Ashland Oregon LocalsGuide

What not to eat: antibiotics, herbicides, Harriett

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What’s the big deal about grass-fed, free-range beef? It’s nice to think about happy steers grazing peacefully in green pastures. But what’s in it for us?

Our Box R Ranch neighbor, cowboy Jesse Randall, invests a lot of time and cash shipping his animals one or two at a time to a USDA licensed slaughterhouse in Springfield, then shipping beef back to small time customers like Green Springs Inn. It would be way easier to sell steers to a feedlot and ride off into the sunset.

But what would happen to those critters at a feedlot? You know what. They would get penned up with hundreds or thousands of other animals and fed a rich diet of grain, protein supplements and antibiotics. All that stuff gets processed into rapid weight gain and additional dollars at sale time.

Ready for a science project? Go to a supermarket and buy some hamburger. Then come on up to Green Springs Inn and buy a raw Box R burger patty. Put the store-bought meat and the Box R patty in your refrigerator for three days. Remove and examine. What do you see? One of those samples is furry, right?

Quickly now, discard the whole experiment and connect some dots. You saw no mold on the conventional ground beef. We know that the store-bought meat came from an animal that was fattened during a final feedlot sojourn. Subclinical (i.e. not enough to cure an infection) doses of antibiotics facilitate rapid weight gain in livestock. (You will find plenty of literature documenting this phenomenon.) But antibiotics are persistent. These drugs do not go away when an animal is slaughtered and processed. Are we routinely dosing ourselves with antibiotics just by eating like normal Americans?

The more you think about this, the scarier the dots. What about rapid weight gain on a national scale? Surely our well-documented obesity epidemic is related to sedentary lifestyles, but could drugs in our food supply be a factor? Is it possible that we are living in a giant feedlot?

By the way, on my bread and tofu order, please hold the herbicide. Not to go all political on you, but one of the main motives for engineering the genomes of wheat and soybeans, among many other agricultural plants, is to make them resistant to chemical weed-killers. Dump Roundup on a field of GMO wheat and, voila, no volunteer plant life to compete with the cash crop. But what happens to the Roundup? It breaks down, you say? All of it? It breaks down into what? Perhaps our community and our organic farmers should have a voice in approving the proliferation of GMO crops.

Finally, about Harriett: Our super talented neighbor, Harriett Rex Smith, creates wonderful art. Come enjoy it at her Memorial Weekend Exhibition on the Green Springs Saturday and Sunday, May 24 and 25. But also ask Harriett how she cured her diabetes with a (pretty strict) vegan diet. She will tell you.

May 7, 2014 |

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