Antibiotics, Anti-inflammatories and Antifungals; Three Ingredients Left Out of Your Meat Label
If that title isn't flooring you right now, it should be because it is exactly what it sounds like. I'll cut to the chase on this one because the title gave it away but yes, illegal drugs are contained in the meat that we buy at the grocery store in the U.S. There was a recent article published in Consumer Reports magazine that brought an emerging health topic to light that all grocery store goers should be aware of. The article titled, "What's Really in Your Meat?" by Rachel Rabkin Peachman and was the cover of the October issue. Instantly this caught my eye because the topic of meat quality and health is such an important topic that needs more attention. If people really know what was in that $8.99 burger from Texas Roadhouse and where is came from, they probably wouldn't eat it. We need to become educated and aware about where our meat came from and what the heck is really in it. This raises so many questions and comments about the way food is regulated, tested and marketed and that's what I'm going to dive into in this post.
Before we dive any deeper, I want to start off by explaining that we ARE what we EAT no matter how much you want to ignore what your mom says, it's true! The food that we eat is broken down and digested in our body and we use that to continue to regenerate and build our own cells. Naturally, if the food we eat comes from a sick or unhealthy plant or animal, we will absorb that role of becoming a sick and unhealthy human because our cells are using the nutrients from a poor source. This goes for anything that we eat; plants or animals. That is why we want to always be picking and choosing only the best quality food for our body because we want to nourish it, not make it more sick and inflamed. Since we are specifically talking about meat in this article, let me ask you this:
Would you rather...
1. Eat meat from a chicken that had little stress, roamed in large, uncrowded fields and eat only clean and organic foods
2. Eat meat from a chicken that was constantly stressed, couldn't move an inch without touching another chicken and was only fed corn and corn derived products and was constantly stepping in it's own and other chickens feces
The scariest part about these two scenarios is that visually, you really can't tell the difference between the meat from either of these scenarios so we just tend to buy whatever is most marketed and price effective (which happens to be option number 2). There is a reason for cheap meat and its not because it's on sale. The cows in scenario number 2 are cheaper to keep and feed so their meat will sell at a cheaper price. Those cows are sick and inflamed and have very poor quality meat so if we eat it, we will also become inflamed. Cheap and poor quality meat will lead to our own body becoming inflamed and cause diseases like heart disease.
In the article published in Consumer Reports, data was analyzed from the Food Safety and Inspection Service and revealed that four major drugs can be found in the U.S. meat supply more frequently than we had thought (I would hope no one would even think to find these drugs in their food). The results from the survey show the amount of drugs in the meat compared to the cutoff levels that determine safety and quality of meat for human consumption. Here are the results from the survey. Beware, its scary stuff!
An antibiotic that causes damage to red blood cells. It can lead to life threatening anemia in 1 in 10,000 people. It was found in samples of pork, beef and chicken. Out of the 5,756 samples that were taken, 2.6% of these samples contained this antibiotic above the safe consumption level posted by Consumer Reports and 25 of these samples were above the safe levels marked by the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Beef contained the highest amount of this antibiotic when compared to chicken, pork and turkey. 81 of the 2,865 samples of beef contained this drug at levels above the safe cutoff marked by CR.
An anti-inflammatory drug that causes severe anemia and other blood disorders and has been since banned for human consumption due to the risks. It is also a possible carcinogenic (cancer causing) in humans. Pork contained the highest amount of this drug with 24 out of 1,448 samples containing levels higher than the CR cutoff.
3. Ketamine An anesthetic that also doubles as an antidepressant. It has since been restricted because of its abused usage as a hallucinogenic party drug. It was found to be the highest in pork and beef with 225 of 4,313 samples above the CR safe cutoff.
An anti-fungal drug that is most likely a carcinogen and has been used with caution. This drug was found in 667 of 5,756 samples of beef, pork and poultry combined.
Okay, so this is pretty terrifying. So now we know that our meat may contain unsafe amounts of party drugs and cancer causing agents but the biggest question that was answered in Consumer Reports was how exactly do these drugs get into our meat? The reasons are surprising and may shock you.
When these drugs and most prescribed drugs are taken, they never truly leave our body or break down. When we take prescription medication we end up peeing a lot of of it out and that in turn gets into our water supply. These drugs don't always get filtered out when our drinking water is cleaned because the particles are so small and difficult to impossible to break down. Therefore, if a human or animal drinks the contaminated water, they consume the drug and it will be stored in their tissues.
In the case that animals are given these medications, the farmer must wait a certain amount of time to let the drug clear out of the animals system. If the farmer doesn't wait long enough and slaughters the animal too soon, high amounts of the drug will be retained in the animals tissue. It is common for farmers to slaughter early because the earlier they slaughter, the sooner their product is on the shelf and they are making money.
Fake & Improper use of Veterinary drugs When animals get sick, they do need some type of medication to get better and the drugs that veterinarians give animals are safe for consumption. However, if the consumer is not careful, their animal could be given counterfeit drugs that are one of the drugs listed above that can treat the disease but are much more harmful to the animals and to humans. Some farmers in the report also mentioned that they knew of farmers who may use veterinary drugs to increase growth and lean muscle production in their animals to help bulk up their profit and shorten the time they need to wait for the animal to mature before slaughter.
The next question is, what can we do to prevent ingesting poor quality and contaminated meat? Consumer Reports stated that the results from their survey were not specific to any particular meat company but that you should be cautious of the type of meat that you purchase. More research is yet to come investigating the misuse of drugs in animals and how we can prevent this from occurring on our meat farms.
Click the play button below to watch the youtube video made by Consumer Reports on this article! It's very insightful and gives a lot of background of the farming industry, requirements and how little it is regulated. It has a few stories from former and current farmers themselves and they end up admitting a lot of scary stuff.
Check it out, it's only 15 minutes!
For now, the best thing you can do for your health is to put your money where your mouth is! Buy local, organic, free range, antibiotic free, grass fed and pasture raised meat. Of course your meat doesn't have to have ALL of these labels on it for it to be safe but if you can purchase meat within a few of these categories, you will be doing yourself and your body a favor by eating cleaner, healthier meat! I hope that if you enjoy meat, this article didn't turn you into a vegetarian! Or if it did, I hope you want to become a vegetarian and aren't acting out of fear! Either way, I only want to spread the message to help educate others to know how to shop and how to buy good, clean food because what we see is not always what we get. We have to be our own investigators when it comes to food purchases and I am here to help light that path. If you find other articles on the contamination of meat, please share it with me! I love to see what research is being done to protect our health and our community.
If you're now depressed...don't be because its FRIDAY!