No one needs to eat livestock to survive. Yet meat is almost universally the focus of the Western diet. When you go to a restaurant and the waiter asks you what you'll have, you respond with the meat or fish entree. You don't say, "the asparagus" or "the rice" or the "mixed veggies." Everything else on the menu is known as a "side dish," or is even regarded as an afterthought. Arby's even advertises "Mega Meat Stacks" and "Meats Upon Meats Upon Meats." And this is pure insanity - on a global scale.
The average American eats between two and five times more protein than they actually need. Basically, we eat animals because we want to, or because we're duped into it by the Big Ag Empire.
In the last 50 years worldwide meat consumption per capita has doubled, primarily because of corporate advertising. Carl's Jr. puts a scantily clad, super model eating a monster hamburger and dripping it all over herself, and subconsciously men think that eating a hamburger will lead to sex with that super model. Women think, just as absurdly, that eating that hamburger will make them look like that super model. McDonald's spends about $1.4 billion a year trying to convince us to worship at their cathedral of cholesterol. The rest of the meat and dairy industries also spend vast sums of money in television and magazine advertising every year to convince Americans that the key to happiness is eating huge amounts of cow meat, cheese, milk, eggs, chicken and other assorted animal products.
Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, can be synthesized by the body or ingested from food. There are 20 different amino acids in the food we eat, but our body can make 11 of them only. The nine essential amino acids - which cannot be produced by the body - must be obtained from the diet. A variety of grains, legumes and vegetables can provide all of the essential amino acids our bodies require. No one needs to eat meat to satisfy his or her protein needs. Furthermore, plant-based proteins also don't have any saturated fat, and are usually lower in calories.
When people eat too much protein, excess nitrogen is digested and metabolized. This can strain the kidneys, which expel the waste through urine. Over time, individuals who consume large amounts of animal protein, risk further loss of kidney function if their kidney function is already impaired. The problem is, mild loss of kidney function is usually silent, affecting 20 million Americans, and they likely are unaware of the increased risk.
Certain proteins present in meat, fish and poultry, cooked at high temperatures, especially grilled or fried, produce compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These substances have been linked to various cancers including those of the colon and breast. The manly ritual of barbecuing mountains of meat on the backyard grill, or while tailgating before a football game, is a personal health disaster. (1,2,3)
The average American meat eater pours 100 pounds of animal fats into his or her arteries every year. That has consequences for the development of atherosclerotic vascular disease, like heart attacks and strokes, and also plays a role in the development of cancer. In order to absorb fat, the liver makes bile, which it stores in the gallbladder. After a meal, the gallbladder sends bile acids into the intestine, where they chemically modify the fats eaten so they can be absorbed. Unfortunately, bacteria in the intestine turn these bile acids into cancer-promoting substances called secondary bile acids. Meats not only contain a substantial amount of fat; they also foster the growth of bacteria that cause carcinogenic secondary bile acids to form.
Red meat is bad for your health in any amount. (4,5) A long-range study from the Harvard School of Public Health (6) of 110,000 adults over 20 years found that adding just one three-ounce serving of unprocessed red meat to their daily diet increased participants' risk of dying during the study by 13 percent. Adding a hot dog or two slices of bacon increased their risk by 20 percent. On the other hand, replacing beef or pork with nuts lowers your risk by 19 percent, and replacing them with poultry or grain lowers your risk by 14 percent.
Red meat, regardless of whether it's covered in HCAs or PAHs, is also linked to breast, kidney, pancreatic, prostate and colorectal cancer - and to diabetes. (7) Seventh Day Adventists, who are vegetarians, have about half the normal cancer risk.
The only organisms higher on the food chain than cattle are humans. That means all meat, especially beef, has much higher levels of pesticides and industrial chemicals than any plant food. Not only are the chemicals given to commercially raised livestock a toxic stew, but the overwhelming majority of the grains fed to livestock are GMOs, meaning they are soaked in pesticides. The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences considers beef the most dangerous food in herbicide contamination and ranks it third in insecticide contamination. The NRC estimates that beef pesticide contamination represents about 11 percent of the total cancer risk from pesticides of all foods on the market today.
The most common agricultural pesticide in use today is glyphosate (Roundup). Glyphosate residues cannot be removed by washing and they are not broken down by cooking. Glyphosate residues can remain stable in food for a year or more, even if the foods are frozen, dried or processed. In a complete sop to Monsanto and Big Ag, the EPA recently raised the allowable limit for glyphosate residue in human food and animal feed to a level 200 times higher, from .1 milligrams per kilogram to 20 milligrams per kilogram, with no scientific justification or data to defend such a change. That is a level that even Monsanto considered extreme as recently as 1999.
Studies implicating Roundup in a wide array of adverse health outcomes have been rapidly mounting. A January 2014 study published by a German research team found glyphosate was significantly higher in the urine of chronically ill people compared to healthy people. German researchers leading the University of Leipzig study concluded, "the presence of glyphosate residues in both humans and animals could haul the entire population towards numerous health hazards."
Even "grass-fed" beef are now eating GMO alfalfa and corn stubble, meaning more pesticides in the beef itself. Animal feed that contains animal parts or animal waste (as is often the case) only compounds the problem.
For reasons similar to those for meat, the fat in dairy products poses a high risk for contamination by pesticides. Growth hormones and antibiotics are also invariably found in commercial milk, cheese and butter.
Dioxins are perhaps the most deadly group of compounds in our environment after radioactive isotopes. The World Health Organization states that dioxins "can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer."
Dioxins are found throughout the world and they accumulate in the food chain, mainly in the fatty tissue of animals where their half-life is between seven and 11 years. Ninety-three percent of the average American's exposure to dioxins comes through animal fat, meat and dairy consumption.
Virtually all feedlot-raised cattle are administered growth hormones and antibiotics like penicillin and tetracycline. In fact, about 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States go to livestock. The antibiotics are used not only for bacterial protection given the putrid conditions livestock are kept in, but also because they act to fatten them up. That should prompt the question in your mind about what those antibiotics do to you when you eat those same livestock. In fact numerous experiments on humans dating back to the 1950s have shown that humans also gain weight when fed a steady diet of antibiotics.
This has potential implications for the worldwide obesity epidemic, and should provide "food for thought" next time you order a "thick and juicy Karl's Jr." and expect that to be your ticket to becoming a super model. No one seems to have studied whether the residual low doses of antibiotics in livestock meat are enough to make you gain weight, but there is evidence that those doses are sufficient to disrupt the normal composition of your gut bacteria, increasing your susceptibility to infections.
It's an almost annual occurrence that massive amounts of ground beef are recalled because of E. coli contamination. Last spring, the largest recall in the last six years occurred: Almost 2 million pounds of ground beef were recalled from 10 different states. In a disturbing aside, federal officials aren't required to say which restaurants served the tainted hamburger.
Here's more unappetizing food for thought. There is now an unfathomable potpourri of toxins fed to livestock. It's almost like livestock, especially cattle, are now being used as toxic waste dumps. An Associated Press article published back in 1997 revealed numerous hideous examples:
In Gore, Okla., a uranium-processing plant gets rid of low-level radioactive waste by licensing it as a liquid fertilizer and spraying it over 9,000 acres of grazing land.
At Camas, Wash., lead-laced waste from a pulp mill is hauled to farms and spread over crops destined for livestock feed.
In Moxee City, Wash., dark powder from two Oregon steel mills is poured from rail cars into silos at Bay Zinc Co. under a federal hazardous waste storage permit. Then it is emptied from the silos for use as fertilizer. The newspaper called the powder a toxic byproduct of steel-making but did not identify it.
"When it goes into our silo, it's a hazardous waste,'' said Bay Zinc's president, Dick Camp. "When it comes out of the silo, it's no longer regulated. The exact same material."
Federal and state governments encourage this "recycling," which saves money for industry and conserves space in hazardous-waste landfills. The substances found in recycled fertilizers include cadmium, lead, arsenic, radioactive materials and dioxins, the Times reported. The wastes come from incineration of medical and municipal wastes, and from heavy industries including mining, smelting, cement kilns and wood products.
Nutrition and Health reported back in 1981 that some ranchers in the Midwest were feeding their steers hundreds of pounds of cement dust to "get their weight up" for sale. The FDA was asked to halt the practice, but after investigation, responded that since there has been no indication of harm to humans the practice can continue until such time as harm is proven.
Jeremy Rifkin, in his 1992 book Beyond Beef, reported this disgusting practice:
Some feedlots have begun research trials adding cardboard, newspaper, and sawdust to the feeding programs to reduce costs. Other factory farms scrape up the manure from chicken houses and pigpens, adding it directly to cattle feed. Cement dust may become a particularly attractive feed supplement in the future, according to the USDA, because it produces a 30 percent faster weight gain than cattle on only regular feed. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials say that it's not uncommon for some feedlot operators to mix industrial sewage and oils into the feed to reduce costs and fatten animals more quickly.
At Kansas State University, scientists have experimented with plastic feed, small pellets containing 80 to 90 percent ethylene and 10 to 20 percent propylene, as an artificial form of cheap roughage to feed cattle. Researchers point to the extra savings of using the new plastic feed at slaughter time when upward of 20 pounds of the stuff from each cow's rumen can be recovered, melt[ed] down and recycle[d] into new pellets. The new pellets are much cheaper than hay and can provide roughage requirements at a significant savings.
And like the ubiquitous plastic "nurdles" that now contaminate our oceans, these plastic pellets absorb chemicals from the environment and become more toxic over time.
Once a cow has been killed, the next stage of "doctoring up" the carcass begins. Immediately after the meat becomes exposed to air, oxidation begins - which gradually turns the red color of the meat to a more unappetizing brown or gray color within just a few days. But meat in the grocery store never looks like that because it then becomes more artificially enhanced than all the silicon breasts in Hollywood.
Meat on store shelves can be subject to temperatures too high to prevent bacterial growth from spoiling, so the industry invented "modified atmosphere packaging" or "MAP." That is a euphemism of course meaning that the meat was packaged in an artificial atmosphere of carbon monoxide (CO). As much as 70 percent of meat sold in stores is displayed in CO packaging. The oxygen in the package is sucked out and replaced by CO, much like vacuum packaging with an impermeable membrane. This is the same CO emitted from tail pipes, chimneys, space heaters and charcoal grills that in high enough concentrations can kill people. The CO reacts with the myoglobin in the blood giving the meat a bright red, the same artificial red color that a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning has when they arrive in the emergency room. CO can keep a piece of meat or fish looking artificially red and fresh for up to a full year, and of course how a piece of meat looks is the primary consideration of a consumer.
Eating CO does not have the same health consequence as inhaling it. But make no mistake, the purpose of CO packaging is to fool shoppers into believing that the meat they buy is fresh. The normal physical evidence of spoilage is masked, almost no matter how old it really is. And therein lies the danger of using CO packaging. This practice is not allowed in many countries, like European Union member-states, but in another capitulation to the Big Ag Empire, the FDA has approved this practice.
Processed meats like bacon, lunch meat, hot dogs, red meat in frozen prepared dinners, and nearly all red meats sold at public schools, restaurants, hospitals, hotels and theme parks are commonly mixed with sodium nitrite which acts as a preservative and antibacterial agent. Once digested, sodium nitrites can be converted to nitrosamines, which are carcinogens. The American Medical Association says that sodium nitrites can lead to oral, gastrointestinal, pancreatic and brain cancer. The USDA tried to ban sodium nitrite in the late 1970s, but was steamrolled by the meat industry.
It turns out that slab of meat you think you are eating is more likely a fusion of meat scraps held together with something commonly referred to as "meat glue" officially known as "transglutaminase." The chemical reaction triggered by meat glue also produces ammonia. The amount of bacteria on a steak that has been put together with meat glue is hundreds of times higher than an actual steak. If you cook rare what you think is a steak, you may very well be dangerously undercooking the parts of the composite "slab" that have the highest bacterial content.
That's one of the reasons meat glue has been banned in the European Union. Beef, pork, chicken and fish are all "fused" together to make scraps appear as "prime cuts." Unless you're a vegetarian, the overwhelming likelihood is that you're eating meat glue.
The McRib sandwich is the quintessential triumph of meat glue. The McRib only appears on McDonald's menu periodically, whenever pork prices are really low. But the McRib has 69 other ingredients, including bonus additives like azodicarbonamide, a flour-bleaching agent that is most commonly used in the manufacture of foamed plastics in gym mats and the soles of shoes.
Wholesalers have plenty of other tricks up their sleeve. For instance, they know to pump low-grade meat with water and flavoring to make it edible and to weigh more.
If meat glue doesn't get your mouth watering, then how about pink slime? Remember the high profile exposÃ© of Beef Products, Inc. producing pink slime for national hamburger chains using throw away meat scraps mixed with ammonium hydroxide - an ingredient in fertilizers, household cleaners and some roll-your-own explosives (who doesn't want the option to grill up some exploding burgers if your family barbecue could use some excitement?). Remember Beef Products closed three of its four shameful pink slime plants? Well, they are now shamelessly reopening.
And pink slime's new name is, "lean finely textured beef." Ground beef containing pink slime doesn't need to be labeled thanks to a ruling by a USDA official who later stepped down and immediately joined the board of Beef Products, Inc.
But this charade involves more than just beef. To make inferior, factory-farmed chicken look like high-quality, pasture-raised chicken, many large-scale chicken producers add various dyes and additives to chicken feed to make their meat appear more yellow and golden. Likewise "Atlantic" or farmed salmon are fed pink dyes to make their flesh look more appealing than the disgusting gray they would otherwise be.
Chicken are routinely fed roxarsone, a form of arsenic, found in their chicken feed. A 2004 study from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy showed that more than half of the store-bought and fast-food chicken contained elevated levels of arsenic. Roughly 2.2 million pounds of it are being used every year to produce 43 billion pounds of poultry. According to The Washington Post, the poultry industry has been using roxarsone to fight parasites and increase growth in chickens since it was approved by the FDA in 1944.
Chickens are also fed a frightening elixir of drugs that includes caffeine, banned antibiotics, Benadryl, Tylenol and even Prozac. Prozac was added to feed because stressed out chickens produce tough meat and brutal conditions often mean a constantly nervous bird. Chickens are fed coffee pulp and green tea powder to keep them up longer so they eat more food, according to an article in The New York Times.
By now you're probably badly in need of some Prozac yourself. There is a solution to combating the destruction, deception and the health consequences of the meat industry. Stop eating it. You don't need it; none of us do. Your waistline, your arteries and your kidneys will thank you for it. And we just might preserve enough arable land and a livable climate to allow us to grow some real food.
1. Butler LM, Sinha R, Millikan RC, et al. Heterocyclic amines, meat intake, and association with colon cancer in a population-based study. Am J Epidemiol. 2003;157:434-445.
2. Sinha R. An epidemiologic approach to studying heterocyclic amines. Mutat Res. 2002;506:197.
3. Zheng W, Lee SA. Well-done meat intake, heterocyclic amine exposure, and cancer risk. Nutr and Cancer. 2009;61:437-446.
7. Pan, A., et al., Red meat consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: 3 cohorts of US adults and an updated meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr, 2011. 94(4): p. 1088-96.
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