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January 28th, 2010:

When it comes to grass v. corn, I choose delicious [food]

CowRemember how the food police told us that if we were callous enough to eat beef, we should at least limit ourselves to the grass-fed variety. After all, they said, feeding cows grass is the natural way to do it, and before massive post-war agricultural subsidies corn-fed beef was nonexistent.

Well it turns out that claim was BS.

Yesterday the Freakonomics blog posted a great take-down of the grass-fed beef myth.  As it happens, cows have been eating corn since at least the dawn of the last century—well before Big Agriculture came on the scene.

My take on the issue is simple. I don’t particularly care what is and is not the “natural” food for cows. After all, modern dairy cows are not “natural” animals, per se. We bred them over hundreds of years for two purposes: to give us milk and taste delicious.

It is the taste delicious part that influences my opinion in the grass v. corn debate. I’ve been to Latin America and had grass-fed beef. It didn’t taste as good as the corn-fed stuff we have here.* Kobe Beef, on the other hand, is delicious. And those cows are fed a steady diet of cornmeal and beer and their muscles are massaged with Sake daily.

So when it comes to the grass v. corn debate. I choose the taste of corn every time.

* This is likely because wandering around and looking for grass to eat is stressful and puts undo strain on the cows’ muscles.

[Freakonomics]

They thought car radios were dangerous too… [cell phone ban]

It strikes me that a lot of the hysteria about the dangers posed by cell phones in cars boils down to little more than plain old technophobia.

After all, there is no reason to believe that cell phones are uniquely distracting. Both academic studies and surveys suggest that they are in fact less of a distraction than numerous things we regularly cope with while driving; such as children, road-rage and attractive members of the opposite sex in adjacent cars, to name a few.

But despite the fact that our roads are safer than ever and both fatality and accident rates have plunged over the last decade, we have somehow come to believe that cell phones pose a unique and urgent threat—a threat which must be dealt with immediately.

I suspect that much of this misplaced fear stems from the fact that cell phones—especially those of the “smart phone” variety—are a relatively newfangled technology and therefore must be dangerous, particularly when used in cars.

Of course this is nothing new. Americans have always feared change when it comes to automobiles. As the letter to the editor above shows, people made the same arguments about the dangers of the radio in 1933 that we hear about cell phones today. But despite the grim warnings, people quickly learned to drive with the radio playing, just as they had adapted to the comfortable seats and fast engines that the “safety experts” also wanted to ban.

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