This article is to educate consumers about how their beef gets to their plate in an effort to get consumers to “vote with their fork” and support more humane and natural ways of raising cattle for meat products. Organic, natural, pasture reared grass fed beef is better – not only because the animal’s diet is better but because the environment and lifestyle is more natural. Animals can express the Five Freedoms. Factory farms such as Karan Beef and Manjoh Ranch in South Africa are called feedlot farms, and produce as much as 80% of the country’s meat, according to some sources.
But how are the living conditions for these mass-production farms, aka factory farms? Does your beef come from a happy animal?
Karan Beef Feedlot, South Africa: No shade, no grass, overcrowded conditions.
Your steak started as a calf – whose mother was artificially inseminated with sperm from a good bull. Good meaning good genes and all that. For six months the calf drank milk and ate grass in the pasture (hopefully) with his mother. If he had been a girl, he would have had a different life but that is a different story for another article.
After a couple of months (used to be a couple of years back in the day but these days, well, profit rules…) the calf is taken to a backgrounding pen. This is what can be called Feedlot Factory Farm School. The calf now has to learn how to eat corn. That’s right, learn. Because calves are not meant to eat a lot of corn and can develop a severely bloated stomach (rumen actually) and if not treated could even suffocate. But usually the bloating and acidosis is treated with antibiotics and care and the calf, now a bull calf, starts to adapt to this horrible new life.
After a while he is whisked off in a cramped uncomfortable truck to the feedlot farm and this is where it all gets even worse. In the more massive factory farms there could be hundreds of thousands of cattle, but even an amount of say 20 000 is a lot. And this is only because of the huge demand for meat. We eat more meat than we ever did and our appetite for meat will only get better as it becomes cheaper and cheaper to produce beef. Or if the standards drop even lower.
On the feedlot the bull will eat a diet composed of grass, corn (about 50% corn), alfalfa, soy and other sometimes very unsatisfactory ingredients to fatten him up to slaughter weight in the shortest possible time. The quicker he can get to slaughter weight the quicker another bull can fill his place and that means more profits for the factory farm owner.
After a miserable life of no shade, boiling heat and/or freezing cold, unnatural diet and drugs, the bull is led in a long line to get slaughtered. The fear is unbelievable, as you can imagine if you were standing in line to die, and sometimes the slaughtering fails so the bull is still alive when hanging in the line to get his throat cut.
Not all factory farms practice all the procedures detailed above, and not all farmers are just in it for the profits, but the situation above is all too common around the world and needs to be improved. Many people experience a strong reaction when seeing feedlots such as Karan Beef and Manjoh Ranch. We encourage all farmers to be transparent about their farming practices so that consumers can make informed choices.
To help end the inhumane treatment of farm animals, switch to free range, organic pasture reared grass fed beef – all or any of those terms can be used to describe what is basically just a more naturally, humanely produced meat. Ethical Suppliers has a whole lot of suppliers that you can support, many of them who are small local farms that don’t farm as intensively or inhumanely as the factory farms.