Assignment on Biology

The paper should be written on the topic ( Anti-biotic abuse in Beef industry)I have attached word documents as well as power points slides. . The pp Power Steer document is the article which you should be referencing to write the entire paper. The Science Paper is the main question which is the guidelines to write the paper. You have to follow this word document to write the paper. The powerpoint slides are chapters power point slides, which you can reference when writing paper. The other word document paper biofuel is also just an article , just to see it. If any confusion , please ask and i can answer the questions.


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Power Steer
MICHAEL POLLAN / NY Times 3-21-02
Garden City, Kan., missed out on the suburban building boom of the postwar
years. What it got instead were sprawling subdivisions of cattle. These feedlots -the nation’s first — began rising on the high plains of western Kansas in the 50’s,
and by now developments catering to cows are far more common here than
developments catering to people.
You’ll be speeding down one of Finney County’s ramrod roads when the empty,
dun-colored prairie suddenly turns black and geometric, an urban grid of steelfenced rectangles as far as the eye can see — which in Kansas is really far. I say
”suddenly,” but in fact a swiftly intensifying odor (an aroma whose Proustian
echoes are more bus-station-men’s-room than cow-in-the-country) heralds the
approach of a feedlot for more than a mile. Then it’s upon you: Poky Feeders,
population 37,000. Cattle pens stretch to the horizon, each one home to 150
animals standing dully or lying around in a grayish mud that it eventually dawns
on you isn’t mud at all. The pens line a network of unpaved roads that loop
around vast waste lagoons on their way to the feedlot’s beating heart: a
chugging, silvery feed mill that soars like an industrial cathedral over this
teeming metropolis of meat.
I traveled to Poky early in January with the slightly improbable notion of visiting
one particular resident: a young black steer that I’d met in the fall on a ranch in
Vale, S.D. The steer, in fact, belonged to me. I’d purchased him as an 8-monthold calf from the Blair brothers, Ed and Rich, for $598. I was paying Poky
Feeders $1.60 a day for his room, board and meds and hoped to sell him at a
profit after he was fattened.
My interest in the steer was not strictly financial, however, or even gustatory,
though I plan to retrieve some steaks from the Kansas packing plant where No.
534, as he is known, has an appointment with the stunner in June. No, my
primary interest in this animal was educational. I wanted to find out how a
modern, industrial steak is produced in America these days, from insemination to
Eating meat, something I have always enjoyed doing, has become problematic in
recent years. Though beef consumption spiked upward during the flush 90’s, the
longer-term trend is down, and many people will tell you they no longer eat the
stuff. Inevitably they’ll bring up mad-cow disease (and the accompanying
revelation that industrial agriculture has transformed these ruminants into
carnivores — indeed, into cannibals). They might mention their concerns about E.
coli contamination or antibiotics in the feed. Then there are the many
environmental problems, like groundwater pollution, associated with
”Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.” (The word ”farm” no longer applies.)
And of course there are questions of animal welfare. How are we treating the
animals we eat while they’re alive, and then how humanely are we ”dispatching”
them, to borrow an industry euphemism?
Meat-eating has always been a messy business, shadowed by the shame of
killing and, since Upton Sinclair’s writing of ”The Jungle,” by questions about
what we’re really eating when we eat meat. Forgetting, or willed ignorance, is
the preferred strategy of many beef eaters, a strategy abetted by the industry.
(What grocery-store item is more silent about its origins than a shrink-wrapped
steak?) Yet I recently began to feel that ignorance was no longer tenable. If I
was going to continue to eat red meat, then I owed it to myself, as well as to the
animals, to take more responsibility for the invisible but crucial transaction
between ourselves and the animals we eat. I’d try to own it, in other words.
So this is the biography of my cow.
The Blair brothers ranch occupies 11,500 acres of short-grass prairie a few miles
outside Sturgis, S.D., directly in the shadow of Bear Butte. In November, when I
visited, the turf forms a luxuriant pelt of grass oscillating yellow and gold in the
constant wind and sprinkled with perambulating black dots: Angus cows and
calves grazing.
Ed and Rich Blair run what’s called a ”cow-calf” operation, the first stage of beef
production, and the stage least changed by the modern industrialization of meat.
While the pork and chicken industries have consolidated the entire life cycles of
those animals under a single roof, beef cattle are still born on thousands of
independently owned ranches. Although four giant meatpacking companies
(Tyson’s subsidiary IBP, Monfort, Excel and National) now slaughter and market
more than 80 percent of the beef cattle born in this country, that concentration
represents the narrow end of a funnel that starts out as wide as the great plains.
The Blairs have been in the cattle business for four generations. Although there
are new wrinkles to the process — artificial insemination to improve genetics, for
example — producing beef calves goes pretty much as it always has, just faster.
Calving season begins in late winter, a succession of subzero nights spent
yanking breeched babies out of their bellowing mothers. In April comes the first
spring roundup to work the newborn calves (branding, vaccination, castration);
then more roundups in early summer to inseminate the cows ($15 mail-order
straws of elite bull semen have pretty much put the resident stud out of work);
and weaning in the fall. If all goes well, your herd of 850 cattle has increased to
1,600 by the end of the year.
My steer spent his first six months in these lush pastures alongside his mother,
No. 9,534. His father was a registered Angus named GAR Precision 1,680, a bull
distinguished by the size and marbling of his offspring’s rib-eye steaks. Born last
March 13 in a birthing shed across the road, No. 534 was turned out on pasture
with his mother as soon as the 80-pound calf stood up and began nursing. After
a few weeks, the calf began supplementing his mother’s milk by nibbling on a
salad bar of mostly native grasses: western wheatgrass, little bluestem, green
Apart from the trauma of the April day when he was branded and castrated, you
could easily imagine No. 534 looking back on those six months grazing at his
mother’s side as the good old days — if, that is, cows do look back. (”They do
not know what is meant by yesterday or today,” Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, with
a note of envy, of grazing cattle, ”fettered to the moment and its pleasure or
displeasure, and thus neither melancholy or bored.” Nietzsche clearly had never
seen a feedlot.) It may be foolish to presume to know what a cow experiences,
yet we can say that a cow grazing on grass is at least doing what he has been
splendidly molded by evolution to do. Which isn’t a bad definition of animal
happiness. Eating grass, however, is something that, after October, my steer
would never do again.
Although the modern cattle industry all but ignores it, the reciprocal relationship
between cows and grass is one of nature’s underappreciated wonders. For the
grasses, the cow maintains their habitat by preventing trees and shrubs from
gaining a foothold; the animal also spreads grass seed, planting it with its hoofs
and fertilizing it. In exchange for these services, the grasses offer the ruminants
a plentiful, exclusive meal. For cows, sheep and other grazers have the unique
ability to convert grass — which single-stomached creatures like us can’t digest -into high-quality protein. They can do this because they possess a rumen, a 45gallon fermentation tank in which a resident population of bacteria turns grass
into metabolically useful organic acids and protein.
This is an excellent system for all concerned: for the grasses, for the animals and
for us. What’s more, growing meat on grass can make superb ecological sense:
so long as the rancher practices rotational grazing, it is a sustainable, solar-
powered system for producing food on land too arid or hilly to grow anything
So if this system is so ideal, why is it that my cow hasn’t tasted a blade of grass
since October? Speed, in a word. Cows raised on grass simply take longer to
reach slaughter weight than cows raised on a richer diet, and the modern meat
industry has devoted itself to shortening a beef calf’s allotted time on earth. ”In
my grandfather’s day, steers were 4 or 5 years old at slaughter,” explained Rich
Blair, who, at 45, is the younger of the brothers by four years. ”In the 50’s, when
my father was ranching, it was 2 or 3. Now we get there at 14 to 16 months.”
Fast food indeed. What gets a beef calf from 80 to 1,200 pounds in 14 months
are enormous quantities of corn, protein supplements — and drugs, including
growth hormones. These ”efficiencies,” all of which come at a price, have
transformed raising cattle into a high-volume, low-margin business. Not
everybody is convinced that this is progress. ”Hell,” Ed Blair told me, ”my dad
made more money on 250 head than we do on 850.”
Weaning marks the fateful moment when the natural, evolutionary logic
represented by a ruminant grazing on grass bumps up against the industrial logic
that, with stunning speed, turns that animal into a box of beef. This industrial
logic is rational and even irresistible — after all, it has succeeded in transforming
beef from a luxury item into everyday fare for millions of people. And yet the
further you follow it, the more likely you are to wonder if that rational logic might
not also be completely insane.
In early October, a few weeks before I met him, No. 534 was weaned from his
mother. Weaning is perhaps the most traumatic time on a ranch for animals and
ranchers alike; cows separated from their calves will mope and bellow for days,
and the calves themselves, stressed by the change in circumstance and diet, are
prone to get sick.
On many ranches, weaned calves go directly from the pasture to the sale barn,
where they’re sold at auction, by the pound, to feedlots. The Blairs prefer to own
their steers straight through to slaughter and to keep them on the ranch for a
couple of months of ”backgrounding” before sending them on the 500-mile trip
to Poky Feeders. Think of backgrounding as prep school for feedlot life: the
animals are confined in a pen, ”bunk broken” — taught to eat from a trough -and gradually accustomed to eating a new, unnatural diet of grain. (Grazing
cows encounter only tiny amounts of grain, in the form of grass seeds.)
It was in the backgrounding pen that I first met No. 534 on an unseasonably
warm afternoon in November. I’d told the Blairs I wanted to follow one of their
steers through the life cycle; Ed, 49, suggested I might as well buy a steer, as a
way to really understand the daunting economics of modern ranching. Ed and
Rich told me what to look for: a broad, straight back and thick hindquarters.
Basically, you want a strong frame on which to hang a lot of meat. I was also
looking for a memorable face in this Black Angus sea, one that would stand out
in the feedlot crowd. Almost as soon as I started surveying the 90 or so steers in
the pen, No. 534 moseyed up to the railing and made eye contact. He had a
wide, stout frame and was brockle- faced — he had three distinctive white
blazes. If not for those markings, Ed said, No. 534 might have been spared
castration and sold as a bull; he was that good-looking. But the white blazes
indicate the presence of Hereford blood, rendering him ineligible for life as an
Angus stud. Tough break.
Rich said he would calculate the total amount I owed the next time No. 534 got
weighed but that the price would be $98 a hundredweight for an animal of this
quality. He would then bill me for all expenses (feed, shots, et cetera) and,
beginning in January, start passing on the weekly ”hotel charges” from Poky
Feeders. In June we’d find out from the packing plant how well my investment
had panned out: I would receive a payment for No. 534 based on his carcass
weight, plus a premium if he earned a U.S.D.A. grade of choice or prime. ”And if
you’re worried about the cattle market,” Rich said jokingly, referring to its postSept. 11 slide, ”I can sell you an option too.” Option insurance has become
increasingly popular among cattlemen in the wake of mad-cow and foot-andmouth disease.
Rich handles the marketing end of the business out of an office in Sturgis, where
he also trades commodities. In fact you’d never guess from Rich’s unlined,
indoorsy face and golfish attire that he was a rancher. Ed, by contrast, spends
his days on the ranch and better looks the part, with his well-creased visage,
crinkly cowboy eyes and ever-present plug of tobacco. His cap carries the same
prairie-flat slogan I’d spotted on the ranch’s roadside sign: ”Beef: It’s What’s for
My second morning on the ranch, I helped Troy Hadrick, Ed’s son-in-law and a
ranch hand, feed the steers in the backgrounding pen. A thickly muscled post of
a man, Hadrick is 25 and wears a tall black cowboy hat perpetually crowned by a
pair of mirrored Oakley sunglasses. He studied animal science at South Dakota
State and is up on the latest university thinking on cattle nutrition, reproduction
and medicine. Hadrick seems to relish everything to do with ranching, from
calving to wielding the artificial-insemination syringe.
Hadrick and I squeezed into the heated cab of a huge swivel-hipped tractor
hooked up to a feed mixer: basically, a dump truck with a giant screw through
the middle to blend ingredients. First stop was a hopper filled with Rumensin, a
powerful antibiotic that No. 534 will consume with his feed every day for the rest
of his life. Calves have no need of regular medication while on grass, but as soon
as they’re placed in the backgrounding pen, they’re apt to get sick. Why? The
stress of weaning is a factor, but the main culprit is the feed. The shift to a ”hot
ration” of grain can so disturb the cow’s digestive process — its rumen, in
particular — that it can kill the animal if not managed carefully and accompanied
by antibiotics.
After we’d scooped the ingredients into the hopper and turned on the mixer,
Hadrick deftly sidled the tractor alongside the pen and flipped a switch to release
a dusty tan stream of feed in a long, even line. No. 534 was one of the first
animals to belly up to the rail for breakfast. He was heftier than his pen mates
and, I decided, sparkier too. That morning, Hadrick and I gave each calf six
pounds of corn mixed with seven pounds of ground alfalfa hay and a quarterpound of Rumensin. Soon after my visit, this ration would be cranked up to 14
pounds of corn and 6 pounds of hay — and added two and a half pounds every
day to No. 534.
While I was on the ranch, I didn’t talk to No. 534, pet him or otherwise try to
form a connection. I also decided not to give him a name, even though my son
proposed a pretty good one after seeing a snapshot. (”Night.”) My intention,
after all, is to send this animal to slaughter and then eat some of him. No. 534 is
not a pet, and I certainly don’t want to end up with an ox in my backyard
because I suddenly got sentimental.
As fall turned into winter, Hadrick sent me regular e-mail messages apprising me
of my steer’s progress. On Nov. 13 he weighed 650 pounds; by Christmas he
was up to 798, making him the seventh-heaviest steer in his pen, an
achievement in which I, idiotically, took a measure of pride. Between Nov. 13
and Jan. 4, the day he boarded the truck for Kansas, No. 534 put away 706
pounds of corn and 336 pounds of alfalfa hay, bringing his total living expenses
for that period to $61.13. I was into this deal now for $659.
Hadrick’s e-mail updates grew chattier as time went on, cracking a window on
the rancher’s life and outlook. I was especially struck by his relationship to the
animals, how it manages to be at once intimate and unsentimental. One day
Hadrick is tenderly nursing a newborn at 3 a.m., the next he’s ”having a big
prairie oyster feed” after castrating a pen of bull calves.
Hadrick wrote empathetically about weaning (”It’s like packing up and leaving
the house when you are 18 and knowing you will never see your parents again”)
and with restrained indignation about ”animal activists and city people” who
don’t understand the first thing about a rancher’s relationship to his cattle.
Which, as Hadrick put it, is simply this: ”If we don’t take care of these animals,
they won’t take care of us.”
”Everyone hears about the bad stuff,” Hadrick wrote, ”but they don’t ever see
you give C.P.R. to a newborn calf that was born backward or bringing them into
your house and trying to warm them up on your kitchen floor because they were
born on a minus-20-degree night. Those are the kinds of things ranchers will do
for their livestock. They take precedence over most everything in your life. Sorry
for the sermon.”
To travel from the ranch to the feedlot, as No. 534 and I both did (in
separate vehicles) the first week in January, feels a lot like going from the
country to the big city. Indeed, a cattle feedlot is a kind of city, populated by as
many as 100,000 animals. It is very much a premodern city, however -crowded, filthy and stinking, with open sewers, unpaved roads and choking air.
The urbanization of the world’s livestock is a fairly recent historical development,
so it makes a certain sense that cow towns like Poky Feeders would recall human
cities several centuries ago. As in 14th-century London, the metropolitan
digestion remains vividly on display: the foodstuffs coming in, the waste
streaming out. Similarly, there is the crowding together of recent arrivals from
who knows where, combined with a lack of modern sanitation. This combination
has always been a recipe for disease; the only reason contemporary animal cities
aren’t as plague-ridden as their medieval counterparts is a single historical
anomaly: the modern antibiotic.
I spent the better part of a day walking around Poky Feeders, trying to
understand how its various parts fit together. In any city, it’s easy to lose track
of nature — of the connections between various species and the land on which
everything ultimately depends. The feedlot’s ecosystem, I could see, revolves
around corn. But its food chain doesn’t end there, because the corn itself grows
somewhere else, where it is implicated in a whole other set of ecological
relationships. Growing the vast quantities of corn used to feed livestock in this
country takes vast quantities of chemical fertilizer, which in turn takes vast
quantities of oil — 1.2 gallons for every bushel. So the modern feedlot is really a
city floating on a sea of oil.
I started my tour at the feed mill, the yard’s thundering hub, where three meals
a day for 37,000 animals are designed and mixed by computer. A million pounds
of feed passes through the mill each day. Every hour of every day, a tractortrailer pulls up to disgorge another 25 tons of corn. Around the other side of the
mill, tanker trucks back up to silo-shaped tanks, into which they pump thousands
of gallons of liquefied fat and protein supplement. In a shed attached to the mill
sit vats of liquid vitamins and synthetic estrogen; next to these are pallets
stacked with 50-pound sacks of Rumensin and tylosin, another antibiotic. Along
with alfalfa hay and corn silage for roughage, all these ingredients are blended
and then piped into the dump trucks that keep Poky’s eight and a half miles of
trough filled.
The feed mill’s great din is made by two giant steel rollers turning against each
other 12 hours a day, crushing steamed corn kernels into flakes. This was the
only feed ingredient I tasted, and it wasn’t half bad; not as crisp as Kellogg’s, but
with a cornier flavor. I passed, however, on the protein supplement, a sticky
brown goop consisting of molasses and urea.
Corn is a mainstay of livestock diets because there is no other feed quite as
cheap or plentiful: thanks to federal subsidies and ever-growing surpluses, the
price of corn ($2.25 a bushel …
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