Conventional wisdom, and some research, says you should cut your meat consumption if you want to avoid cancer.
There’s certainly no doubt raw vegetables and fruits help reduce your cancer risk. The fiber in them speeds the passage of food through your colon and helps remove carcinogens. And what’s probably more important, fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and other anti-cancer compounds.
So, most people could benefit from rebalancing their diets, with less meat and more plants. But aside from that, is meat really all that bad when it comes to your cancer risk?
The answer is yes, but not for the reasons you might expect.
You see, the meat you eat is heavily tainted with hormones. There isn’t enough research to be sure, but the problem appears to be these hormones, not the meat as such. Allow me to state my case…
Many cattle are fed the same muscle-building hormones (steroids) considered dangerous for human athletes. So, you can’t self-medicate with these steroids. But for the meat industry that feeds you and your family, it’s open season.
Banned in Europe
Controversy has surrounded these added hormones for four decades. On January 1, 1989, the European Union banned the use of all hormone growth promoters, touching off a 25-year trade dispute with the United States.
But in the U.S., cattle live in feedlots and are implanted with hormone pellets at 100 days before slaughter and again at 50 days.
The most common hormone is estradiol, a potent cancer-causing and gene-destroying estrogen.
The FDA claims estradiol residues in the meat on our tables are within “normal” ranges. They assert that hormone residues are so low they couldn’t possibly induce any hormonal or carcinogenic effects.
But their claim is based on unpublished industry information and outdated scientific citations, according to cancer expert Dr. Samuel Epstein. Confidential reports obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal high hormone residues even under ideal test conditions.
Hormone levels 20 times higher than normal
After animals received just one ear implant (not the standard two) of Synovex-S (estradiol plus progesterone), estradiol levels in the resulting meat products were 20 times higher than normal… high enough that two hamburgers eaten in one day by an eight-year-old boy would boost his hormone levels by about ten percent.
Scientists say things may be even worse in real life.
An unpublicized USDA survey of 32 large feedlots found that up to half (50 percent) had illegal “misplaced implants” in muscle instead of the ear, resulting in very high hormone concentrations directly in meat sold to the consumer.
The USDA insists residues aren’t detected in meat. How hard do they look? Despite their misleading assurances, meat is not, in fact, monitored for hormone residues.
A tidal wave of hormonal cancers
Former director of endocrinology at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and leading hormonal cancer expert, the late Roy Hertz, long warned of the cancer risks from estrogen additives. He advised that NO dietary levels of hormones are safe.
Breast cancer is a primary concern, because of its already proven link to oral contraceptives where estrogen dosage is both known and controlled. With an uncontrolled dose of hormones in meat, who knows the risk?
We do know breast cancer risk is rising dramatically.
In 1980, there were 572,000 new cases world-wide. By 1997 that number was up to 900,000 and by 2012 it had jumped to 1.7 million. In 2020, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer. To put these numbers into perspective, every 14 seconds, somewhere in the world, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. And here in America women are reportedly five times more likely to get breast cancer than European women.
Scientists also believe that increased levels of sex hormones dating all the way back to 1975 are involved in the rise of other cancers, such as prostate and testicular cancer.
They’re risking your health to make money…
There are an estimated 91.9 million head of cattle in the U.S., making cattle production the most important sector of the agricultural industry in this country. Every year, millions of these cattle enter feedlots to get “beefed up” on growth-enhancing chow that’s regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To further boost their growth, 80 percent or more of them are treated with steroids – an economic jackpot for producers.
The most recent numbers we could find show that it costs feedlot operators between $1 to $3 per animal to treat them with hormones. And they gain $80 profit per animal. Besides that, the animals eat less, so the feedlot owner saves an additional $40 per head on food… for an extra $120 pure extra profit per head of cattle.
Since you essentially eat what was eaten by the animal you’re eating, it should make you wonder about the safety of this food source.
Non-steroidal drugs linked to
chromosomal changes, too
In addition to steroids, there are medicated feed additives (growth-promoters) like Ractopamine and Zilmax, that aren’t actually steroids. However, the cattle are given them with zero withdrawal time before slaughter.
These drugs have risks to cattle, so chances are they aren’t good for us to eat either. For instance, Ractopamine boosts cattle death 75 to 90 percent. In humans the drug is linked to chromosomal abnormalities, behavioral changes, elevated heart rates, and food poisoning. It’s banned in 160 countries, but widely used in America.
Due to a slew of bad press, Tyson Foods and several other companies now refuse animals raised on Ractopamine and Zilmax.
Two ways you can protect yourself
You can vote with your fork. In fact, that’s probably your best vote.
Studies are pretty clear that steroids and medications in meat are dangerous. So, safeguard your health by replacing some of your beef, pork, and lamb with fresh fruits and vegetables, and high- quality fats. When you do eat meat, make sure it’s organically raised, with no hormones or antibiotics.
Yes, it does cost a bit more to buy organic meat, but there’s a good explanation for that.
You might think it would be cheaper for a farmer to graze cattle on his own pasture, without buying feed much less drugs. You might also think small farmers have less overhead. But you’d be sadly mistaken…
Two reasons: speed and weight.
Speed is the time from birth to slaughter. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) – a fancy name for factory-farm feedlots — squeeze that into a very tight time frame to maximize profits.
Because beef is almost always sold by weight, the primary goal of CAFOs is to pack on weight as fast as possible, using grain and growth hormones. The less time it takes them to fatten their cattle, the more money they make.
Besides that, the government heavily subsidizes feedlot grains. The downside of cheap meat? It’s not very healthy!
Cattle (and dairy cows, too) get hormone injections and medicines to rush weight gain (or milk production). This turns healthy cows into obese, sick cows. It also means the animals require yet more artificial life support via antibiotics. (Although truth be known, most CAFOs use antibiotics as a preventive, whether they need it or not.)
It takes grass-fed, hormone-free beef at least twice as long – two to three years – to grow large enough to slaughter. Then travel costs kick in. Your local farmer pays more to take his few cattle to the butcher than CAFOs pay to transport hundreds of head.
Regardless, more people are realizing the health value of choosing local and organic, grass-fed meats. Some people compensate for the higher cost by eating the high-quality meat less often or in smaller portions. It’s more satisfying than conventional meat, so it’s easy to eat less. Some consumers buy a quarter or half of beef at once to save.
When you consume organic, grass-fed beef you help the environment, support small (and responsible) farmers — and lower your risk of cancer and infertility while you’re at it.
Remember… Cheap can be a relative term. Cheap now may be expensive later when you’re flat on your back in a hospital.
Eat well when you eat out
One of the biggest problems for health-conscious eaters is what to do when you eat out.
Fortunately, an increasing number of restaurants are switching to organic grass-fed meats and organic produce. They’re springing up so fast that any list is quickly outdated. So, do your own research before you dine.
And take this advice from an FDA insider
Interestingly, one of the top FDA officials involved in meat safety, David Livingston, is quoted back in 1984 as saying…
“Well, if you’re going to have enough inexpensive meat for everyone, you’re going to have to use these drugs. But personally, I’d rather eat meat that was raised without them.”
My interpretation: What’s “good enough” for the rest of us is something he will avoid if humanly possible. Take heed and do likewise.
- Statistics from Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, Cancer Prevention Coalition, as reported in a press release to OCA.
- Guy H. Loneragan, Daniel U. Thomson, H. Morgan Scott. Increased Mortality in Groups of Cattle Administered the β-Adrenergic Agonists Ractopamine Hydrochloride and Zilpaterol Hydrochloride. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (3): e91177 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091177