The Truth About the Meat Industry
Beautiful green pastures and flowering meadows are a vision of the past: Today’s meat industry looks more like thousands of wire cages and pens, crammed tightly with sick and injured animals who never see a ray of sunshine, or even have room to turn around.
Hormones like rBGH are pumped into animals to induce quick growth, causing their limbs to succumb to the weight before they are given the opportunity to build the muscle to sustain it. Most animals are fed large quantities of corn, which is not a natural diet. Even chickens are foragers, who stay healthy on small bugs, grasses and seeds. Cattle, pigs, turkeys, ducks, geese and other animals require similar foraging diets to maintain health.
Today’s meat industry is focused heavily on quantity and void of quality. Problems with filth and poor diet have encouraged growth of contaminates such as salmonella and E. coli. As production levels continue to rise, so do instances of poisoning and even death, related to food born illnesses.
Focus on Beef
Eight years ago, companies were struggling to prevent outbreaks of E. coli in beef (thanks to problems presented by the methods in the industry). Rather than addressing the real issues surrounding the diets and living conditions of the animals, Beef Products Inc. came up with the great idea to wash our meat in ammonia.
Most beef produced in the U.S. today has been injected with ammonia. In the meantime, companies also looked to use the fatty trimmings (that used to be reserved for dog food) in the meat produced for public consumption. The problem with using these trimmings is that they are even more susceptible to contamination. Beef Products, Inc.’s new method of ammonia cleansing was considered the preventative that would allow companies to safely use these trimmings, but recent research has shown that ammonia is not the end-all-be-all.
The NY Times reported on the problem of E. coli in meat, and found that salmonella and E. coli has been found in more than 50 tested runs of meat that were largely used in fast food restaurants and school menus. Beef has been temporarily banned in schools three times in the last 3 years because of contamination, and school lunch officials chose not to accept Beef Products, Inc.’s test results as sufficient. Schools have been testing their own meats, and found that 36 in 1000 tests came up positive for salmonella. Despite the fact that schools will not purchase contaminated meats (meat found to have salmonella or E. coli), the Department of Agriculture does not ban the sale of this same meat to the public.
Beef Products, Inc. has been working within a complete exemption from routine testing, meaning no one is even tracking the safety of their methods in our food. The Federal Government determined that the ammonia used to process the meat would be considered a processing agent and not an ingredient, leaving the general public completely unaware of the use of ammonia.
Odor has been the main tell-tale sign of ammonia washed beef. In 2003, Georgia prison officials returned nearly 7,000 pounds of meet that smelled strongly of ammonia (even when frozen). The officials assumed it was an accident since the meat was not labeled and they were not made aware of the use of ammonia during its packaging.
These “preventative” measures, however, do not go below the surface to the real problems which produce contamination of meat. Studies have found that the corn diet fed to livestock actually promotes the growth of E. coli in their digestive tracks. This E. coli then spreads to the meat as it is being processed. Many animals with seriously infected injuries and broken limbs are processed for consumption as well. Significant research has not been conducted on how infections and bacteria may leach into meat as it it butchered. Significant research has also not been established on the effects of rBGH and other steroids used on livestock.
What Can We Do?
Most of us have access to local butchers who maintain their own cattle: Cattle who still see the light of day and graze on green pastures. Consider local options for purchasing meat. If you have a freezer, you can sometimes purchase an entire cow! You may also want to consider leaving the consumption of meat in the past and taking up a vegetarian diet. Meat is one of the most expensive foods to purchase, and is considered a luxury in many countries.
You can also look into options to stop supporting the milk and egg industries. You may live close to a small farm who raises and milks its own cattle. This milk is usually cleansed and sold at local stores, or directly on the farm.
Purchasing meats in the grocery store is not the only source of concern. Most restaurants, fast food supplies, and even children’s lunch menus at school are in question. Don’t be afraid to ask where the meat your child is being fed at school comes from, and don’t be afraid to challenge these sources if you don’t agree with them. Anyone who is willing to take up the fight to demand safe food for their families can help dissolve the problems caused by mass meat production. Perhaps you could suggest your child’s school consider partnering with local, safer food suppliers. The power is in the hands of each person to demand that we not only be provided with the truth about our food, but that we support options for safer eating (and support our local businesses at the same time).