I want to thank Joel Gruver for his recent post on my behalf. I am now
back on SANET after a few months absence due to travel, etc. and am
looking forward to reactions to the article mentioned in the post by
Joel Gruver. The paper on grain fed beef is by Diez-Gonzalez et al and
can be found in the September 11 1998 journal, Science (vol 281,
It provides much food for thought and some extremely important
ammunition for those concerned with food safety issues, opportunities
for family farms, and ecological and soil quality issues that could be
affected by enhanced integration of forage and hay production in
cropping systems. The article presents strong evidence that grain
feeding produces acid conditions in the cattle rumen and colon, thus
promoting acid tolerant strain of E. Coli which can subsequently survive
and cause illness in the acid human gut. The effect is dramatic: a drop
in cattle colon pH from nearly 7.4 with no grain (all hay) to about 5.3
with 90% grain in the diet. The corresponding increase in acid-tolerant
E. coli was about a million-fold. The authors suggest that consumer
health could be best protected by a grass or hay diet, but " it is
unlikely that American cattle will ever be fed diets consisting only of
hay" . However, the authors conclude that even a week or so on hay
instead of grain just prior to slaughter would significantly reduce the
risk of food-borne E coli infection in human consumers. It usually takes
a clear threat to human health to motivate socially, ecologically and
environmentally desirable changes in the system. I hope the food safety
people will run with this one. Image what even a week on hay in all US
feedlots would do for the value of forages, the diversity of crop
rotations on US farms, and the ability of small family farmers to
compete and stay on the land!!
The best to all of you.
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Content-Description: Card for Ray R. Weil
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fn: Ray R. Weil
n: Weil;Ray R.
org: University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
adr: Dept. of Natural Resource Sciences & L.A.;;1103b H.J. Patterson Hall;College Park;Maryland;20742;USA
title: Professor of Soil Science
tel;work: 301 405 1314
tel;fax: 301 314 9041
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