E. coli contamination thrives in feedlots, but grass-fed livestock, including beef, pork, chicken, sheep, elk, deer, antelope and other wild meat animals, is free of this dangerous pathogen. Range cattle roam freely, rarely spending more than a day in one spot. They must be branded to prevent theft and vaccinated against disease, but they are herded only briefly into corrals. Since cows live outside in all weather, their wastes are scattered and broken down by elements and insects. Pastured cattle never stand knee-deep in manure, because cows don't like to eat near feces. That's why, in winter, ranchers scatter supplementary feed onto clean grass. Buyers who cram cattle into feedlots for fattening waste resources and in the process make the animals—and those who dine on them—less healthy [Linda Hasselstrom, "Private Stash," Missoula Independent, 2010.11.25].
Mr. Kurtz also directed my attention, via the Goat Blog, to this really cool interactive map that helps you find which states are producing the most unhealthy feedlot beef, dairy, and pork. In 2007, South Dakota ranked 16th nationwide for feedlot livestock units: 8th in cattle, 20th in dairy, 11th in hogs.