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From the News Archives...

Irradiate or Pasture-ize?

On July 19th, 2002, ConAgra Foods Inc. recalled 19 million pounds of ground beef that could be contaminated with the deadly form of E. coli bacteria. To date, at least 16 people have become ill from the meat.

The National Cattleman's Beef Association recommends preventing similar outbreaks by irradiating meat. (Irradiation uses electrons or gamma rays to sanitize the meat.) New research suggests a more natural cure: keep the cows on grass. When cattle are fattened on their natural grass diet, they have far fewer E. coli. Furthermore, the small amount they do have is much less likely to survive the acidity of our digestive tracts. (See charts below.)

The reason? Cornell University researchers have discovered that grassfed cows have a less acidic digestive tract than grainfed cows, so their E. coli does not have a chance to become acclimated to an acid environment. If we should ingest E. coli from a grassfed animal, our digestive juices would destroy 99.99 percent of them.

graph

E coli from grainfed animals is far more likely to survive.

Russell, J. B., F. Diez-Gonzalez, and G. N. Jarvis. "Potential Effect of Cattle Diets on the Transmission of Pathogenic Escherichia Coli to Humans" Microbes Infect 2, no. 1 (2000): 45-53.

 

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