My nominee for bad food choice of the week is about as American as apple pie.
But it can harbor unseen toxins leading to a killer infection, throw your hormones out of whack, or trigger cancer.
But most of the time you can avoid this common food – if you’re aware of the dangers. You can even enjoy it regularly if you buy it from the right sources.
10-Second “Eye” Test Reveals
Do you suffer from constant, low energy? If so, then you might be suffering from this 21st century silent epidemic that’s affecting millions this very minute.
There’s a simple test you can try right now that will reveal the root cause of your low energy woes and it’s all hidden inside of your eye.
Frying bacon for breakfast? Grilling hamburgers for lunch? Searing steaks for dinner?
Farmers use antibiotics to keep animals healthy in filthy, crowded and stressful conditions. They also use hormones to fatten cattle more quickly.
Some argue that hormone levels in meat are too low to have any negative effect on humans. I don’t believe it. When it comes to hormones, tiny hinges swing big doors.
Even low levels of hormones can have a huge impact on your health, especially when compounded over years and decades – as is certainly the case with conventionally grown chicken, beef and pork.1
These are staples of the American diet. Unless you’re one of the hardy few vegetarians or organic food fanatics, you’ve eaten tons of the stuff in the course of your lifetime.
All the pharmaceutical food additives may make animals get bigger, faster, but they may make you sick.2 Or expand your waistline.
We’ve bred a race of superbugs
If you’re old enough, you may remember science fiction movies from the ‘50s in which nuclear radiation created mutant monsters that wrecked cities. The paranoid movie makers of the day would have done better to look at a real danger – misuse of antibiotics.
Antibiotics should only be used to treat bacterial infection. But farmers pump cattle full of antibiotics, a practice that breeds antibiotic-resistant superbugs – the microscopic version of those giant movie creatures. The weak bacteria are killed by the antibiotic. The strong survive and multiply like crazy.
Meanwhile, the antibiotics remain in the meat, and you’re getting a dose of the drug every time you eat a slab of conventionally grown beef or a piece of chicken.
Because of the superbugs, when you get sick nowadays there may be no antibiotic that can help you.
“Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest health threats facing us today,” CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Gupta says. “We use too many drugs, and now they don’t work the way they used to.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that two million Americans get antibiotic-resistant infections every year, and 23,000 die as a result.3
According to the UN’s World Health Organization, a post-antibiotic era is far from an apocalyptic fantasy. It’s instead a very real possibility for the 21st century.4
The consequences of messing with hormones
Farmers also give their animals sex hormones. Here’s a hint at the possible consequences:
In a 2009 study, children who ate more meat entered puberty an average of seven months earlier than children who ate less meat.7
For girls, the effects of even miniscule amounts of estrogen from meat “could be quite substantial,” says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
Children now enter puberty at a younger age than they did just one or two generations ago, sometimes as early as age seven.8
There may be other factors at work – this isn’t settled science – but hormone-fed meat is certainly a prime suspect in the weird sexualization of little children as early as fourth or fifth grade.
The hormones administered to food-stock animals include estrogen (estradiol), progesterone, testosterone, and synthetic zeranol, melengestrol, and trenbolone.9 Cattle receive implants that slowly release these fattening hormones throughout their lifetimes.
But this “drug culture” comes with unseen consequences – not only early puberty for humans, but also higher risk of cancer in adulthood.10
Throwing your natural hormone levels off balance can cause breast cancer,11 thyroid tumors, ovarian cancer, and testicular cancer.12 Studies on mice and dogs confirm that extra progesterone is linked to ovarian, uterine, and breast tumors.13
It’s not just beef you need to avoid. Extra hormones are also used for turkeys, pigs, chickens, and even fish for faster growth.14
How safe is your ground beef?
Getting back to the problem with antibiotics. . .
Between 2003 and 2012, 80 outbreaks of E. coli O157 sickened 1,144 people, landed 316 in the hospital, and killed five. Ground beef was the main culprit.15
These are not huge numbers, but they serve to highlight the problem.
Consumer Reports tested 458 pounds of beef from 103 stores in 26 cities nationwide – both conventional beef (raised on factory farms) and sustainable beef (no antibiotics, organic, or grass-fed).
They found S. aureus (MRSA) in more than half of all conventional beef and in one-fourth of sustainable beef.
E. coli was present in 60 percent of conventional beef and 40 percent of sustainable beef.
Multi-drug-resistant bacteria were found in 19 percent of conventional beef, nine percent of sustainable beef, and six percent of grass-fed beef.16
The beef from conventionally raised cows was more likely to have high bacteria counts and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, than beef from sustainably raised cows.
If you eat sustainable beef, you cut your chance of ingesting an untreatable “superbug” in half. If you eat grass-fed beef, your chances of staying healthy are even better.
Grass-fed meat is richer in nutrients
Grass-fed meat is better for you. Besides avoiding the toxins, it’s lean, with high amounts of healthy fats – like omega 3s and CLA – and vitamins and minerals.
It’s also healthier for animals. Cattle, goats, sheep, and bison are natural grass eaters. Feeding them grains alters their digestion and creates an acidic environment conducive to E. coli and disease. And what does the doctor give you when you have one of these infections? Antibiotics, of course — which further devastate our digestive systems.
What’s more, grass-fed farming protects the ecosystem. Pastured farming restores natural habitats, reduces dependence on petrochemicals, reduces greenhouse emissions, and boosts soil nutrition.
Finally, small family farms – which do most of the sustainable farming in our country — benefit their communities, provide jobs and strong economies in rural areas, and create valuable businesses the next generation can inherit.
Knowing this could save your life
Unlike Europe, the U.S. has no ban on hormones in meat.17 This means you have to shop smart.
Look for “organic” and “grass-fed” labels.
To be organic, meat must be:
- Fed only organic, vegetarian food
- Never treated with antibiotics or hormones
- Never treated with radiation
- Allowed exercise and access to the outdoors.18
Organically raised meat “poses fewer public health risks,” says Dr. Urvashi Rangan, executive director of the Center for Food Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports.
Unfortunately, until now, the grass-fed label has lacked any real teeth, and conventional feedlots could slip meats through as grass-fed because standards were loose and left open to interpretation. In theory, these factory farmers could confine the animals and give them antibiotics or hormones, and still slap on a grassfed label, so long as the animals were also given access to grass.
This could be why some of the so-called grass-fed and sustainable beef contained higher levels of bacteria than you might expect.
But — good news – a new and more transparent label is slated for adoption early in 2017. When buying meat, look for the all-new American Grass-fed Association (AGA) label on your beef and dairy. The label can only be used for products from animals that:
- Were fed 100 percent grass and forage
- Were never confined in a feedlot
- Were never given antibiotics or hormones
- Were born and raised on American family farms, never in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), aka factory farms
Independent third parties will audit producers annually to ensure their continued compliance with AGA standards.
Of course, you can also get to know your local family farmer and find out first-hand how he raises his beef and how it’s slaughtered. That way you reduce your risk even further, because you’re not getting ground beef that’s a composite of the meat from 200 cows.
If you can swing it, buy a quarter or half of a cow and keep the meat in your freezer for convenience and cost savings.
I buy organic and grass-fed meat products online as well as at local farmers’ markets. Grass-fed beef tends to have a stronger, more pronounced taste than conventional corn-fed beef. I like it better, and I find corn-fed beef rather bland at times. If ordering pork, I strongly recommend seeking out “heritage” products from old breeds of hog.
During the last 20 or 30 years, the fat – and the flavor – have been largely bred out of conventional hogs in answer to the idiotic demand that people need to cut down on saturated fat. Nonsense. Saturated fat is good for you, and imparts a wonderful, unforgettable flavor. Even saturated fat from animals is good for you, as long as your intake is moderate.
Heritage pork is so much better than conventional, you’ll hardly
The evidence is mixed on whether meat is carcinogenic – any kind of meat, conventional or sustainable. To be on the safe side, I aim to eat meat three times a week, no more. I suspect the problem with meat is really a problem with what the animals are fed, but at present there’s not enough evidence to be sure.
What we do know for sure is that sustainable meat is much, much healthier than conventional, and by eating moderate amounts – treating it as a luxury – you minimize whatever carcinogenic dangers it may harbor.