Monday, October 26, 2009

Maybe more than you wanted to consider

Recently I have been enlightened in a few ways of how little protection some of us have, while others are guarded beyond belief. I have also found many agencies and corporations employing people, yet granting them no authority to authorize or approve- anything. Remind me please, why then, do they even have a job?

While considering how important nutrition is in the look, condition, overall health and appearance of an animal and including ourselves, it is amazing how far some companies go in pushing the limits of their own industry boundaries, in the production of their products. Every industry has standards. While some companies easily exceed them, others miserably fail to even reach them.

As consumers, when purchasing their products, we are placing some amount of faith in their compliance to regulations and ability to go above and beyond the minimums allowed in their industry. Bottom line? We buy it because we hope they have done the research and then taken the steps to do everything possible to protect, preserve or maybe enhance the health of whoever is eating what they have produced.

When it comes to feed- hay can be assessed fairly easily. You may look at it before you buy it, as it is loaded for you to take home or when it is delivered and stacked at your place in the feed barn. Some of us aren't home at the time of delivery, but have established a relationship with our supplier and if there is any problems such as mold, the bale can be returned for credit or replaced. You may even know the grower personally and buy directly from them. The last chance you have to look at the hay is just before you cut open the bale and as you feed it.

A bale containing trash may be one that was near the edge of the field. People being the way they are anymore, some of them have no regard for others or problem with littering. It happens and the farmer sometimes has little chance to catch it or prevent it from going through their mowers or baling machinery. Trust me, they don't like having their equipment break down or blades dulled by this trash, any more than we like finding it in a flake of hay at feeding time! And it always seems THAT flake finds its way into the feeder of the horse owned by the pickiest owner who can be especially tough to deal with, anyways.

When shopping for supplements and grain though, there isn't much for anyone to go on. You read the tag on the bag, the list of ingredients and the listed percentages of vitamins, nutrients, fats, proteins, carbohydrates, palatability and other things. You figure the pellets, powders, gels and liquids are produced in a relatively clean environment. At least you hope they are, but unless you are nearby or close enough to go visit the facility- you really have no way of knowing what's really going on. Even then, not all of them host tours or may be willing to show you around.

With human consumption products, the health department has inspectors who routinely go through restaurants and food processing facilities to ensure the cleanliness of the plants. They are looking for violations, but also give tips on ways to help prevent the violations. If there are violations, the offenders are given a written report of what is wrong and a time period in which to correct it. Too many violations and no corrections being made- they shut things down.

But taking it a slightly different route, WHO is checking the feed manufacturing plants? They are making the grains and supplements we feed the animals we may later be butchering for consumption. In the case of dairy cattle, the milk is collected twice daily and processed for distribution. Sure the facilities are checked by health inspectors, the milk is pasteurized to help reduce the chance of contamination, the farmer checks the cows at milking... but the cows are still eating the grains provided by the company the farm owner purchased it from.

I will be posting pictures to go along with all of this, but they are on another computer and cannot be accessed at the moment. Trust me, they are enough to turn the stomach of even the hardiest of our bunch. Especially when you take into consideration the course of the entire process.

That says a lot when you consider how excited horse people can get over a pile of poop in some circumstances! Or how some of us can clean a sheath without using gloves, open an abscess in a hoof and bring instant relief as well as releasing an incredible stench or just plain deal with or DO things that the mere thought of causes others to lose their lunch!

There are also a few other factors to consider in all of this. I will be listing some of them with the pictures. You may be checking a few things off the next grocery list. Don't say I didn't warn you!


  1. Interesting post , so far . I come from a farm family , Diry beef and mixed crops , and it floors me the difference between home raised beef and whart you might get in a store , luckily for me we raise our own , but poultry and pork? we try to find local farmers as well ,because retail variety scares me. I remember reading some horrifying facts about the Dairy industry in the US , but i will leave that for you to post. We are pretty regulated here in Canada, but it seems many things still slip by

  2. Thank you, you've reminded me to go to my dog's food web-site.

    I've always been leery of mass-processed. Always "feel" it after I eat it.

    Yes, I fume about trash on the farm-roadsides. My husband was forever carving $$$$ tractor tires on asshat leavings, as his land was slowly given up to development.. Why do people do that??

    Carry on.
    Careful though.
    (looks around)
    Big Ag is berry big.

  3. FV- my dad grew up on a dairy farm in eastern PA so I sorta know about some of that. Sorta, even though I was only back there once that I remember when I was about 6!

    But there are a number of dairy farms out here, continuously being built around and then eventually run out because of the smell. What? It didn't stink the day you looked at the house??? Hard to buy that one.

    We are buying our own cattle to raise for beef. Of course they will be used for working the horses and training for cutting, which will put good muscling on them too.

    It's just amazing what passes and what doesn't, and who gets caught and who don't.

  4. GL- tell me about it! After not having soda for some time now... Drink one and halfway through get this taste of ICK! What did I like about this junk? Then the yucky tummy to follow... Forget it. Gross.

    I'll stick to juice, tea, coffee and water, thanks. Even the juice is tough to find one without all the added crap. WTH?

  5. This is why I am a vegetarian... That and the cute, little, furry faces!

    If you want to be a vegan, try reading "Skinny Bitch." You may never drink milk again.

    I'm VERY picky about what my animals eat, because the upfront costs of quality feed can prevent a lot of vet bills down the road.

    Our dogs are at the mercy of my husband, but the cats all eat Evo. It's $40 a bag, but it feeds four cats for a month (they eat way less because it's not all corn/fillers). My tabby that had a cancerous tumor and a good section of his intestine removed appears to be cancer free two years later (I was told it was a matter of months). He was switched to Evo immediately following the surgery.

    I'm even more psychotic about my horse. It took me a month of internet research to decide between Platinum Performance and Cosequin! I went with Cosequin because the ingredients are guaranteed, it is manufactured here in the U.S., and I am afraid of over-supplementing so I want to limit supplements to ONLY the ingredient that I think is needed, without a lot of other stuff added.

    When I wanted a flaxseed supplement, I thought I was going to have to order flaxseed oil from Ireland, because it was the only produce that looked acceptable to me (that's how insane I am)! I finally found a stabilized, ground flax with calcium added (to balance the phosphorus), and I am very happy with the results.

    It's shocking what is found in human and animal food in this country, and it all revolves around enticing us to eat the cheapest crap that can be manufacture in order to maximize profits.

    Two other great books are "The Omnivore's Dilemma" (especially the chapter on corn) and "Food Politics."

  6. NHM- I'm not sure I want to go down the route of going vegan, but I can tell you there is a definate difference in the meat you get at the grocery store and that you get raised on a smaller scale and can buy directly at the processing plant. BIG difference. In the taste and the texture.

    There are things I do like to eat. Some that others may not agree with and some that others may wish to join me in.

    As far as the furry faces, I do not like people naming them T-bone, Lamb Chop, Hammy or Bacon since that is what they will some day become. That is just a daily dose of mental cruelty in my book. To me it's like naming a child something which projects a lowered self esteem and no self confidence. Setting them up to fail in life.

  7. C&J,

    Back when I ate meat, I had locally grown meat and yes, there is absolutely a difference! I've been a vegetarian off and on for about 20 years (going on about 10 years solid now).

    I'm not vegan, I tried, and gave up after 6 weeks because I wanted cheese (I love cheese). Also, there were some weird health effects.

    I am mostly a vegetarian because my personal philosophy is that I really have no business eating anything I don't have the nerve to kill myself. I feel it's kind of gutless to buy pretty pink meat in the grocery store and not have to think about where it came from. I guess if I was starving, I might work up the nerve, but I'm not, so that's a luxury I have. That's just how I view it, and I know not everyone agrees. I have no problem ripping carrots out of the ground, so those are on the menu!

    It's funny because my husband is the biggest meat eater I've ever met! He BBQs almost daily, even throughout the winter (he has this weird BBQ that looks like a giant funerary urn). He has learned to eat a lot of veggie stuff though. Tonight we are having chili cheese dogs with Smartdogs and Amy's veggie chili. The newer veggie stuff is WAY better than what you could get a few years back.

  8. Ok I've been debating if I was going to get involved in this discussion or not. I totally disagree with some of this. I've seen the pictures and yes they are ugly.

    I have a BS (hee hee) in Animal Science w/Pre-Vet minor. I worked in a processing plant. I've worked on hog farms, plant (ie..gourds) farms and both beef and milk cattle.

    I grew up in a family that faced reality. "Farm" animals are raised for consumption. Yes there are shitty ranchers and farmers out there. I don't disagree with that. I've argued with PETA people and anti-slaughter people. My best friend regrets sending her elder horse to an auction. It was always our plan to do exactly that with our old guy. That changed when my folks bought a farm and now have the acreage to bury him.

    I've seen what been "run through" under McDonald's name. Met Dave Thomas on a plant walk through. I've worked with Krogers, Arbys etc.

    I've gone to funerals where someone fell into the hog throughs, I've wenched horse out of honey pits..I've rolled dumb dairy cattle who've cast themselves on the friggin water trough.

    It's a known fact that hogs are omnivores. They will eat whatever they can. Carcass, fresh meat whatever. It's also been proven that all ruminants species have scavenaged carcasses.

    What is the point of this ramble. People live in this stupid little bubble. Feed is BUSINESS. You have large companies like Cargill, ADM and Nutrena. You have the little places that are sometimes better (once you see the'll see they are sometimes WORSE). If they can get away with it they will. Does it really matter that there is a rat carcass in the cattle feed? Did you know that the source of urea in cattle feed is from chicken shit? Did you know they let the carcass of the chicken's decompose and feed them back to cattle, chicken, hogs and sheep? Did you also know the 1st known case of Mad Cow in the US was traced back to Dairy cattle imported from Canada?

    Until the 80's horse was allowed in Dog Food. No longer..thanks to the emotional terrorism of PETA. In the beef market..calf blood is in high demand from the Pharmacuetical companies b/c it's most like human blood. They also want all the warts off the animals for research. Pacific Rim companies have HUGE goat farms where they inject the anti-bodies wait 3 wks and then almost bleed the goat out for the new anitbodies. (My friend worked there for years..they pay extremely well) They would either abort the kids or wait for them to be born and then dump them to the Dog food man or just let them die.

    Our world is made of this. It's Capitalism at it's best. Horse are "livestock". We get Ag exemptions for them, can't have them with in city limits. As much as we make them pets they aren't. Look at regumate..look at all the bull we go thru to make a mare come into heat out of season. Yet we are going to complain b/c a feed mill is not sanitary? Well duh!!! When was the last time any of you REALLY walked thru a feed mill? it's been about 10 years for me and it was one of the better companies. But sanitary..not to what you'd think. It's the nature of the beast.

  9. Continuation of Rant :
    I think the bigger issue is all extra crap in feed (meaning vits/mins etc) How many of us have argued until we are blue in the face about over feeding.

    example: My Mom was at her barn. Very small and the BO goes out of his way to keep our pig QH happy. Well last year he bought extra grass hay round bale b/c QH was obese on Alfalfa. This last week. My Mom was besides herself b/c there was no bedding in QH's stall. Turns out BO couldn't find shavings so bought corn/hay shucks. QH was EATING his bedding!!!! 27 yr old Piggy!!

    Does he need grain? HELL NO!! Taken my Mom 21 yrs to figure that out. Finally stopped graining him. What about that issue.. Strategy isn't the best feed..Senior isn't perfect. Sweet feed will kill a new horse owner who stalls all day and then wonders why the horse throws them into a wall (ie..happened to me!!!)...I think thats more the issue then...rat poop, bugs..etc. All that is sanatized in the process due to the heat. (Or should be) ok..I think rant is over..but maybe not.

  10. Eating my chili cheese "dog" as I type...

    The flip side of capitalism at its best means that I have the luxury of choosing what I eat. I am a marketing target, I have no doubt.

    Not trying to start a big veggie/slaughter/PETA discussion here. As I noted, it's my personal philosophy. Your horses are livestock, mine are not. Simple.

    My horse gets no grain. His pelleted hay goes through some heating process, so probably a little bit of rat shit won't kill him. That's not the kind of thing I stress over, I'm sure there were unsavory things in my veggie dogs as well.

    But after switching my cats from a standard BIG NAME cat food brand (in fact, the "premium" version of said un-named brand)to Evo, I can guarantee there is a difference. Within 2-3 weeks they ate way less, yet all looked like little Supercats with muscles and shine never seen before. It was creepy, to be quite honest.

    I'm sure the same comparisons could be made between brands of any product (be it for humans, cows, horses, what have you). So despite the fact that all companies are out to make money and I have no delusions in that regard, HOW they choose to make their money is an individual/corporate choice. And I don't believe that capitalism and/or business success requires that the consumer be suckered into accepting that crap is the standard to which we should aspire.

    Done rambling now... I do have a tendency to carry on.

    Wow, C&J, what's going to happen when you actually post what you are planning to post?

  11. NHM: Busting at the chili "dog" comment. Love it!!! Watching a HUGE spider run across the floor. It's the size of a golf ball.

    I totally respect what you said and say. In my neck of the woods people are incredibly narrow minded (maybe that's me also). I think it's great that you actually research and as I was reading your 1st post I almost didn't post.

  12. Wow.

    Good discussion.

    Last night my mom had us over for dinner - my best friend and her mom (who is a friend of MY mom's) are visiting - and we got these horrible "filet mignon" hockey pucks from Kroger. They are individually packaged, and "may contain up to 15% sodium solution." The texture was WRONG, and they tasted kind of like cheap hot dogs. It creeped me out, seeing them packaged like that, all uniform and shit.

    I wrestle with the meat issue. C3D, you brought up some awesome information that's made me think even more. I do tend to steer (steer, ha ha) clear of Tyson and other Big Meat companies, but it's REALLY HARD in this country to just go to the regular grocery and find pork, beef & chicken raised in a way that I find more palatable. Maybe it SHOULD be that hard. After all, it's STILL easier to find a pasture pork producer and small processor than it is to go hunt, kill and butcher it yourself.

    And again, just because a place is small doesn't mean it's better than a larger company that at least must adhere to certain standards, by law. Around here, people get all sentimental about all things Amish, but DAMN, they run the nastiest puppy mills and veal farms!! (BTW my mother in law is still freaked out that she ate pot roast made from a steer she once petted on her sister's little farm, and yet will ALWAYS order veal in an Italian restaurant. WTF WTF WTF. She doesn't see anything wrong with her insistent denial.)

    Regarding cleanliness and such: over-processed food is really bad for us. I eat very little of it if I can help it, and even though I'm FAT, all my "numbers" (cholesterol, lipids, blood sugar) are well within normal. yay me.
    Also, overly sanitized everything is bad for us, too. I've got Crohn's disease, an autoimmune thing that really wasn't seen much in earlier, less-processed, less-sanitized times. Crohn's and colitis in my dad's family seem to begin with my great-grandfather, who self-medicated with a big jug of mineral oil he got from the tractor fuel guy and lived to be in his mid-80s. On a farm, amidst lots of livestock. He did OK, whereas subsequent generations (aunts, uncles, cousins, me... I can't wait for someone to map this) have gone thru endless rounds of steroids, immunosuppressants, exotic antibiotics and various other stuff. Me, I ended up losing my colon (still rollin'). Then again I spent a lot of years hanging out in horse barns beforehand, not washing my hands etc. Who knows.

    My point is, this very prevalent issue in my family didn't BECOME prevalent until the modern era....

    IC that I feed my dog Purina, because after all, dogs eat ROTTEN DEAD THINGS every chance they get (and roll in them too), so I don't feel bad. She's 10 and in excellent weight and health, with gorgeous teeth. She gets plenty of table scraps, too...

    The cat gets Hairball Control Purina, and does very well. He's got the most amazing long glossy mat-free black fur. Unless your pet has an issue, I don't see a problem with most commercial foods, so long as you don't have toxic Chinese shit in there!!

    (Pedigree makes my dog fart. REALLY stinky.)

  13. As for handling really gross body stuff for the sake of those you love, heck... when you have babies, POOP becomes a daily detailed talking point.

    My dad was raised on a farm, my mom was a nurse, my sister was a vet tech for a few years, and I had a health issue that included lots of gross stuff, so stinky gooey icky body stuff was always dinnertime conversation at our house. I have little patience with people who are squeamish about that.

    I mean, get squeamish about mishandled nuclear waste, unmanaged CAFO lagoons, children getting Guinea Worms, and dumbasses who dump paint thinner down the drain to go to your friendly neighborhood municipal water treatment plant!!!!

    Michael Pollan is coming to our campus next semester. I like his rules about Good Food, which includes "Don't ever eat anything which won't eventually rot."

  14. Processed feeds for cousin worked at a pellet mill. the worst ugly moldy grain went into the pellets so the humans couldn't see it. Nopem, I feed hay and grain I can see, instead of the ground up whatever stuff.

    I figure highly processed usually means they're trying to hide the ingredients!

  15. NHM-
    I'm VERY picky about what my animals eat, because the upfront costs of quality feed can prevent a lot of vet bills down the road.

    Well said! Yet some still go with the "Cheaper price so I can buy more" theory of feed research. Like everything else- you end up shelling out more cash in the end to fix the problem that could have been prevented all along.

    CP- Pedigree made my boxer fart so bad after one meal of it, she had to stay outside until it all cleared her system. Poor girl never understood why.

    Kestrel- we too, feed hay. Quality hay for the roughage they need. Supplements on an as needed basis. For the most part though, they get along just fine without. Extra hay? Not a problem.

    In HS we did go across town to tour one of the hay pellet mills. I'm sure it is like you say though, the nice stuff goes through with the tour groups watching. Everyone leaves- no telling what happens next?

    Sad that everything has come to that. Really sucks actually!

  16. C&J,

    My horse gets hay as well. The pelleted feed is to mix his supplements with. Plus, I like giving him a special meal. I have to soak the pellets for him after a couple of minor chokes, so I can serve his hay soup warm or cold. Maybe I should take a drive past where his pellets are made. It is local.


    I'm a veggie, but all spiders must die! I would have a freakin' heart attack if a saw a spider the size of a golf ball! My husband knows that if I shriek, there is a spider to be disposed of. Rats and snakes are fine, spiders NOT!

  17. NHM: My Husband is out of town and the dog slept through it. So it got safely to the corner.