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Beef Recall Math Test

Written by PETA | August 9, 2010
Jennifer Dickert / CC by 2.0
Ground Beef

On Friday, Valley Meat Co. of Modesto, California, recalled approximately 1 million pounds of ground beef because of possible E. coli contamination. Frightening? Yes. Shocking? Not if you take a look at the numbers.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a typical steer will yield about 450 pounds of edible meat. Let’s do a little math:

1 million pounds of ground beef ÷ 450 pounds per cow = approximately 2,222 cows

Also according to the USDA, cattle are usually slaughtered when they are around 2 years old. According to a New York Times article from 2008, a cow who is raised for beef can produce about 14.6 tons of manure each year.

14.6 tons of manure per year × 2 years = 29.2 tons of manure in a lifetime

29.2 tons of manure × 2,222 cows = 64,882 tons of manure

Take a minute and process that—64,882 tons of waste! All of it carrying E. coli, a fecal bacteria. It seems inevitable that some of this nastiness would end up in the food supply at some point, doesn’t it? Factory farming and the microorganisms it breeds are deadly to humans and animals, so how about reducing the waste by going vegan?

Written by Shawna Flavell

Commenting is closed.
  • ex - farmhand says:

    I have worked forwith small dairy and beef farms. Neither of which put manure into holding tanks. In the case of the dairy farm the manure was loaded onto a trailer and spread on fields BEFORE it is planted so that the manure is not all over the harvested grain. In the case of the beef farm the cows just defecated in the pasture which just nourished the grass . In my experience the only thing manure does is nourish new plant growth but unfortunately yes it does stink… but then again so does our waste. which is also on the larger scale transfered to large holding tanks…

  • Shawna Flavell says:

    C You are right that smaller farms tend to have better practices than factory farms. Unfortunately the majority of animals raised for slaughter are raised on factory farms. Because these animals are raised and slaughtered en masse there are far more of them than there would be if farmed animals were simply left alone. More animals create more manure. Maybe there will always be people who eat meat and other animalderived products. Who knows? But as individuals we can make the choice to go vegan and help reduce the demand for animal flesh. The bit about field workers is something that I’d never considered before and it’s interesting. Any chance that you have a source for that?

  • C says:

    Alright Shawna I’ll give you that one about lagoons. Smaller farms have a tendency towards redistributing fecal matter though. As for how much waste these cows produce the average lifespan for cows when not intended for slaughter can be around 15 years. 14.6 x 15 x 2222 486618 tons of manure. All that waste would just end up in the lagoons too. Even in the unlikely event of the whole world going vegan something would have to be done with all of the animals that once were food. As for E. Coli infested veggies that isn’t just when those lagoons spill over. Workers who hand pick food have little access to bathrooms in the fields. Where do you think they do their business?

  • Jordan says:

    I can tell you where they put all that waste. In concrete poop ponds filled with all sorts of nasty piss and shit. that is that wonderful aroma when you drive by a feedlot. God meat is gross.

  • Ced says:

    The math is misleading this assumes all 2222 cows are fully infected and contagious. It was probably 1 cow and they had to recall to be sure. p

  • su says:

    People who have been eating meat have become so insensitive to the plights of other living beings around them I doubt any of these facts will actually affect them!

  • [email protected] says:

    It just saddens me that all of these animals lived wretched lives and died for nothing. What a waste of life. It just seems to be the sickest possible ending no pun intended….

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    As a biker who has been all over the United States on a motorcycle I have seen many of these enormous cattle feedlots and nearby that incredibly nauseous waste lagoon that always accompanies them. The stench neary knocks me off the bike. I also see a lot of animal transport trailers taking victims to slaughter. On one unforgettable trip my husband and I were on our Valkerie stopped in a traffic jam in a state where it is legal for motorcycles to share lanes with larger vechicles. We were in the middle of two large semi trucks hauling animals to their doom. The one on the left was carrying cattle I could hear them bawling above the traffic the other was stuffed with pigs many of whom had poked their snouts through the air vents in an effort to get some fresh air. Some were looking out at me. The pigs were so close I reached out and touched the snouts of those that were eye level with me… I wish I had been able to get off the bike and root around in our tbag for our camera to take photos of this but it would have been too dangerous to do so.

  • Shawna Flavell says:

    Azami E. coli is a kind of fecal bacteria that lives in the waste and lower intestines of all animals. The only reason why plants become contaminated with E. coli is because they become coated with fecal matter. This happens when factoryfarm manure “lagoons” overflow onto farmland or into bodies of water that are used to water crops. Also a vegan diet is not nearly as wasteful as one that includes meat. Check out the NYT article that I reference on the blog and you’ll learn that according to Rosamond Naylor an associate professor of economics at Stanford University about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same number of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grainfed beef raised in the U.S. httpwww.nytimes.com20080127weekinreview27bittman.html

  • Shawna Flavell says:

    C Actually much of that waste is held in manure “lagoons” which pollute streams and groundwater.

  • C says:

    64882 tons of manure much of which will go on to be used as fertilizer in fields that grow fruit and vegetables. You know it’s only the same thing farmers have been doing for centuries.

  • Pintu says:

    nice one from PETA again

  • Azami says:

    You aren’t exactly reducing a whole lot more WASTE when switching to vegan. factory farms generate much greenhouse gasses so does industrial scale agriculture. Unless it’s organic equivalent of free range it consumes lots of fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides and water. What isn’t taken up by the plant leeches into rivers and creates all those dead zones in larger bodies of water. There isn’t a choice without consequence. the production of the chemicals used in agriculture were likely generated in a plant that burned fossil fuels to produce electricity. And E. Coli hits plant food too so you aren’t exactly safe as a vegan either.

  • Tony Agee says:

    Just so you know this sort of article has far more impact on me than the moralizing stuff. I’m all for treating animals ethically but I don’t see that one can rationally construct an ethics which completely precludes the death of ANY animals. But its perfectly legitimate to point out that the practice of eating meat has negative impacts on humans.

  • MH says:

    Nah I’ll just continue to get my ground beef from a place where the cows are fed their natural dietsfresh grass. No e. coli there.