In Melbourne, a city full of food and obsessed by coffee, I cook, I eat, I share the good news and the bad. essjay eats

So…where did feedlots come from?

I was listening to the Food Show with Sheila Dillon on BBC Radio 4 the other day. It’s a great podcast (links below) and I found her program about the history of the burger fascinating, with particular relevance to some of the debate that is happening in Australia right now.

“The burger is the meal, that has done more than any other in the last half century, to shape our attitudes to what was once amongst the most precious and rare of things … meat . Now meat, for many of us has become a commodity that costs so little that most of us forget … that a living animal, and an agricultural system was ever involved in the process”. – Sheila Dillon.

Back in the 1890s in the American midwest a thing called the “burger” appeared. Chicago became the centre of the beef industry in the US, they had refrigerated transport so could centralise slaughterhouses and meat production. They had a lot of scraps left over, and the burger used left over trimmings from prime beef cuts, mixed in with pork fat, to produce a flavourful cheap “protein” for the masses.

But the beef lobby and the pig lobby were fighting for the dominance of their meat in the hearts and minds and wallets of Americans. The beef lobby won and pork fat was banned in beef patties.

But …

Cows raised on pasture don’t naturally turn to fat (like pigs do) – unless you feed them an unnaturally rich feed, like grain.

And hey, if cows don’t need pasture to get nice an fat, why not just clump em all together in biiiig “paddocks” of dirt and feed ’em grain.

There’s ya feedlot! And your 100% pure beef labelling. Which you will recognise on McD’s hamburgers today.

The Food Program – BBC Radio 4


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