How does animal nutrition affect our health?
If the saying is true that we humans are what we eat, then it is also true that we are what animals eat. Livestock nowadays look exactly the same as their ancestors, but from a biochemical point of view, their meat is completely different. Changes in feed cause changes in meat quality, so this can affect human health. Thus, the quality of feed is linked to human health.
It is very difficult nowadays to feed livestock exclusively with fodder. Pastures are rare, and the human population is growing from year to year. This way of allowing livestock to return to pasture and feed only on fodder is almost impossible today. Between the early and mid-1940s, American farmers found that the time the cattle reached the desired weight could be shortened if the cattle’s diet was changed, namely that instead of grazing, corn fodder and various supplements began to be laid.
Although this has increased productivity, it has also increased the cost of treatment for animals and also for humans. Cattle fed exclusively on pasture have a neutral pH in the gastrointestinal tract, close to 7, and those cattle fed on maize feed have a pH between 5.0 and 6.5, which leads to acidosis. This, in turn, causes the good and beneficial intestinal microflora to turn into pathogenic.
Untreated acidosis causes a decrease in appetite, an inability to digest cellulosic components from individual feeds, and a higher rate of infection.
A feed-based diet induces the development of acidosis in cattle, which in turn causes an increase in the number of E. coli bacteria in meat as well, which can affect human health. In the article, “Grass Fed versus Grain Fed: You are What Your Food Eats,” July 16, 2012, Bill Kiernanov, Director of Global AgInvesting Research & Insight, states “Corn in cattle feed dangerously raises acid levels in cow stomach, causing acidosis . This requires treatment with various drugs and antibiotics, thus setting first-class conditions for the growth of E. coli bacteria in the cow’s stomach. “
The concentration of E. coli bacteria is 315 times higher in the offal of livestock fed with feed than in those grazing on pastures. This increased the amount of food contaminated with the E. Coli bacterium, leading to an outbreak of many serious diseases, permanent organ damage and even death.
It should be noted that the concentration of E. coli bacteria is a measure of the general health status of the animal intestine. At high concentrations of E. coli bacteria, the concentrations of other pathogenic bacterial species, such as salmonella and listeria, may also be elevated, requiring greater use of antibiotics to treat livestock.
Over time, these bacteria became resistant to antibiotics in preventing cattle infections. This increased the bacterial contamination of beef, which in turn led to many food poisonings in humans and made it difficult to treat such diseases. Thus, animal infections have had and are having very serious effects on meat quality and, consequently, on human health. In cattle fed only on fodder, there is a huge lack of important antioxidants that improve the quality of meat.
The Canadian Ministry states that in order to improve the immunity of cattle and reduce respiratory infections, it is necessary to add a higher concentration of vitamin E, as this also improves the quality, durability and color of the meat.
The graph below shows that despite the addition of feed, the concentration of vitamin E is still lower in animals fed with feed, in contrast to those fed exclusively on pastures. In addition, vitamin E is supplemented with vitamin C, which has a synergistic effect on meat quality.
From a market point of view, perhaps the most important and problematic dietary difference between feed and pasture is the concentration of fatty acids in beef. People were accustomed to eating meat with omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a ratio close to 1: 1. Today’s modern diet has this ratio of omega-6: omega-3 completely different, ranging from 5: 1 to 20: 1. There has been a major deterioration in the fatty acid ratio over the last century.
Dr. Maurice Boland, director of Alltech, explains that omega-3 is important for children’s ability to learn, it is useful for children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. In addition, omega-3 DHA improves adult health, reduces the risk of developing heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and reduces depression. Omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA, are the most essential for human health.
In addition to feed, anchovies and pelagic fish also have a high content of omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, due to wild catches of pelagic fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, their levels have been declining for the past three decades.
One of the alternatives for long-term success is algae, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Microalgae are successfully used for the diet of pigs and poultry, for more enriched meat with omega-3 fats. In the study “Feeding with DHA omega-3 fatty acids can affect health and reproduction”, where the test product was evaluated, cows were divided into two groups, 84 days. The first group received the same amount of maize meal without the test product, and the second group of dairy cows received the Algae STM test product in addition to maize starch. The results were as follows: live weight of the second group was higher than the first group, milk protein, lactose, urea and somatic cell counts in milk remained unchanged, milk volume was higher in the second group, while milk fat content was lower .
For dairy farms, this means about 420 liters more milk per cow per year, through the use of algae supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
However, this is not the only advantage of using algae supplements. Dr. Boland adds that studies have shown that using algae in lactating cows improves the uterine epithelium and thus ensures a higher pregnancy rate.
The best thing is that algae-based supplements are good for human health, because through milk and meat, we get more omega-3 fatty acids. Such beef can thus be compared to that of beef fed on pastures.
While these results are described in just a few minutes and in a few hundred words, these years of research have cost millions of dollars. The good news is that progress has been made in all areas. It will take some time, but we can look forward to improving health care in livestock farming and the quality of the meat diet, thus contributing to a healthier, greener planet and sustainable development.