Two recent news stories may have you thinking about giving up steaks and burgers. The “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality” study found that eating red meat is associated with a 20% increased risk of death from heart disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality. And the USDA purchased 7 million pounds of “pink slime” for school cafeteria lunches all over America. Let’s tackle these stories one at a time.
A Flawed Study
You should ignore the conclusions of the red meat study. First: While it shows an association between meat consumption and higher mortality, it doesn’t demonstrate causality. It’s like finding a bunch of firefighters at a blazing house and assuming they started the fire.
Second: When you look closer at this study, you notice some interesting data. People with higher red meat intake were less likely to be physically active and more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, weigh more, eat more calories per meal, and eat fewer vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
So why didn’t the headlines read, “Smoking/Drinking/Not Eating Your Vegetables Will Kill You”? Because we already know that smoking, drinking, and skipping your veggies are bad ideas. And sensational news sells. Shouting that eating red meat raises your risk of heart disease “by 20%” sounds really scary…until you realize this is the relative risk, not the absolute. If your absolute risk of cardiovascular death is 5%, then a 20% increase bumps the absolute risk a measly 1%, up to 6%.
Not really worth giving up meat over, is it? But the other meat story might be…
Pink slime is a filler used in ground meat. The meat industry makes it out of fatty leftover steer parts that it can’t sell anywhere else. They treat these parts with ammonia and pink dye, then add it to ground beef to extend it.
Some reports claim that this junk is in about 70% of supermarket ground beef. It doesn’t have to be labeled, so you don’t know you’re eating it.
Symptom of a Much Bigger Problem
Pink slime is nothing new. And it’s just one example of the disgraceful quality of feedlot meat (nearly 95% of all the beef eaten in the US).
Feedlot steers are raised in deplorable conditions. They’re pumped up with antibiotics, steroids, and hormones to make them fatter faster. “Downers” (diseased animals that can’t walk) are routinely carried to slaughter on forklifts.
Feedlot steers are fed grain to fatten them up. So their fat content is mostly omega-6 fatty acids, which triggers inflammation in the human body. And meatpackers can pump the carcasses with up to 30% water. This jacks up the weight of meat—and the price—by one-third!
What You Can Do
US beef is banned in Canada, Europe, and Japan. You should ban it from your kitchen, too — until the USDA cleans up the feedlot beef situation.
For now, the best way to protect your family’s health is to purchase only beef and bison labeled “100% free-range.” This is the cleanest, most healthful red meat you can consume. Because free-range cattle and bison graze on fresh grass and wild herbs all day, the omega-3 content of their meat rivals that of certain fish. It’s more expensive (because free-range farmers don’t qualify for federal subsidies), but the superior nutrition, safety, and flavor are worth the extra cost.
And forget the “organic” labels. These usually indicate feedlot cattle which that ate organic grain, but may never have munched a bit of grass.
To find truly free-range animal products in your area, visit www.eatwild.com.
If you have children, send them to school with a healthful home lunch. And buy lunchmeat with care. Look for varieties that say “no nitrates, nitrites, or chemical preservatives.”
Send a Message
Following these tips will send a powerful message to the US meat industry. It says they won’t get another dime from you until they start providing you with pure, healthful, humane products.
If enough of us do this, we’ll get results. Food manufacturers closely watch consumer trends. If they see we’re serious, they’ll give us want we really want—and soon. So be strong and unwavering.