Friday, October 26, 2012

"There's shit in the meat"

I start this post with a quote by Eric Schlosser in his book "Fast Food Nation", first published back in 2002, was one of the first books to bring exposure to the general public the truth behind the fast food industry and the corporate control of our food systems. This book, along with a few others that I have previously mentioned in other articles, helped shape my look at the foods that I eat and how they impact my body, the environment and the general health of the people on this planet. The above quote sent a shiver through my spine, and made me question how the government could allow this to happen to us. Don't they have inspectors for such things? Just gross that one hamburger patty from a fast food restaurant may contain as many as 2000 different cows. With plants that are so huge that they can process thousands of head of cattle a day, mistakes are bound to happen. While I am not an expert in micro-biology, medicine or pathology, I am a nerd for information that satisfies a curiosity. I wanted to give explain a little about how e-coli works and why being scared of this bacteria should secure what I have been talking about for a long time.

E-coli is a naturally occurring bacteria that all ruminants have in there gut. Cows, bison, and deer all have e-coli. And this e-coli is not dangerous to humans. I should expand on that. It is not harmful to us if the animals are treated well, and fed their natural fodder. Grass-fed ruminants eat what these animals have evolved to eat over hundreds of thousands of years. Grass is the perfect food for all of these animals. The grass-fed cow has an alkaline rumen, which is where the digestion of the grass takes place. The correct bacteria must be present to break down the cellulose in it, including e-coli. The problem happens when ruminants are fed something that is not their natural food. They get sick. Antibiotics must be added to the feed to combat the same bacteria that are supposed to help them digest. Corn and other grains are used to feed cattle as it helps fatten the animals to add weight and grow faster. These foods will change the stomach to an acidic environment, and the e-coli adapt to these conditions. 

Now when some shit manages to get onto the meat in the processing facility this is how e-coli is spread to humans. If the cow is eating grass the alkaline adapted e-coli will die in our highly acidic stomachs. No problem. It is still gross, but it is not the end of the world. The bacteria from a corn fed cow doesn't get killed by our stomach. It can live and reproduce, thus making us sick. E-coli is also killed with heat and is most often to be a problem in ground meats, not so much in cuts like steak and roasts. Unless it has been tenderized with infected equipment in the plant. If you eat an undercooked burger or steak, less than 160 degrees, the e-coli will not be killed and can cause the same problems. This bacteria can also be spread by unclean cutting boards or other kitchen equipment. Food safety in the home is a very important aspect of keeping us healthy.

My solution to the issue is not to stop eating meat. I have heard a few folks panicking about turning vegetarian. I really don't care what you eat, but this bacteria have also been found on some vegetables, like spinach and romaine lettuce. Under composted manure is spread on vegetable fields, and the e-coli has not been killed by the composting process. There is shit on your lettuce too! Solution. Eat local meats. Stop shopping at box stores and most grocery stores for your meats. Most of the meat that you will find in them are from feed lots, corn fed cows. Un-happy animals and acidic e-coli. Bad news. Look for grass fed beef where ever you can. It will taste a little different, may cost more, but would you rather get sick? I can not put a price on my health. Grass fed beef has many, many health benefits beyond the e-coli issue. I have written about that in the past  , but to me the biggest benefit is keeping money in your local economy and breaking the chain of the corporate food system. You can make your own choices. Give butchery a try. It really isn't that tough, and you can often purchase a quarter of beef for much less than buying it per piece, even at a box store. Then you know the cleanliness of the processing facility(aside from the slaughter). If you do not have good access to a farmers market or farm gate, deal with a butcher shop and ask questions. Don't be afraid. This is your health remember. Most people will ask many questions and do hours of research into their next cell phone, but what about what goes into dinner? Not enough.

Please do not be afraid. Be a part of the solution by influencing with your dollars to boost the local economy and support farmers who will become your friends and who care about how they raise their animals and the people who consume them.

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