologist James Russell, told a reporter for Science Magazine, "We were absolutely shocked by the difference. We never found an animal that didn't agree with the trend."

Feedlot History

In the early 1960's, farmers discovered the Ogalalla aquifier system.  A huge underground body of water primarily located in the high plains states, the aquifer enabled substantial increases in corn production in these states.  It became economically advantageous to ship cattle to areas where irrigation produced abundant feed supplies. 50,000 head feedlots are not unusual in these areas.

large mound of grainThe western cowboy image is not your typical feedlot reality.  This is big business with millions of dollars at stake every day and some of the largest corporations in the US are involved. To be competitive, these large feedlots need to put as much weight on their animals in a little time as possible. Typically, they start a 750 pound animal in the feedlot then feed them for 110 days to their desired weights of 1200-1500 lbs. To accomplish this, the animals need to gain a minimum of 4 lbs per day. The easiest and least expensive way to do this is to feed high starch grain diet.