Why I raise Beefalo

There are four reasons:

  1. The meat tastes great
  2. The meat has about one quarter of the cholesterol of regular beef
  3. I don’t have to worry about mad cow disease when eating my Beefalo because Beefalo can produce good meat just by eating grass with no protein or other supplements
  4. Bison genetics give Beefalo a higher level of natural disease resistance and insect tolerance than regular beef.

You might ask what’s the worry about mad cow disease?  The answer is: prions. Prions are self-replicating proteins that cannot be killed if found in the normal food chain.  They are not a bacterium, a virus, or a microbe.  Normal sterilizing processes such as cooking or even irradiating cannot kill them.  When found in the food chain, any animal that eats them can become infected.  They multiply inside the animal that eats them, living mainly in and near nerve tissue such as the spinal cord and eventually the brain.

In sheep the disease is called scrapie; in cows, mad cow disease; and in humans, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.  Initial symptoms begin to develop in cows within 4 to 5 years and become fatal within 8 to 10 years, when their brains turn to mush.  The timing is comparable for the sister diseases of humans and sheep.  It’s almost like will you start to go bananas in a couple of years from eating infected hamburger 4 or5 years ago?  You can’t do anything about 4 or 5 years ago, but you can do something starting now.

So how can they get into the food chain?  They get in through the modern efficient meat processing industry we have in North America where nothing gets thrown away.  Animals such as chickens, pigs and cows are slaughtered in approved slaughterhouses.  The meat is processed and sold to grocery stores.  The “waste” which is nearly all the rest, such as heads, bones, feet, feathers, intestines, etc. gets ground up into a slurry and either sprayed wet, or dried and added to, mixed grains and soybeans to make protein supplements to feed other animals, and especially pet foods. This is how the prions get passed on to new animals; it is in their protein supplemented feed.

Short-lived meat animals such as chickens, turkeys, pigs and cows do not usually live long enough to show symptoms before they are slaughtered. Mad Cow Disease has been found in longer living cows that are raised for breeding.  This is why the USDA vet I was recently talking with in Derby Line, VT was so concerned about the future of our meat industry.  He thinks in a couple of years mad cow will become a major issue in the USA.

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