The average American eats between two and five times more protein than they actually need. In the last 50 years worldwide meat consumption per capita has doubled, primarily because of corporate advertising. McDonald’s alone spends about $1.4 billion a year trying to convince us to buy from their heavily meat-centered menu. The rest of the meat and dairy industries also spend vast sums of money in television and magazine advertising every year to convince Americans to beef, pork, 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 only make 11 of them. The nine essential amino acids which can’t 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 obtain protein. Furthermore, plant-based proteins also don’t contain 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 at least some loss of kidney function. 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 average American meat eater puts 100 pounds of animal fats into his or her arteries every year. That can lead to 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.
Red meat is bad for your health in any amount. A long-range study from the Harvard School of Public Health 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, is also linked to breast, kidney, pancreatic, prostate and colorectal cancer, and to diabetes. Vegetarians have about half the normal cancer risk.
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. 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’s a level that even Monsanto considered extreme as recently as 1999.
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 containing foods, 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. 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 given growth hormones and antibiotics. 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 to fatten them up.
This has potential implications for the worldwide obesity epidemic. 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.
Here’s more unappetizing food for thought. Toxins of all sorts are now being fed to livestock. Especially cattle are now being used as toxic waste dumps. An Associated Press article 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 wastes come from incineration of medical and municipal wastes, and from heavy industries including mining, smelting, cement kilns and wood products.
Nutrition and Health has reported that some ranchers are feeding their steers 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. FDA officials also say that it isn’t uncommon for feedlot operators to mix industrial sewage and oils into the feed to reduce costs and fatten animals more quickly.
Scientists are developing 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 digestive tracts can be recovered, melted down and recycled into new pellets. The new pellets are much cheaper than hay and can provide roughage requirements at a significant savings.
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, gradually turning 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.
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.” This means that the meat is packaged in 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. The CO reacts with the myoglobin in the blood giving the meat a bright red. 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.
CO packaging disguises the physical evidence of spoilage, almost no matter how old it really is. And that’s 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.
Chickens are routinely fed roxarsone, a form of arsenic, found in their feed. More than half of the store-bought and fast-food chicken contains elevated levels of arsenic. Roughly 2.2 million pounds of it are being used every year to produce 43 billion pounds of poultry.
Chickens are also fed an 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.
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. 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.