On a recent drive back to our family ranch I noticed a striking feature in a large pasture near our home. While driving down a narrow county road, I noticed a very sharply demarcated line in the grass and brush foliage in the neighbors field. Along the fence the grass and trees were green as expected this time of year.
However, about 50 yards in-wards from the fence line one could see a clear line, a kill zone, where every bush, tree, and blade of grass became brown. Extending my line of sight, I noticed, with the exception of the fence-line, the entire pasture measuring hundreds of acres, had the same brown appearance.
It immediately became clear to me the cause–aerial spraying, crop-dusting if you will. Only instead of dusting crops, this rancher utilized aerial delivered herbicides to kill pesky mesquite and wuisache trees.
As a physician-rancher, I’m familiar with the practice and the chemicals/herbicides used for this type of process.
So what’s the big deal?
This field has nearly 100 head of cattle on it!
The cattle were never moved off the land!
Many pesticides and herbicides are hormone compounds, specifically and typically estrogen based compounds. In my investigation, most of the aerial herbicides recommend removing grazing animals from the treated areas for a minimum of 2-4 weeks. Of course the purpose is to avoid the animals consuming the hormone based poison while the natural decomposition of the herbicide occurs.
The animals were likely directly sprayed. At very least the cattle consumed grass without the standard 2-4 week time-frame which allows the chemical to break down into non-toxic by-products.
I tell this story to illustrate a point. These cattle will ultimately be processed like every other rancher/farmer processes cattle. The calves will be born, raised till they are 5-6 months old, rounded up and sent to a local market. They will be bought by a feed lot, fed grain for another several months to round out their slaughter weight, then sold to the slaughter house. You’ll buy this meat in the grocery store, unaware where it came from or how responsible the rancher was that provided the beef.
The meat and fat from an animal like the ones I described will undoubtedly contain remnants of the herbicides and pesticides they were exposed to either through the type of action I previously described, or by consumption of the typical feed lot diet.
These remnants, estrogen / hormone based chemicals, can and do wreak havoc on our own bodies. As a physician, I’m concerned that these dietary hormones disrupt our own delicate endocrine balance. (The hormone signaling in our body). I’m also suspicious that consumption of beef contaminated with herbicides/pesticides may be part of the reason for studies showing higher cancer rates in folks consuming large quantities of red meats.
I do not believe beef or red meat is the problem. What was fed or injected into the animal (or sprayed on the food supply) may be the actual problem. We shouldn’t shun a good steak out of fear of hormones. Instead we should scrutinize where our food comes from. We should attempt to procure meat grow by responsible ranchers, folks dedicated to producing safe, high quality beef.
Your best bet, at very least buy “organic.” (You’re less likely to buy beef sold by the aforementioned rancher.) Better yet buy local and– if possible–know the animals you consume. With food cooperatives and farmers market’s popping up everywhere, this task doesn’t have to be a hassle.
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