Temple Grandin on Additives in Cattle Feed

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Temple Grandin talks about how cattle feed additives, like popular weight-gaining supplements, are changing cattle behavior, health, and the meat we eat.

American beef cattle have been exhibiting some strange behavior lately. Some scientists are blaming a type of feed additive called beta-agonists. These drugs, normally used to treat asthma in humans, are now popularly used to promote weight-gain in cattle, especially since the price of grain in the US began to rise.

One of those concerned scientists is Temple Grandin, Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University and leading livestock industry consultant. “I’ve been in cattle in 40 years and these problems never appeared before beta-agonists were introduced,” she says.

Grandin explained that while not all cattle seems to be affected by the drug, the ones that are walk with their heads down. Other symptoms include a stiff gait, foot soreness and reluctance to walk. "These animals are in pain and that has to stop," she says. The problem is bad enough that she believes it renders her work to make slaughter plants more humane moot. One of the more drastic incidents that some attribute to beta-agonists recently occurred at a Tyson Foods plant, when 21 head of cattle had their hooves fall off.

While the drugs were approved for use in cattle by the FDA and pose no safety risk to humans, Grandin does say it makes the meat tougher.