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How You are Being Fooled at the Meat Counter

March 07, 2006 | 11,721 views

Carbon monoxide is being used as a "pigment fixative" to treat meat in order to help it retain its redness.

The meat industry has defended this relatively new practice by claiming that money is wasted when sellers throw away good meat that has become slightly brown and less attractive.

Still Looks Fresh Even When Spoiled

However, some have alleged that carbon-monoxide-treated meat will also still look bright red and fresh after it goes bad, and that carbon monoxide similarly suppresses bad odors, slime, and other indicators that the meat is spoiled.

Consumer groups are concerned that meat buyers will ignore expiration dates because the meat still looks fresh.

Unapproved and Prohibited

A petition has been filed with the FDA to prevent the practice. Along with the reasons already stated, it argues that carbon monoxide is an unapproved and prohibited color additive.

Go-Ahead from the FDA

The FDA has allowed three meat-producing or packaging firms to use carbon monoxide, deeming the process "generally recognized as safe." That designation means the FDA conducted no research of its own, instead of relying on the companies to confirm product safety.


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

This is just another classic example of the industry seeking to deceive you.

Although the meat industry claims the practice is harmless, many critics, including me, are quite concerned the FDA has violated its own rules by allowing producers to taint their meat with carbon monoxide without formally reviewing the practice.

Many do not know that this practice is offically banned in the European Union, and for some foods also in Canada and Japan.

However, in the United States, Tyson Foods just opened a $100-million manufacturing facility in Texas to produce these "modified atmosphere packaged meats."

The trick about meat, especially in light of this news: Where it comes from and how it's cooked is the difference-maker. That's why you should avoid most meat from grain-fed cattle -- pumped up with antibiotics and hormones -- sold at the grocery store. If you haven't read about cattle factory farming I would encourage you to do so.

Before you decide to bite into a piece of commercial steak, I urge you to consider the following:

  • 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. One study found cattle 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.

  • Hormones -- Most traditionally raised beef calves go from 80 pounds to 1,200 pounds in a period of about 14 months! Along with enormous quantities of grain and protein supplements, calves are fed or implanted with various drugs and hormones to, as the beef industry says, "promote efficient growth."

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

  • Antibiotics -- About 9 million pounds of antibiotic feed additives are used annually in the cattle-raising process. This routine antibiotic use is contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance in humans.

  • 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. If you value your long-term health, I strongly encourage you to avoid irradiated meat.

  • Environmental Problems -- 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.

  • 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.

That's why I restrict my choices, whenever possible, to grass-fed and organic meats.  Many health food stores carry this meat, if you can't find it there, for your convenience we sell it in my Web store.

Another extremely important -- and often overlooked -- factor to consider is the way the meat is cooked. Certain cooking methods, like charbroiling or barbecuing, can actually create cancer-causing substances in your food called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are potent cancer-causing agents.

It turns out that you can minimize the formation of these substances when cooking things like burgers by adding vitamin E, cherries or blueberries to the ground meat.

Another way to avoid them is to simply minimally cook your meat. The most outrageous extreme would be to not cook your meat at all. Surprisingly, there are a number of people who actually thrive on this type of meat preparation.

A partial compromise would be to sear the meat on the outside and leave it uncooked for the most part on the inside. Many find this approach more palatable. Another cooking alternative would be to use very low heat, around 200 degrees. This will take much longer to cook the meat but it will likely cause far less health damage.

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