Yet Another Rant About Bad History

Oh, good grief. Check out this statement in a piece about grass-fed beef in today’s New York Times:

Today all cattle are typically raised on grass in the early months of their lives. But in the 1950s, cattle raisers hoping to cut costs and improve efficiency of beef production began to ship the animals to feed lots, where they could be fattened more quickly on inexpensive and high-calorie grains.

Sort of true. Kind of. IF we change “1950s” to, oh, I dunno, 1820s? 1780s? How about 1720s? (The use of “feed lots” dates at least to the 1840s, if not earlier. Feeding corn for fattening, however, goes back at least a century earlier.) And, more to the point, if we delete the word “Today” and instead note that Americans have “started” beef on grass since, oh, the 1820s. (The first great utilization of the prairies and plains was grazing cattle on its grasses.) In fact, as these two sentences read they a) don’t make much sense (since we don’t know at what point the “cattle raisers” allegedly began shipping the animals to feed lots; and b) is riddled with inaccuracies. Flip snarkiness aside, a minimum acquaintance with facts would have been useful, especially since the piece is about a  fundamental — and contentious — subject: food. As a result, what we got with this bit is yet another hunk of misinformation with which to cloud the debate about food. Just sayin’.

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