Cyber-stock: Behold the Techno-Cow

The rule of technology in food has not only influenced the way crops and plants grow into the nourishment of today's population, but it has also greatly altered the animals that are part of the process. Food science focuses not only on altering the plants and shaping the landscape that make up Earth, but also on disfiguring the animals in an almost mad scientist sort of way. Cattle have been changed into practically a new species, as a forced diet on the extreme surplus of corn has forced cows as livestock into a whole new style of existence. Cows are not supposed to eat corn; they are naturally a grass-grazing, roaming bovine, and their bodies are not prepared to consume corn as a primary source of energy. However, it is economically sound to force cows to eat corn in a CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation), and a veritable arsenal of advanced drugs are used to somehow maintain the cow's health despite the detriments introduced into its health. Cows are simply unable to survive on this sort of diet on their own; if not for the fact that they are slaughtered within 150 days anyway, they would die on their own in about the same time. The cows become entirely dependent on drugs, antibiotics, and dietary supplements to actually remain alive, in a twisted reflection on the Gibsonian characters Virek. They themselves are made to inflate from a weight of 80 lb to an astonishing 1100 lb of meat within the space a 14 months, transformed from the roaming, grazing bovines of the past into a sickly, corn-to-beef processing machine hooked up to countless hoses and needles in a highly efficient feeding and slaughter organization. Beef is a product of a fusion of technology and nature; the only way that so many people could simulate the luxury of beef is through the mechanization and chemical progress of the slaughterhouse and feeding operations. Cows become a machine, a pump that turns excess corn into delicious meat, that becomes more and more reliant on the miracles of modern science.

Cows are ruminants, and the rumens they use to a significant degree to digest their food cannot handle the acidic nature of corn. The unnatural diet forced open cattle caused a prime breeding ground within the rumen for new evolutions and mutations of bacteria; due to the unusual acidic quality of a corn filled rumen, the deadly and much feared 0157:H7 of E.Coli evolved, threatening the health of cows and humans alike. The acidic environment within the cow gives the E.Coli a chance to develop immunity to acidic conditions, rendering them likewise immune to the normally degenerative effects of the hydrochloric acid in human stomachs. The most concerning part of all this is the reliace of the cows on antibiotics to resist the destructive aspects of a corn-based diet; heavy use of antibiotics gives the bacteria a chance to evolve into a more resistant strain, and the consumptions of antibiotics-reliant beef passes on the usage of the antibiotics to the consumer, rendering that treatment useless to an actual attack by E.Coli on the human, beef-eating body. The commercial cow is forced into a situation where technology is its lifeline, and exists in such a state that it owes science its life. CAFOs exist for many different livestock; cattle based CAFOs constitute just one example of the many different feeding operations that plague the nation. See The Meatrix for an entertaining, if biased, look at all of this.