It sounds strange, but every day you and I are funding the development of nasty little bugs like E. Coli 0157:H7. E. Coli 0157:H7 is the bacteria that was responsible for the big spinach scare last year. This critter first showed up in 1982 and has been making itself more prevalent ever since.
It turns out that the practice of feeding cows grain is the culprit. Cows are ruminants, and as such they thrive on grasses and other high-fiber, low-energy foods. When cows eat grass they are healthier animals—they need fewer medications, produce healthier meat and milk, and have an intestinal flora that is not dangerous to humans. When high-energy, low fiber foods like grain are fed to cows, an acidic environment occurs in the animal’s digestive track. This results in different living conditions for the microbes in the cow’s gut. Specifically, this practice has led to the development of E. Coli 0157:H7.
In a healthy cow gut the pH is neutral—in that environment a type of E.Coli thrives that does not like acid. Humans, on the other hand, have acidic stomachs. Thus when a human ingests E. Coli from a grass-fed cow, the E. Coli is abruptly killed in the stomach. To the contrary, E. Coli 0157:H7 has developed as an adaptation to the high-acid environment of a grain-fed cow’s gut. As a result the human digestive track is an environment where the microbe thrives—and makes you sick.
Not only are we making ourselves sick, making the cows sick, giving them more antibiotics, and creating unhealthy meats and dairy products, we’re funding it!
Corn is the second most highly subsidized product in this country next to oil. You and I pay farmers in the form of tax dollars to grow corn. Two of the products made from the corn are killing us; the poor quality feed for animals and the high-fructose corn syrup for us. As long as we pay for these products through taxes they will be an attractively cheap feed for cows and man alike. Here is a link to a study in Applied and Environmental Microbiology showing that even if you add E. Coli 0157:H7 to grass-fed cow manure and subsequently grow lettuce in it, the lettuce will be free of the dangerous microbe! To the contrary, if you do the same experiment with a grain-fed cow the E. Coli thrives! Here is another great paper from the Journal of Dairy Science that states “When cattle were abruptly switched from a high grain (corn) diet to a forage diet, generic E. coli populations declined 1000-fold within 5 days, and the ability of the fecal generic E. coli population to survive an acid shock similar to the human gastric stomach decreased.”
Here is another paper on the same subject from the journal Science, and lastly, an article for those of us who don’t want to use big words from Mother Earth News (my favorite).
What can you do? Buy grass-fed organic meat and dairy! Click here for my article showing the many health benefits of this simple choice.