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Before slaughter, cattle should be
Stunned 18%
Surprised 6%
Scared 0%
Terrified 31%
Mortified 43%

Votes: 16

 Stunned Beef: Dangerous Compassion?

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Aug 27, 2001
Last month, fast food giant McDonald's announced that they would only serve beef that had been slaughtered humanely, which typically involves the cattle being "stunned" with an electrical charge prior to slaughter. The primary reason for this policy change was pressure applied by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA.) The animal rights group is currently lobbying competitor Burger King to adopt the same standards.

But many people are raising questions about the so-called "stunned beef" and whether it is wise for Americans to consume it. Aside from the fact that it makes the animal's death less traumatic, how does the process of "humane slaughtering" affect the taste and (more importantly) the safety of beef products for their human consumers?

And the most controversial question: Do cattle taste better as a result of extremely poor treatment?


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The science of beef taste is a complex thing. The taste of a piece of beef depends primarily on its water holding capacity, muscle color, and pH level. The best-tasting beef (keeping in mind that taste is a relative thing) will have a pH level of approximately 5.5. At pH levels of 5.8 and above, the tenderness and the "keeping quality" of the beef is severely affected. So the aim should be to keep the pH level right around that 5.5 mark.

So the question is: What factors affect the pH level, and how can it best be kept at the optimum level? There are several factors, but the primary cause of high beef pH is a deficiency of lactic acid. Lactic acid production requires an adequate amount of glycogen in the animal's muscles at the time of slaughter; glycogen production is stimulated by the presense of adrenaline that is released in stressful situations or in stressful periods of muscle activity.

Now, what does this mean in plain English? It means that animals that are "humanely slaughtered" do not taste good at all, because they are dealt with in situations where there is hardly any adrenaline flow (and therefore, hardly any glycogen production, and therefore, a pH level that is far too high.) In fact, Dr. Charles Wenzler of the United States Department of Agriculture has gone so far as to describe "stunned beef" as tasting "dreadful."

But it may go further than that. Dr. Wenzler has recently made claims in WorldNetDaily that the process of stunning cattle before slaughter can trigger the production of hormones that can prove damaging to human beings in the long-term. "The irony," Dr. Wenzler claims, "is that if humans eat enough of this stunned beef, they will eventually be reduced to the mental state of the cattle that they are eating, which is a perpetual stupor. In twenty years, you may have an entire generation wandering around aimlessly, putting themselves and others in harm's way. Is this worth risking over the perceived suffering of a cow?" (In fairness, it should be pointed out that the scientific community is not in total agreement with Dr. Wenzler.)

One thing is certain: the hot political topic will be how steakhouses interpret these studies. Tom Jorgenson, owner of the Teton Steakhouse in Jackson Hole, WY, already has his mind made up. "We slaughter our own cattle, and we work them hard," said Jorgenson in a recent interview. Jorgenson contracts with a company in Texas that actually has real cowboys herd the cattle up to Wyoming (with very few rest stops), where they are herded into small pens in dark barns. Jorgenson's kitchen crew then cranks up loud and scary music (music with high treble content and screeching woodwinds tends to frighten the cattle most.) They then charge the pen in full-faces masks, and repeatedly stab the cattle with pocketknives in non-critical locations. They then scream at and chase the cattle into the final holding pen where they are finally slaughtered.

Naturally, none of this makes Jorgenson many friends with PETA, which has held numerous demonstrations outside of his restaurant. Still, the Teton Steakhouse consistently is given awards for "Best Steak in the Midwest", which seems to indicate that the science of beef taste is indeed accurate (at least, it is in Tom Jorgenson's case.) "You can go to Burger King and eat stunned beef," said Jorgenson, "but if you come to my place, you'll eat the meat of a cow that had the Christ scared out of it .. and it will be the best steak you've ever had in your life, too!"

What do you think? Is increased suffering by cattle worth the taste, or should Americans be content to eat lower-quality "stunned beef", despite the alleged health risks?


Is this the only way? (none / 0) (#1)
by jsm on Wed Jun 27th, 2001 at 04:01:42 AM PST
Surely it's possible to stimmulate adrenalin production in other ways ... you know. In Wales when I was a lad, we had a saying "Twll Din Pob Sais", which roughly translates as "A fucked lamb makes a good stew". In the olden days, you used to be able to buy both kinds of lamb and mutton; with or without the farmer's amorous attentions. Sadly, Europe put a stop to that as it was thought to spread foot and mouth disease.

Surely some big burly farmhand could be found to do the honours? Obviously a cow, being somewhat larger than a sheep, would require more foreplay, and this might slow things up uneconomically at the abbattoir, but for Christ's sake come on people! We're putting men on the moon and shooting down Russian missiles with crossbows on skyhooks, but we can't erotically stimulate a heifer in less than ten minutes? Science hasn't failed us yet, and it will solve this problem too.

... the worst tempered and least consistent of the editors
... now also Legal department and general counsel,

Let bush execute them. (none / 0) (#5)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 08:28:54 AM PST
He's a passionate Conservative, you know.

if humans eat enough of this stunned beef, they will eventually be reduced to the mental state of the cattle that they are eating, which is a perpetual stupor

He discovered Americans?!

beating cows to death with baseball bats (5.00 / 1) (#6)
by alprazolam on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 10:00:51 AM PST
should tenderize the meat. theoretically anyway.

Liberal shits (4.00 / 3) (#7)
by nx01 on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 10:04:20 AM PST
Being the above the animals (and just below the angels), we have an absolute God-given right to kill and eat Animals. All animals. Scared, terrified, bloodied, murdered animals. Destroy them. I don't care. They don't suffer or anything--it's not like they have thoughts! They're cows!

Also, not only do we have a holy right, here in America, we have a strong tradition of eating what lies below us. I'm not going to let some liberal "ethics" group tell me how I should eat. That's just one step away from a Marxist state where the government controls everything. Screw that. I'll take and devour whatever lower animal I can get my hands on, whether that's cow, sheep, pig, or car salesman.

If I want to eat a cow that was burned alive, sliced up with a pocketknife, or had holes drilled in it by a gun, I will. It's my right. And if you try and take that from me, you're in for big trouble.

"Every time I look at the X window system, it's so fucking stupid; and part of me feels responsible for the worst parts of it."
-- James Gosling

kind of funny (none / 0) (#11)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 04:13:05 PM PST
how youre so willing to talk about how your bible tells you you can eat what you want, and then you make threats to people. hmm, i dunno, threats arnt very christian like if you ask me...

Are you familiar with the phrase "turn or bur (none / 0) (#12)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 04:56:38 PM PST
Christianity is based wholly on threats. "Worship this dude or else." Why should threats from xtian followers surprise anybody??

Now look here (5.00 / 2) (#13)
by nx01 on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 05:03:45 PM PST
You seem to be an athiest, so you're either a bad citizen or a European. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and just assume you're a bad citizen. America is the New Israel, and we must defend it as such!

My activity is in complete agreement with my faith. It's kind of like when Jesus went in and chased out the moneychangers from the temple. Sometimes, you have to go in and chase out all the evildoers--whether they're thieves, murders, adulters, democrats, or those trying to tell you what to eat. It comes down to a matter of living out your faith. We, as Christians, cannot let the so-called "compassionate athiests" rule this nation! They will turn it into another Sodom, with people treating animals as their equals, and bring down God's wrath!

For that matter, all Christians should be armed. The Church is God's army on the Earth! We cannot be unprepared for the day when he needs us in force. I recommend buying a SKS. Yes, it's a commie gun, but it's a cheap, durable assault rifle :)

"Every time I look at the X window system, it's so fucking stupid; and part of me feels responsible for the worst parts of it."
-- James Gosling

need help? (none / 0) (#17)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Aug 30th, 2001 at 09:11:53 PM PST
Maybe you need to see this guy. You migh have discarnates things on you.

I prefer my beef to be bludgeoned (none / 0) (#8)
by motherfuckin spork on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 11:54:40 AM PST
right after it has been run around a bunch and shot at (but not actually shot - ruins the flavor).

Beef slaughtered right after a thunderstorm usually tastes exquisite - very juicy and tender with excellent flavor on its own - no spices/herbs needed when cooking.

I am not who you think I am.

Define stunned (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 01:15:04 PM PST
If I were a cow led into the slaughterhouse for the first (and last) time, I'd be pretty stunned seeing some guy waiting for me standing there with a chainsaw.

well, americans are perfectly happy eating... (none / 0) (#10)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 04:10:00 PM PST
untested genetically modified foods, why would they care if this was unhealthy?

actually (none / 0) (#14)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 05:39:25 PM PST
actually the new genetically modified foods are very much tested, much more than the OLD genetically modified foods, made by crossing different plants, which nobody complaints about simply because being an old custom it seems "natural". In fact crossing species means you are doing uncontroled essentially random genetical alteration of foods. In the modern way you insert a gene or two, exactly where you want it. At least you know what you did!

But of course you don't care about facts, do you, you frigging anti-scientific pinko agitator ? :)

you want to fight me? (none / 0) (#16)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Aug 29th, 2001 at 08:16:49 PM PST
old crossbreeding modifications are fine with me. they are natural..
giving a tomato the genes from a tuna fish is not natural because no matter how hard they try, the tuna fish will never be able to have children with a tomato.
here is a good site to see how thoroughly tested GE food are
and would you really trust some big corporation to tell you if their product was safe? (can we say tobacco?)

you are correct though i am an anti-scientific pinko agitator.. although id prefer anarchist to pinko....

What about the one doing the eating? (none / 0) (#15)
by elenchos on Mon Aug 27th, 2001 at 11:43:58 PM PST
If I recall em's article on the effects of those super-hot peppers, and how if you consume them they induce endorphins which are analgous to an opium high, then wouldn't pain and suffering on the part of the one eating the beef lead to a heightened sensual experience? Perhaps a whipping, or a 20 mile death march before consuming beef would release such a powerful natural high that any minor effect from stunned beef, or unstunned beef, would hardly matter.

In any case, wouldn't it be fair if the one eating and the one being eaten both suffered equally beforehand? I'm no expert on the science behind all this, nor on the arts of maschocism/epicurianism, so maybe someone can enlighten me. All I know is that when I eat sushi, I really like to O.D. on the wasabi, to the point of causing prolonged pain, just for the rush you get afterwards.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

PETA (3.00 / 2) (#18)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Aug 31st, 2001 at 08:57:21 PM PST
I fully support PETA!

People Eating Tasty Animals

Glycogen is burned during muscle use, not produced (none / 0) (#19)
by botono9 on Wed Sep 5th, 2001 at 07:35:19 AM PST
Glycogen is stored in the muscles and liver and is burned during activity, not produced during activity. From

Glycogen is also produced by and stored in muscle cells; during short periods of strenuous activity, energy is released in the muscles by direct conversion of glycogen to lactic acid.
This slide (Power Point) from Indiana State University shows that exercise causes muscle glycogen synthesis to drop and glycogen degredation to increase.

From Washington State University Athletics:
A positive relationship was found between the relative exercise load and the relative decline in mixed muscle glycogen, the percentage of fast-twitch fibers showing glycogen loss, and the relative cross-sectional area of the vastus lateralis occupied by fast-twitch fibers that showed glycogen loss.
Do your own Google search and find many more. Your article seems to be pretty tongue-in-cheek, but the idea that stress, and the following adrenaline release, would stimulate glycogen production is incorrect, and so the idea that stressed cows make tastier meat because of higher levels of glycogen in the muscle is also incorrect (if glycogen does in fact make meat "tastier").


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