the beef? (And where does it come from?)
—GARY W. PRIESTER
What sounds more appetizing: grass-fed beef or corn-fed
beef? I must confess, until I read Michael Pollan’s The
Omnivore’s Dilemma, I would have opted for corn-fed beef.
I love corn, and I love beef, so what could be better than corn-fed
beef? But think about it a moment. When you picture a cornfield,
do you see cattle grazing on the corn? Probably not. Our idealized
vision of the source of our hamburgers, roasts, and steaks is from
small herds of cattle lazily grazing on endless grass-covered pastures
with puffy white clouds against a deep blue sky, with a quaint white
farmhouse and barn on the horizon.
The reality, Pollan tells us, is tens of thousands
of cattle in feedlot pens with hardly room to turn around, standing
knee-deep in their own excrement, eating a diet of corn fortified
with growth hormones and antibiotics. The antibiotics are essential
because the extremely cramped conditions, plus the side effects
of a corn diet foreign to grass-eating ruminants create a litany
of health problems that are only contained by the antibiotics mixed
in with the feed. Idyllic it is not!
After they are weaned from their moms, the young beef
are moved to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), where
they are fattened on a diet of corn, growth hormones, and antibiotics.
CAFOs are the reason McDonald’s can sell a Big Mac as cheaply
as they do and why beef can be on almost every table. CAFOs are
extremely efficient and cost-effective, compared to raising cattle
on the prairie.
But these days, the cattle are not the only ones eating
corn. Pollan reveals that corn and processed corn is in almost everything
we eat, in the form of high fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch,
citric acid (and you thought citric acid only came from citrus!),
xanthan gum, maltodextrin, and the list goes on and on. If you don’t
believe me, read a few labels. You can’t escape it!
The Omnivore’s Dilemma is subtitled
A Natural History of Four Meals and is divided into three parts.
The first part deals with corn, agribusiness, and CAFOs and ends,
as all three parts of the book do, with a meal. The first meal is
at McDonald’s, where Pollan traces the ingredients of the
meal back to an Iowa corn farm.
Part two goes from the ridiculous to the sublime as
we visit a small farm in Virginia that uses a very different approach
to growing beef. On Polyface Farm, beef is raised, grass-fed, in
a pasture. The farmer moves the cattle to a new area of the pasture
every few days to give the grazed pasture time to regenerate. A
fastidious flock of grass-fed chickens grazes on the pasture after
the cattle have moved on, ridding the soil of pests and adding their
own natural fertilizer to enrich the soil. The result is a sustainable
system in which animals are humanely raised. This is better for
the animals and better for the environment. Because no herbicides
or pesticides are used, there is no environmental damage caused
by these poisons leaching out of the soil and into the rivers and
aquifers. And because the cattle are rotated from grazing area to
grazing area, the pasture is maintained and nourished naturally.
There is no need for growth hormones or antibiotics.
The meal produced at the end of part two is more appetizing
than the foray into fast food at the end of part one. In part three,
Michael Pollan does a bit of hunting and gathering, including hunting
a wild pig and gathering wild morel and chanterelle mushrooms.
Grass-fed beef has less fat, fewer calories, and less
LDL cholesterol than corn-fed beef. It has about the same fat as
skinless chicken. It is higher in “heart-friendly” Omega-3
fatty acids. There are several ranches in New Mexico raising grass-fed
beef, some of which you can find at the La Montanita Co-op in Albuquerque
and Santa Fe. You can also find grass-fed beef and chicken at Trader
Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Wild Oats markets. You can find Michael
Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma in any book
Udall announces grant to help aging
and disabled with long-term care
U.S. Representative Tom Udall, D-NM, announced that
the New Mexico Aging and Long Term Care Department (NMALTCD) will
receive a $191,000 Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) grant
to develop tools to help New Mexicans understand and access long-term
care services in their communities. The funding is intended to help
New Mexicans make more informed health care decisions.
“This funding will help New Mexicans receive
the health care they need,” said Udall. “By building
a more user-friendly system, New Mexico will be able to provide
better health care at less cost.”
In other states, agencies have used ADRC grants to:
• create web-based resource directories which
provide consumers and professionals easy access to information on
the specific services available in their communities;
• streamline access to public services by co-locating
eligibility staff from different agencies in a single location;
• use technology to create online consumer decision
tools and electronic Medicaid applications; and
• use portable technology to conduct data entry
and scanning of documents, thereby allowing staff to gather and
submit service eligibility information from a consumer’s home.
Udall said, “Our disabled and elderly citizens
should not have to wade through red tape to get long-term care.
With this funding, we can make sure that they do not.”
NMALTCD consists of six offices and divisions, including
the Consumer and Elder Rights Division, the Elderly and Disability
Services Division, and the Office of Indian Elder Affairs. The Department
will use the ADRC grant to coordinate their various programs and
provide a one-stop shop where individuals and families can learn
about available services and enroll in the appropriate programs.
“I want to applaud the work done by the Aging
and Long Term Care Department to help our most vulnerable citizens,”
concluded Udall. “I will continue to support their efforts
by finding them additional resources to help them do their job.”
Udall is a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee
on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, which provides
funding for ADRC grants.