I have never been a watcher of Oprah’s TV show, but I have always been impressed by how much she can push the needle one way or the other.  Therefore, when I heard that her program recently showed the inner workings of a Cargill slaughterhouse, it caught my attention.  I knew her name was big enough that even the meat giant couldn’t push her aside.  The footage, featuring reporter Lisa Ling, shows a cow’s progress from a feedlot to its last stop.  Some of the footage is pretty shocking, especially considering they don’t show the killing process (a four-inch bolt shot into the animal’s head).  Watch the video here.

A few thoughts:

  • The heifers gain 3 pounds a day over 200 days in the fattening process – loading up on bio-engineered corn, or “energy,” as the rancher notes. 
  • 4,500 head of cattle are “harvested” each day at this one plant.  That’s over 3 per minute for a full 24 hours at this one site.
  • How can Cargill really say with a straight face that these cows are being killed with dignity?  Anything involving a conveyor belt kind of makes that point less credible.
  • The assembly line culture is pretty astonishing – those cows are sliced and diced in a flash.  No wonder local farmers can’t compete with this machine.

Now I am pretty biased against Cargill due to what I have read as well as seen in movie like Food, Inc.  And of course, this was very much a PR effort by Cargill, so who’s to say what happens when the cameras are not around.  I remain very wary of what they are doing behind the scenes – to the meat and their competition.

What are your thoughts?  Did you know where your ground beef comes from?  Has your opinion of eating beef been affected at all?  Talk to me, readers.

H/t to GOOD for the top picture.

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9 Responses

  1. Belinda @zomppa

    Wow. Thank you so much for sharing. The video was pretty fascinating, and the video certainly make Cargill look pretty good. I don’t doubt the workers really believe that they are doing the best for animals in a factory setting. Interesting that not they don’t really show much about the conditions of the feedlots, what the cows are fed, how they treated when sick….

  2. JT

    I agree about the feedlots – artificially bulking up the animals is not good for them or us.

    I disagree about the workers – I don’t think they care about the animals at all. Business is business. Don’t take everything you see at face value.

    Cargill is very protective of its image, and b/c it is a private company, doesn’t have to answer a lot of questions about its business practices, some of which have been shady (see Food, Inc). This video was a good step in shedding more light on this process, but there is much more out there.

  3. Sarah Lynn

    Ohgod. Thanks for posting the link to this video. It only confirms everything I feared. I have been a vegetarian for years and will continue this lifestyle forever. I am so sickened right now, but grateful that someone as powerful as Oprah exposed factory farming for what it is: dreadful.

  4. Cynthia

    Watched the video, and it was just about what I expected. I’m a big meat eater, and that hasn’t changed at all. It a bolt to the brain really any worse than Grandma chopping the head off the Sunday dinner chicken 50 years ago? Not really. I like that they use as much as they can so little goes to waste.

  5. LC

    I agree that the video is sad to watch, however, just because I stop eating meat doesn’t mean they will stop the practice, so whats the point in becoming a vegetarian?

  6. frwc

    I know a lot of people who work on feedlots and packers. In order to spend your whole day with animals, often outdoors and with lower pay than the “town” job, you have to like animals. The folks who do the best jobs are are retained by the farm owners are the ones who care to go the extra mile observing for comfort, making sure feed and water is there, checking for illness. If you get a chance, talk to someone who actually works in these large farms.

  7. Jason Holloway

    It really is quite marvel of industrial engineering though. The whole process from start to finish…is amazing. I don’t understand the concern for the cows. They’re cows. We eat them. To eat them we have to kill them. I like the idea of eating wholesome food, so I like the idea that the cows are fed properly and aren’t diseased when slaughtered, but that’s for my own benefit, not for the cows. I didn’t get a chance to see Food, Inc. What did that documentary reveal that would make me form a bad impression of Cargill?

  8. Aysha

    What else did you expect? As a daughter and sister of men who have made their business out of abattoirs in the UK and Europe I speak from someone who has watched stuff like this happen since I was a child. The human observer gets more frightened by the gun than the cow does. They really do not feel a thing and are completely calm and unaware right up to the killing moment. The vast majority of men I’ve seen working at these abattoirs have all cared for these animals. If you mistreat them or do not handle them with care then you are given the sack. It’s just not good for business!

    Also, the assembly line is pretty much a rule of thumb for all abattoirs since the late 70s. It makes things more hygienic and efficient.


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