Connect with us on Facebook!
[Feeds & Readers]
Follow us on Twitter!

Make us your home page!
Authors, sign in!

« A School AND a President with Class: How 'Bout That?! | Main | Risk vs. Ambiguity »

The Truth About Corn-fed Beef

By Megan Hill
May 22, 2009

I recently came across a menu for a local restaurant boasting the superior quality of its “100% corn-fed Nebraska beef” as if feeding corn to cattle is something to be proud of.

Feeding corn to cattle is, simply put, unnatural, and yet most of the store-bought (and restaurant-consumed) beef in the U.S. is corn-fed. While corn is a cheaper feed and can ready a cow for slaughter much more quickly than a dainty diet of grass, it’s pretty awful for the animal.

Let’s have a look at the plight of a feedlot cow:

  • Cattle possess a rumen, evolved specifically for digesting grass. Corn changes their normal digestion process, trapping gas inside and causing the rumen to press on the lungs. The cow suffocates unless a tube is pushed down its esophagus to relieve the pressure.

  • The pH in the rumen of a cow is naturally neutral; corn makes it acidic, causing sometimes deadly heartburn in addition to a host of other discomforts. It can also make the cow more susceptible to disease.

  • What cattle eat apart from corn is off-putting, too. The FDA in 1997 banned the practice of feeding ruminant protein to other ruminants, because this is how Mad Cow Disease is spread, but about one-fourth of a cow's diet is usually made up of things that aren't food at all. Michael Pollan wrote, in his bestselling The Omnivore's Dilemma, that “Feather meal and chicken litter (that is, bedding, feces, and discarded bits of feed) are accepted cattle feeds, as are chicken, fish, and pig meal.” And he reports that the FDA’s 1997 ban may not stop the spread of Mad Cow “since the bovine meat and bonemeal that cattle used to eat is now being fed to chickens, pigs, and fish, infectious prions could find their way back to cattle when they're fed the protein of the animals that have been eating them.” Great.

  • Corn damages the animals’ livers: “Between 15 and 30 percent of feedlot cattle are found at slaughter to have abscessed livers,” Pollan says.

Apart from the corn problem, there’s the issue of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), where cattle are raised in deplorable conditions, including being jammed together and standing in their own feces. And corn-fed beef is far less nutritious than grass-fed, which has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A,C, D, and E, and is lower in saturated fat. Pastured cattle also produce far less pollutants than feedlot cattle, as their waste becomes fertilizer for new grass.

It’s admittedly tough to quit something as pervasive and seemingly unavoidable as corn-fed beef, especially when it’s sitting juicily on a bun with a side of fries. The innocuous burger patty seems so far removed from whatever unfortunate life the animal lived before it got to your plate. And most meat alternatives contain soy, which has its own pitfalls. The dilemma of conscientious eating can seem insurmountable.

It seems that if you are both educated and a corn-fed beef eater, you should at least own the experience and admit to yourself that some very unappetizing things happened for that beef to get to your plate. Isn’t admitting the problem always the first step to fixing it?

Then again, maybe just admitting it is enough to make you lose your appetite altogether.

Post your own comment

(To create links here or for style, you may wish to use HTML tags in your comments)

Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links below to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the links below, you are directly helping to support this community website:

Want to browse more blogs? Try our table of contents to find articles under specific topics or headings. Or you might find interesting entries by looking through the complete archives too. Stay around awhile. We're glad you're here.

Browse the Blogs!

You are here!

This page contains only one entry posted to Everyday Citizen on May 22, 2009 4:52 PM.

The blog post previous to it is titled "A School AND a President with Class: How 'Bout That?!"

The post that follows this one is titled "Risk vs. Ambiguity"

Want to explore this site more?

Many more blog posts can be found on our Front Page or within our complete Archives.

Does a particular subject interest you?

You can easily search for blog posts under a specific topic by using our List of Categories.

Visit our friends!

Books You Might Like!

Notices & Policies

All of the Everyday Citizen authors are delighted you are here. We all hope that you come back often, leave us comments, and become an active part of our community. Welcome!

All of our contributing authors are credentialed by invitation only from the editor/publisher of If you are visiting and are interested in writing here, please feel free to let us know.

For complete site policies, including privacy, see our Frequently Asked Questions. This site is designed, maintained, and owned by its publisher, Everyday Citizen Media., The Everyday Citizen,, and Everyday Citizen are trademarked names.

Each of the authors here retain their own copyrights for their original written works, original photographs and art works. Our authors also welcome and encourage readers to copy, reference or quote from the content of their blog postings, provided that the content reprints include obvious author or website attribution and/or links to their original postings, in accordance with this website's Creative Commons License.

© Copyright, 2007-2011, All rights reserved, unless otherwise specified, first by each the respective authors of each of their own individual blogs and works, and then by the editor and publisher for any otherwise unreserved and all other content. Our editor primarily reviews blogs for spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting and is not liable or responsible for the opinions expressed by individual authors. The opinions and accuracy of information in the individual blog posts on this site are the sole responsibility of each of the individual authors.