What Happens in the Stomach of Corn-fed Cows

One thing I truly love about New Zealand is grass-fed beef by default. Factory farms & CAFOs are virtually unheard of here. Cattle are allowed to roam and graze through lush green paddocks all over the country, resulting in high quality, grass-fed beef at every supermarket!

Lovely Cows

When we stayed in the Wairarapa region (with the same beautiful scenery that I mentioned in my Lose the Shoes post), I spent quite a bit of time devouring back issues of Cuisine magazine. Aside from the fantastic new recipes I’ve now collected, an article on grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef in Issue 129 caught my eye. It does such a great job explaining exactly what happens to cows when they are fed grains that I thought I would re-post it here for you.

Corn-Fed Cows in Digestive Dismay

Ruminants are not accustomed to eating high-starch foods like corn which upset their digestive system. Cattle create a lot of gas, which they usually expel, but when their diet is high in starch and low in roughage, a layer of foamy slime forms in their great food-processing tank, known as the rumen.

“This slime can trap the gas, so the rumen balloons out, pressing against the animal’s lungs. Unless action is promptly taken to relieve the pressure (usually by ramming a hose down the animal’s throat), the cattle suffocate.

“A corn diet can also generate acidosis. Unlike our highly acidic stomachs, the normal pH of cattle stomachs is neutral. Corn makes then unnaturally acidic. Acidotic animals go off their feed, pant and drool, paw at their bellies and eat dirt. The condition can lead to diarrhea, uclers, bloat, liver disease and a general weakening of the immune system.

Cattle cannot stay in a feed lot for more than six months, since a sustained maize diet will lead to fatal liver failure. As the acids corrode the stomach wall, bacteria enter the bloodstream and collect in the liver. Hence the use of antibiotics in feed lots, to reduce gas and prevent liver infection. But overuse of antibiotics in the feed lots means bacteria become resistant to them, leading to new, disease-resistant strains, popularly known as super-bugs.”

Wow, right? It breaks my heart to know this happens every single day to thousands of animals. Not only do they have a miserable life, but their meat is incredibly unhealthy for humans to consume when they’re fed a corn-based diet.

Grass-fed meat, on the other hand, contains loads more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and healthy saturated fats that protect from cancer and improve brain & nervous system function. Grass-fed cows are also able to move around the paddock for exercise and fresh air, and they don’t have to stand around in their own poop. (Nasty, eh?) It’s worth the extra effort (and sometimes money) to seek out grass-fed meat from cows that have lived a happy life. Not only is it better for the cow’s health and yours–it tastes better too!

This post is linked to Sunday SchoolMonday Mania