Today, Dr. Grandin is a best-selling author, and her Animal Welfare Audit is the standard in the industry. Half of the cattle in the United States and Canada are now handled by equipment Grandin designed. Some of the nation’s largest beef servers and suppliers— McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Cargill, Tyson— pass the points of her audit: at least 95 percent of animals stunned on the first shot (usually with a captive-bolt gun that shoots a steel bolt into the head). No more than 1 percent falling. No more than 3 percent mooing. No more than 25 percent being hit with an electric prod. At this point, she says, “You can take someone right to the stunner line at one of the biggest slaughterhouses in the world,” and they’ll approve of what they see.
Perhaps the most serious thing that can go wrong with a ruminant on corn is feedlot bloat. The rumen is always producing copious amounts of gas, which is normally expelled by belching during rumination. But when the diet contains too much starch and too little roughage, rumination all but stops, and a layer of foamy slime that can trap gas forms in the rumen. The rumen inflates like a balloon, pressing against the animal’s lungs. Unless action is promptly taken to relieve the pressure (usually by forcing a hose down the animal’s esophagus), the cow suffocates.
–Power Steer by Michael Pollan
(The New Kings Of Nonfiction, edited by Ira Glass)