PR Push for Hormones & Grain for Cattle

by kespeland on June 17, 2009

Here’s a study in public relations painted in science.  The Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues has launched a public relations campaign to boost the image of conventional meat production versus grass-fed and organically produced beef.

Their claims are that growth-enhancing drugs increase production safely, and make meat more affordable; that “beef animals finished in a conventional feed yard using grain-based rations and growth-enhancing technologies are three times more land efficient than organic or grass-fed beef animals;” and that they produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Cattle feedlot in Texas (Creative Commons license)

Cattle feedlot in Texas

But take note:

  • Supporters include almost exclusively animal pharmaceutical manufacturers Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Elanco, and Schering-Plough.
  • Recent books by two of the Center’s five staffers include:  “Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years,” which claims the current warming period is related to sunspot cycles, not human activity;  “Saving the Planet with Plastics and Pesticides;” and “The Truth About Organic Food.”
  • And finally, the Center cites its own researchers in footnotes, but only two other researchers from Iowa State University, whose findings they have incorporated into documents complete with photos of a happy family grilling meat in the backyard – not exactly the picture of academic integrity. Nowhere in their literature do I find a full accounting of the environmental benefits of raising cattle on feedlots, with grain, and injecting them with growth hormones.  What about all the water, transportation fuel, pesticides, and fertilizers needed to grow grain? What about the fact that cow stomachs are meant for grass, not grain?

Needless to say, my “spin-o-meter” reading is off the charts. But it’s not personal bias. I’m looking for the science. Evidence. Peer-review.  Bottom line: claims without much substantiation, supported by interested third party industries, should be suspect.

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