Fake Food: You Don’t Always Get What You Want (or think you bought)
This month we’re focusing on BEEF.
Traditionally, cattle were grass fed from start to finish. As little as three generations ago, a steer was fed grass its entire life and was not slaughtered for market until the age of four or five years old. Today, through misguided policies and government subsidies, our nation has figured out the route to cheaper and faster without considering the long term impact on humans, animals, and environmental health. Now, the majority of cattle spends just the first few months of life on pasture land and then are “finished”, or fattened, in a feed lot (Confined Animal Feeding Operations, aka CAFO). The goal is to take a cow from birthweight of about 80 pounds to 1200 pounds in just a little more than a year. The only way to accomplish this unnatural feat is to feed the animal enormous quantities of corn, soy based protein supplements, antibiotics and other drugs, including hormones.
This article could easily take many avenues, from animal cruelty, environmental issues or government policy, but our purpose today is to focus on what kind of beef can offer the greatest nutritional value. Let me preface this by saying that most Americans consume far more meat than needed and are grossly insufficient consumers of vegetables and healthy, undamaged fats. Meats, which can be part of a well-balanced, nutritious diet, are far healthier and superior when obtained from animals that have eaten their natural diet.
The Bad News about Feed Lot Beef
When we eat CAFO meat, our health is impacted negatively in the following ways:
- Increasingly, research reveals that pesticides used on genetically modified food has significant long term health risks, most notably glyphosate. Glyphosate is classified by the World Health Organization as a Class 2A, “probable human carcinogen”. Cows are fed genetically altered, glyphosate-sprayed, corn, soy and other byproducts.
- We are currently human lab rats in the experiment of genetic modification as we artificially transfer genes from one species to another where it would never occur under natural conditions. The process yields unexpected and unpredictable results, including transferring foreign genes from other species into humans¹.
- In CAFO operations, antibiotics are used as a preventive measure so that animals can be kept in conditions and fed things that would otherwise make them sick. Antibiotics, along with growth hormones and steroids, are also used as a cheap method to help cattle gain weight. Growth hormones and steroids are banned in pig and poultry production. ²
- There are also reports that cattle are also fed animal waste that includes chicken litter (which contains chicken feces, bedding, feathers and other unknown residues) as well as the flesh and bones of dead cattle.⁶
- Corn fed beef is more inflammatory to humans because it adds to our intake of Omega 6 fatty acids which promote inflammation.
- “Pink slime” in ground beef remains very real. Simply look for terms like “lean finely textured beef” (LFTB), “textured beef,” “finely textured beef” or “boneless lean beef trimmings” (BLBT). It is used to hold beef together and is made from meat trimmings heated at high temperatures to remove the fat, then treated with ammonia or citric acid to kill bacteria. It is used as a filler as well.⁴ Um, gross!
- “Meat glue” is also still very prevalent. Many “premium” cuts of meat you are buying in restaurants are cheaper cuts assembled to look like filet mignon or ribeye. The glue is an enzyme known as transglutaminase, reportedly created by cultivating bacteria or using blood plasma of pigs and cows. It is apparently toxic enough to warrant those working with the product to wear protective masks to avoid inhaling fumes from it. Another concern is that it harbors pathogens and since it will be located at the center of the meat, ordering on the rare side may not kill the pathogens. ⁵
- An important consideration for everyone is the modern-day crisis we face, as the antibiotics we consume in our meat and dairy products create antibiotic resistance in our own bodies.
The Good News about Grass Fed Beef
Not surprising, when an animal eats its natural diet in a healthy living environment, the meat and eggs from that animal are healthier options for us to eat.
- Grass fed beef is lower in fat and provides more of the healthy Omega-3 fats that are crucial for human health and are also found in walnuts, flaxseeds and fish. A grass fed steak typically has twice as many Omega-3’s as a grain fed steak. ³
- Grass fed beef is also four times higher in vitamin E than feed lot cattle, and much higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Both of these nutrients are associated with reducing inflammation, providing antioxidant protection, and preventing cancer. ³
- Truly 100% grass fed and organic beef will be free of pesticides, antibiotics and hormones. The cows will be raised on grass and hay. See the Nutrition Nugget in this newsletter for how to buy quality grass fed beef.
²Real Food Fake Food, by Larry Olmsted, published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, 27515 Copyright 2016