In Texas I passed this grassless small cattle feed lot on my spring road trip. Believe me, this was so much less stinky than the huge feedlots west of Amarillo where the cattle can hardly move as they are fattened for market. They are fed corn, a substance not natural to them, and most get antibiotics (70% of antibiotics are used on animals) because their health suffers in non-natural surroundings and under such stress.
The U.S. livestock industry—a large and vital part of agriculture in this country—has been undergoing a drastic change over the past several decades. Huge CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) have become the predominant method of raising livestock and every year taxpayers shell out between $7.1 billion and $8.2 billion to subsidize or clean up after our nation’s 9,900 confined animal feeding operations, according to a new report, and these factory operations spew odor and flies (and leak manure and smell to high heaven of ammonia), have reduced rural property values by an estimated astronomical total of $26 billion.(links and information for these CAFO stats and facts via the Ethicurian). Plus,the USDA’s current system of grading is set up so that the more fat marbling, the higher the grading — which shuts out grass-fed meat, writes the Ethicurian in another post. We try to get grass-fed meat from small local producers and it has less fat and is more healthy for you -- something I learned from the cattle ranchers bringing their meat to the local farmer's market and direct-to-consumer venues here in Santa Fe.
We had cattle, hormone-free, antibiotic free, ranging on our non-fertilized ranch in Texas in the 1990s, before we sold the place and moved to Atlanta, but the meat couldn't be marketed other than to friends and family because it didn't pass through federal meat inspection and it was too small for middle-men to mess with. Mass production (better profits) is what gets most meat to market. I promise you our way was the healthiest way to eat meat. Those cows were happy cows and it was friend-to-friend meat marketing, outside of normal channels, that made this healthy meat available. The guy who ran the cattle for free on our land could hardly survive and he turned to all-natural because he felt his wife, dying of cancer, was worth his struggle as he believed agriculture with chemical spraying was the wrong way to go. We concurred and supported the process. The way we worked with this cattle producer is not how agribusiness is done these days.
We can act to help change policy. Please go to Ethicurian's post and do more than try to chew the right thing and read more and click their links to be an activist in this area. It is important that we not sit back and let these unhealthy trends persist.