#pluckEZchicken, Squabbling Farmers, and Zilmax

I’ve been pretty busy this past week packing and whatnot but I wanted to muse over a few things that have been consuming my thoughts lately. 
First off is the whole pluckEZchicken movement. I think it’s a great thing that this was brought to light and producers stood up for themselves and their production practices. What’s grinding my gears about this is the division in producers. On almost every blog, tweet, Facebook status, and smoke signal regarding the subject, you can bet your firstborn that two producers from either side of the fence will be bickering over who’s right. They aren’t always all out fights, but in almost every discussion there seems to be some underlying tones of condescension. Neither side will give and admit that there are merits to both sides of the arguments. I’m as guilty as the next guy when it comes to this, but I wonder what it does for consumer confidence and public perception? Could somebody come in and see these comments and still leave without their preconceived notions? I don’t think so. It might be time the industry started promoting meat as a whole. If the consumer wants natural, organic, or conventional protein, they will find it. When we start promoting our product as better than our neighbours because we use or don’t use antibiotics, we are just as guilty as Panera Bread for using fear based marketing. Now I realize it is probably more complicated than this, but those are my thoughts. 
Next is Zilmax. God I hate Zilmax. When I saw that Tyson will no longer be accepting Zilmax cattle I danced, and it was a happy dance. When I first encountered Zilmax a few years ago I didn’t notice any specific health problems with it, but after 7 or 10 days the cattle started looking different. Their barrels would grow and they’d almost look unnatural. You’d see these fine-boned, skinny legged heifers with the muscling of a 1500 pound steer. When you start changing cattle like that, it’s bad news. Over the past two years, the health problems have become a lot more obvious to me. I haven’t seen the soreness (we use A LOT of wood shavings) but the lethargy is definitely there. The more prevalent problem (in my opinion) are the AIPs. You can guarantee when a pen of cattle goes on Zilmax, the incidence of AIPs will take a pretty significant jump. With cattle not on this beta antagonist, the pen riders and doctors have a pretty good shot at saving and salvaging an AIP. With Zilmax that’s not always the case. They seem to be a lot more severe and treatment failures and non responsive cattle are a lot more common. So what gets me is, why has it taken until now for this to happen? How could we knowingly feed something that does this? I understand that it puts a lot of pounds of beef on an animal, but with the public spotlight on animal welfare and production practices, you would think its removal would be justified. I also wonder, how much the consumers know about beta antagonists? If they knew how the animal was physically changed, I wonder whether it would be as hot a topic as antibiotics?
Anyway, those are my random thoughts for the evening. Have a good one folks. 


6 thoughts on “#pluckEZchicken, Squabbling Farmers, and Zilmax

  1. Gary

    I just learned about beta agonists (zilmax) yesterday. The reason it was used is because big pharmaceutical companies (Merck) convince ranchers that it is good for the environment and for their wallets. After all more lbs. of beef per animal so you don’t need as many total animals so it is more efficient = less land=less water= less feed =less waste…etc. and that gives the rancher all he or she needs to justify it to their conscience. These kind of companies use the same arguments in dairy for rBST (Elanco) What rancher or dairymen that you know that then tries to lower the amount of animals on his or her farm when they start using these products. The gods of science have spoken and all farmers must obey without question.

    1. AndrewEatsCows Post author

      I’ve been privy to some industry gossip since I wrote that about how Zilmax came in and the reasons they’re pulling it. Remember this is gossip I’ve heard (although from a reputable source)so don’t take it as gospel.

      First, producers were not approached initially, Merck went to the packers first to get them to agree to slaughtering zimpaterol cattle, them they went to the producers. A few months ago when they were looking at pulling Zilmax, they couldn’t due to fear of a lawsuit from the drug company. Second rumour is this has nothing to do with lameness issues, but a hidden agenda and pseudoscientific research done by a grad student supervised by a well known (and somewhat un-reputable, in my opinion) animal behaviour specialist. My friend wouldn’t elaborate but the implication was this grad student has Tyson by the balls, whether or not she is right. Although its good to see Zilmax going, I don’t think it should be done by a grad student with a hidden agenda. It should be based on something tangible, like science.

  2. Gary

    It doesn’t matter who they went to first they still had to convince the rancher to use it and the argument they use is the one I stated and it is on their website. You saw the results yourself from its use and you did not need science to tell you first that it was not good.

    1. AndrewEatsCows Post author

      And by going to the packers first they created the basis for a lawsuit. They knew how bad it fucks them up. I wouldn’t be surprised if that the reason why no one else had jumped on board.

  3. Gary

    Well I would really be surprised if you get the scientific study because who would fund it? Merck? Ha Ha maybe when the sun comes up in the west. If a company like Merck would do something like that then I would hope you would never use their products again. After all they may come after you or me someday.


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