AAIM | 21st Century Medicine

The Journal of the American Association of Integrative Medicine

America’s Red Meat – have we created a KILLER?

The Harvard Study on red meat gave us some pretty startling headlines this week. According to their research, the red meat people buy in grocery stores, eat at restaurants, and serve to children in lunch lines is killing us! In the recent article published in the Archives of Internal Medicine eating red meat was shown to be “associated with and increased risk of total CVD, and cancer mortality.” It looks like the Hamburglar is stealing a lot more than hamburgers, it appears that he is robbing years from our lives. The study stated that each serving of unprocessed red meat and processed red meat was associated with a respective 13% and 20% higher risk of dying. That’s right, the study claimed that red meat poses an alarming threat to those who eat it, but why?

It shouldn’t surprise us that the processed meats, made with nitrates, fillers, and sweeteners, caused havoc and ill health, but the unprocessed meats are whole, real meat, straight from the butcher. They should have been safe, right? Why did the unprocessed meats cause disease and death? Some people reading this article already know the answer. Like us, they have studied the meat at their tables and educated themselves as to what is happening to our meat supply, here in America. We have carnivorous friends following low-carb, paleo, primal, ancestral, Mediterranean, and low-fat dietary philosophies, who know something about unprocessed meat that the study didn’t reveal, and that the media didn’t share. They yell at their televisions when they see those negative reports on red meat. They do that because they know the meat that was studied was not the meat they eat. In fact, to many of us it is not meat at all.
The Harvard study examined what they are calling unprocessed meats. But the process of creating modern meat starts long before the processing plant. Let’s examine the numerous processes the unprocessed cow suffered.

To Process- (definition) – To prepare, treat, or convert by subjecting to a special process. A series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result.

First, let’s look at what a typical unprocessed cow is fed on the farm? Farm, ha! This cow never saw a farm. It lived in a crowded animal factory known as a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO). Just like other factories, the CAFOs have cut costs wherever possible, so the cattle, herbivores that for centuries dined on grassy pastures, now eat grain, candy bars, road kill and something tasty called “animal protein products” which can include rendered feathers, hair, skin, hooves, blood, and intestines. The process of feeding this foreign feed to the cattle is unnatural and destructive to their digestive systems and creates unnatural and destructive unprocessed meat for us all to enjoy.
Next, the modern cow is pumped full of antibiotics so that while living in an unnatural state of packed filth the cows don’t spread illness, most of which would have been avoided if they had been fed their natural grass diets in the first place. This preventative process leads to numerous health risks for both the animals and us. First, the antibiotics cause the animals to gain fat. Hmm, could they have this effect on humans? Additionally, the excessive antibiotics are of concern because antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria are formed which, again, leave both the bovine and humans at risk. By the way, you don’t have to worry about this process if you live in the European Union or Canada, your governments are protecting you and have rightfully banned this practice.
Luckily, the cattle don’t remain in the jam packed CAFO for long. While steer used to graze on grass and only mature to slaughter at the age of 4 or 5, now they are spared this miserable existence shortly after their first year. That is because the modern cow is given recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). This makes the farm more profitable by creating a fatter cow faster. According to The Center for Food Safety, upward of 80 percent of all beef cattle in the US are given growth hormones. This process of falsely fattening the cattle to turn a profit is also banned in the European Union, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia due to studies showing it is unhealthy. So, this only affects our unprocessed meats here in the U.S. Finally, after slaughter, the meat may be washed with anhydrous ammonia, followed with a carbon dioxide treatment for cleansing, then pumped up, with carbon monoxide gas injections, to refresh the color. The USDA has deemed these actions “processing aids” so they don’t have to be labeled on our unprocessed meats.

So, we would like to thank Harvard for this study and for bringing these horrifying statistics to the front pages of our newspapers. We can all see, however, that Harvard never really examined unprocessed meat at all. Let’s call a spade a spade: the study should have said, eating unprocessed factory farm meats increase the risk of dying. That shouldn’t really surprise anyone, after examining how these animals are treated as a commodity. The fact is, factory farms and food processing plants have contaminated the U.S. food supply to the point that a food (red meat) that was once the very staple of a healthy diet has now become an almost unrecognizable “food” product, and has been corrupted to the point that instead of promoting health and longevity, science is now showing it to increase our risk of death by as much as 20%. Making the situation worse, the USDA has allowed it.

Where is the newspaper headline that states “ Our meat supply has been destroyed by our government!” or, “No foreign countries will buy meat made from our unhealthy contaminated cows.” We must have missed the TV reporter when they announced, “Our government is so concerned for the health of its citizens, they are now banning antibiotics and growth hormones, and requiring cows be fed grass.” Isn’t that what we all really want? We don’t want to stop eating meat or reduce our daily intake to less than 1.5oz, as suggested by the Harvard researchers, in order to reduce our risk of death. We want to stop eating processed, factory farmed meats filled with pink slime, butchered of animals which have been treated inhumanely. This study proves that it is all of us who will ultimately pay the price when animals are raised simply to make a profit and not in a responsible, natural and humane way. We want our government to realize, as the others around the world have, that the health of the nation is important. We deserve to eat real food that will promote health in ourselves and in our children. Our ancestors enjoyed red meat and thrived on it for millennia. Grass-finished cattle produce meat with far healthier omega 3 to 6 ratio than their confined counterparts, and CLA, a healthy fat not found in grain fed cows. Additionally, it supplies higher levels of the B vitamins, thiamine and riboflavin. Calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium and vitamins A and E are also abundant in grass-fed cattle. That is the red meat mankind thrives on. That is the red meat we demand.

In our book Naked Calories, we urge our readers to adapt what we call a “nutrivore” lifestyle. A nutrivore lifestyle focuses on the micronutrient value of foods through the choosing of quality grass-finished beef, pastured eggs and chickens, wild caught fish, and local, organic produce. Anyone can become a nutrivore regardless of their dietary philosophies, from the strictest paleo dieter to the strictest vegan, and everyone in between. Part of becoming a nutrivore is educating yourself on what is happening to America’s food supply and to us as a people, as we continue to eat foods full of naked Calories and slip deeper into a chronic state of micronutrient deficiency. We need to become aware of the fact that micronutrient deficiency, caused in large part by factory farming, food processing and soil depletion due to over farming, is the most wide spread and dangerous heath condition of the 21st century, and what we choose to eat has a direct affect on our likelihood of contracting a chronic health condition or disease. We need to wake up the world and explain that the meat, fat, and the micronutrient values (vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids) are not the same from processed factory-farmed red meat as they are for naturally-raised, grass-finished red meat. Nor would the heath results of eating them be the same. To be clear, it is our firm belief that red meat from naturally and humanely-raised, grass-finished cows would not cause the increased risk of mortality that the Harvard study found, at any normal daily serving range, and in fact, would decrease that risk substantially.

Along with education, it is the nutrivores responsibility to share this information with others, and to take action. The farmers, or the large agribusinesses pretending to be farmers, will not change unless we force them to. They are making money doing things this way, and they have the system down pat. Our government isn’t requiring them to grow food that will benefit our health, so the only way we will make a change is to act as a unified group. Stop paying for meat that has been shown to cause disease and early death. Tell your grocers, your restaurants, and your schools that you want them to source grass-finished meat (be careful this is not necessarily the same as grass-fed). Until it becomes widely available. Find yourself a local farm or join a CSA and work together as a tribe to gather the foods that will nourish you. This goes for pastured eggs and chickens, wild caught fish, and local, organic produce as well. Our food supply needs an overhaul. It will take the nation to demand this, and it begins with each and every one of us. Those who have already been sourcing these foods should become the elders in the group and use their knowledge to help others. Even if you already go to a farm for grass-finished meats, pastured eggs and chickens, or local pesticide-free produce, stop by your local grocery store and ask them, no, bug them to source these quality foods. It’s time we stop fighting among ourselves and come together as one unified group, demanding better food, no matter what dietary philosophy we have chosen to follow.

If we want change, it is our responsibility to take action and demand natural, micronutrient rich foods, and to educate and inspire others as well. Becoming a nutrivore is the first step to achieving micronutrient sufficiency, a physical state we believe is the basis of optimal health. For now, our health is in our hands, but if we continue down this road, and sit by as our more and more of our foods become vehicles of disease and death, that will not remain the case. Taking the time to understand how food affects your health could be the most important thing you ever do. If you haven’t read Naked Calories, read it! If you have, share it! Become a nutrivore today, and together we can make a difference.

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