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The Six Dangers of Common Beef, and How to Avoid Them

December 20, 2003 | 22,204 views
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By Dr. Joseph Mercola
     with Rachael Droege

Beef is a mainstay of the traditional American dinner. Many even eat it for lunch or a late night snack. It’s many forms show up at summer barbecues, holiday feasts, workday dinners, and just about anywhere that people are eating. In fact, Americans eat more meat than any other population in the world, with the typical American eating over 60 pounds of beef a year. Which brings me to my point--much of this beef, the vast majority of it by far, is filled with harmful additives and is raised in such a way that it at best provides little more for your body than something to fill your stomach, and at worst is contributing to the degeneration of your health.

Think about it--do you really know where your prime rib or hamburger meat came from? Where did the animal live? How was it raised? What did it eat? Was it healthy or diseased? Perhaps you’d rather not think about it because you have an intuitive feeling that the answer would not be pretty.

Most Commercial Cattle are Fed Grains

As more and more Americans realize the importance of eliminating or reducing grains in their diets, beef is likely to become an increasingly popular substitution. However, since nearly all cattle are grain-fed before slaughter, if you eat most traditionally raised beef it will typically worsen your omega-6:omega-3 ratio.

According to a study published in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, livestock that are fed on grain have more omega-6 fat, which may promote heart disease, and less omega-3 fat, which is beneficial for cardiac health, than both wild animals and grass-fed livestock.

It is therefore much to your advantage to eat grass-fed beef, but you must also be careful as many stores will advertise beef as grass-fed when it really isn't. They do this as ALL cattle are grass-fed, but the key is what they are fed in the months prior to being processed. You will need to call the person who actually raised the cows, NOT the store manager, to find out the truth.

The least expensive way to obtain authentic grass-fed beef would be to find a farmer who is growing the beef who you can trust and buy a half a side of beef from him. This way you save the shipping and also receive a reduced rate on the meat. Alternatively, you can order authentic grass-fed beef from our site.

An inexpensive, yet effective, way to determine if the beef is really from a grass-fed animal is to purchase the ground beef. Slowly cook the beef till done and drain and collect all the fat. Grass-fed beef is very high in omega-3 fats and will be relatively thin compared to traditionally prepared ground beef. It will also be a liquid at room temperature as it has very few saturated fats, which are mostly solid at room temperature.

Hormones

Most traditionally raised beef calves go from 80 pounds to 1,200 pounds in a period of about 14 months. This is no natural feat. Along with enormous quantities of grain (usually corn) and protein supplements, calves are fed or implanted with various drugs and hormones to, as the beef industry says, "promote efficient growth."

Any combination of the natural hormones estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone, and the synthetic hormones zeranol and trenbolone acetate may be given to cattle. Another hormone, melengesterol acetate, may also be added to feed to "improve weight gain and feed efficiency."

Measurable amounts of hormones in traditionally raised beef are transferred to humans, and some scientists believe that human consumption of estrogen from hormone-fed beef can result in cancer, premature puberty and falling sperm counts.

Antibiotics

About nine million pounds of antibiotic feed additives are used annually in the cattle-raising process. Many people don’t realize that the largest use of antibiotics in the United States is to feed to animals, often so that they will gain more weight, but also to prevent disease outbreaks that could easily fester since the animals are raised in such crowded conditions.

This routine antibiotic use is contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance in humans. Animals raised in natural environments, not the traditional "factory farms," rarely require antibiotics. You may be able to find antibiotic-free beef in your local health food store, but be sure to be certain that it is grass-fed as well.

Along with antibiotics, traditionally raised cattle are given various vaccines and other drugs. The following is just one recommended course of care for a whole herd of cattle as shown on Pfizer.com:

  • CattleMaster 4+VL5: a 4-way viral plus 5-way leptospirosis vaccine and vibriosis protection
  • UltraChoice 8: a vaccine to prevent clostridial diseases
  • Dectomax Pour-On or Dectomax Injectable: drugs to prevent and treat internal and external parasites
  • ScourGuard 3®(K)/C: a vaccine to prevent calf scours

Irradiation

Some commercial beef is irradiated, which means it has been treated with gamma rays produced by the radioactive material, cobalt 60, or electricity to kill bacteria. The effects of long-term consumption of irradiated food products remain to be seen.

This issue is virtually the same issue as with milk. Once milk is pasteurized to "protect" us, it is seriously damaged and actually causes more harm than good for most who drink it. However, if milk is consumed in its real raw form, then it is typically an amazing health-producing food for most who consume it.

If you value your long-term health, I strongly encourage you to avoid irradiated meat. All meats will not be irradiated, so your best bet is to purchase non-irradiated meat.

Many may not be aware that school districts have the option of purchasing irradiated beef for their lunch programs, and parental notification is not required. If you are a parent you can work with your school district to discourage the use of irradiated foods, or at the very least contact them to find out whether irradiated beef is being served in your child’s school cafeteria.

The following Web site has more information on how to work with your school district to stop the purchase of irradiated foods: www.safelunch.org.

You can also contact your representative and senators today to urge them not to support irradiated food in school lunches.

Environmental Problems

Alongside the dangers that traditionally raised beef pose to your health are the dangers they pose to your environment. Substantial areas of forests, particularly the rain forests of Central America and the Amazon, are being cleared to make way for cattle. And in the United States, cattle production is a major source of environmental pollution.

Among the most severe problems are water pollution from the nearly 1 billion tons of organic waste produced by cattle each year and the enormous amounts of petro-chemical fertilizers used to produce feed crops, and air pollution--waste and waste treatment methods of grain-fed cattle are responsible for producing a significant portion of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide (the three major gases that are largely responsible for global warming), along with other harmful gasses.

Inhumane Treatment of Cattle

Traditionally raised cattle are treated as commodities and are deprived of some of the most basic requirements of life--fresh air, space and normal social interaction. Along with the health benefits of the grass-fed beef on our site, you can rest assured that the animals are raised in their natural environment--a green pasture.

For more information on healthy meats of all kinds and other healthy foods, I encourage you to check out my newest book: Dr. Mercola’s Total Health Program: 150 Delicious Grain-Free Recipes & Proven nutritional type Plan to Prevent Disease, Optimize Weight and Live Longer.