Cargill Pink Slime, GMO-Fed Pigs, Arsenic In Chicken Feed, Systemic Inflammation and Cancer, Oh My!

I’ve known about ammonia in meat for years (since I watched Food Inc. – If you’re one of the few who haven’t, you should). And that’s kind of when I started looking more closely at better-raised meats (meat being generic for beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, etc.). It’s quite the process to wade through the propaganda. It comes from both sides. There are the “extremists” (who I admittedly relate to more) who don’t want any extra “crap” in their food or bodies. I relate to this. Have you seen this study on pigs fed corn – and the comparison between GMO and non-GMO? Anyway, then there are the other “extremists” who think the first set of people are making everything up, that food is a sum if its parts, that we’ll all starve without GMOs and grain-fed animals, and feedlots and farm raised fish.

I’m sure the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

But in the meantime, I only get one body. And the more I search and the more popular it becomes, the better-priced healthier alternatives become.

Last week I had dinner with my friend who works at Cargill. Her job is to “inform” current and potential customers that grain finished, feedlot cows are no different than grass-finished, pastured cows. First of all, they ARE different. I mean, the cows are fed different diets and live differently. So they are different. I think she means the resulting meat is no different. On one hand, I might not be able to taste the difference in a blind taste test. That’s true. On the other, when I got my very first meat from a grass-finished, pastured cow, I felt like it tasted so good. Almost like butter, but not greasy. It was very strange. For the first few months, I CRAVED the stuff. I’d consider cooking pork or chicken and would find my way back to beef. I didn’t feel like it was mental as it was happening without much thought. About two or three months in, my beef cravings and consumption went back to “normal” (for me). And I haven’t personally cooked with anything but since. So I’m not a good guinea pig.

However, I can say studies have been done on the meat. First of all, if you’re a weight lifter you know when you are bulking (what feedlots do to cows in the time before slaughter), you can’t simply gain healthy weight. You’re going to also gain fat. And it’s commonly known that grain-finished cows have much fattier meat. I’m not scared of saturated fat. However, studies have been done on the makeup of the fat, and grass-finished/pastured cows have a better omega-3:omega-6 ratio. Studies have shown that the standard diet gets far too many omega-6 fats. So, that alone is enough to discourage eating fattier cuts of grain-finished cows.

Second, grass-finished/pastured cows get more sunlight and more vitamin D, and have a healthier level of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). I know far less about CLAs, but know that they’re supposed to be good for you, helping fight off things like cardiovascular disease, cancers, inflammation, etc. There are people taking supplements of this stuff. Since I would prefer to get healthy stuff from food and not supplements (don’t get me wrong, I still supplement, but my preference is food), I will choose grass-finished/pastured beef. Especially since I can afford it.

Finally, pastured animals are often treated more humanely, and avoiding GMOs and feedlots avoids pretty gross or sad outcomes. For example, there is research that suggests either the GMOs themselves, or the feedlot setup with limited movement causes health issues in the animals. I don’t’ know about you, but I am not excited about eating meat from animals that are chronically sick. They have digestive issues, reproductive issues, joint issues, infections, etc. I’d prefer to get meat from an animal that lives a healthy life. Beyond that, the setup at feedlots creates an environment for more contamination during slaughter and in the fruit and vegetable gardens near the runoff of the lots.

Anyway, that’s a long road to start talking about ammonia. Cows slaughtered in these factory farms are often treated with ammonia to kill pathogens. The details are slightly sketchy on whether all ground beef is treated with ammonia, but it’s no secret that finely textured lean beef (“pink slime”) is treated with ammonia. The word ammonia freaks a lot of people out. They think of urine or cleaning products. And, honestly, I don’t want cleaning products in my food any more than I want Round Up or the weird foreign proteins in GMOs in my food.

If you read the GMO feed study I linked above for pigs, you saw that in a short time (260 days) a pig’s stomach can become severely inflamed from eating the GMO feed. This compared to no or mild inflammation for pigs with non-GMO feed. So it’s no surprise I don’t want the GMO products in my digestive system. But many pro-GMO supporters say this is the only way we can eat affordably, and the only way we can stave off world hunger. Meanwhile, third world countries are turning away GMO products saying it isn’t the answer. Yet we, a first world country, are still eating them. It’s frightening. And I always wondered how people could work for places like Monstanto or feedlots or wherever these questionable products are sold.

But my friend from Cargill is one of them. I see it with my own eyes. She’s a very devout Catholic who is careful about putting sugar in her body. She feeds her daughter well. And is aware of things like chemicals.

Yet, she says I’m crazy to think there’s a problem with feedlots. Or I’m selfish to think that everyone should eat this way. For the record, I’m only concerned about MY digestive tract at the moment – I don’t care if others choose to eat GMOs or factory meat, and I wish she’d give me the same respect to let me eat what I choose. Her bullying me isn’t going to make me change my choice to nourish my body with the best foods I can afford.

So this last time I saw her she starts going on about finely textured lean beef (FTLB), and how Americans are stupid and brainwashed by the media. And Cargill is working to get FTLB back in ground beef. Both to lower the cost of beef for the average American, and to “waste less of the cow.” But the only thing is, she pushes FTLB, but won’t talk about ammonia in the product. She also doesn’t tell me what the factory farms do with things like bones and organ meats. She says, “Those things aren’t commonly accepted by Americans.” But, from her perspective, everyone should have to eat their share of organ meats. Or use the beef bones.

In my pastured meat world, I DO eat organ meat. And I DO use the bones of the cows. I take everything they’ll give me, and use everything I can. I want to make tallow (wasn’t something I thought of when I bought my portion of a cow, and almost forgot with my pig). I try to find ways to use everything, and have even committed to trying fried nuts (testicles) this coming weekend. I’m scared but excited to try a part of the cow I’ve never had. I hope I like them so when I get my next cow I’ll be sure to ask for the testicles!

My point is, those butchers DON’T use ammonia because the cows are raised more cleanly and probably butchered in a cleaner environment simply because there’s less volume and the cows coming in are cleaner. You hear of those working in factory farms getting infections under their finger nails, but I know butchers who say they haven’t had these problems. So there’s a deviation somewhere.

And if I found out the butchers were using ammonia, I’d do even more research to understand if this is something I want in my body.

My concern is the FDA’s position is “there’s no reason to believe it’s NOT safe, so we consider it safe.” In fact, the link to the FDA, which is still an active page, and I assume the current standard, was last updated in 2006. That frightens me for some reason. They’re making progress all the time on safety standards with organic fruits and vegetables, but the ammonia issue doesn’t seem to have been revisited in nearly seven years. That’s plenty of lifetimes in the food industry!

I want to put foods in my body that are nourishing. And I don’t have a problem with using all of the bits of leftover meat. I know a similar thing is done with pork and sausage or hotdogs or whatever. I don’t have a problem with that. I’m simply not OK with a food that has to be washed down in ammonia to kill off the pathogens. At that point, maybe the food isn’t consumable? I’d rather pay a little bit more for food that hasn’t been washed in chemicals, or altered, or “fortified” to be considered “healthy.”

I’m a little frustrated Cargill is coming at its consumers, trying to bully them into eating this food, when I think the core of their instincts are right. Ammonia IS a weird ingredient to be ingesting, and on the heels of that, finally there is proof arsenic is in chicken feed – and the FDA knew it! Beyond that, arsenic is a carcinogen, and it’s PUT INTO THE CHICKEN FEED INTENTIONALLY! There’s a reason consumers don’t trust factory farms or the FDA or anyone else who tells them something’s “OK” to eat. The FDA is in bed with the companies selling these chemically-laced not-really-foods, and the response we get is that we’re paranoid or extremists or uneducated. But the trust is, it’s NOT natural to add these products either to the feed or at processing time.

Calling us uniformed or stupid because we’re paying more for a product that doesn’t taste any different is insane. It’s not always just about tastes. Just like the fake meat where many vegetarians and others with an agenda pushing the food kept saying “if it tastes the same and is created with synthetic vitamins (also called a broth of chemicals – YUM!), why do we care? We care because what we put in our bodies IS important. Look at the stomachs of those poor GMO-fed pigs. Whether it’s specifically because of the GMO or some other weird intolerance those pigs had is undetermined right now. But it’s full proof that SOMETHING is affecting the insides of those pigs. And since inflammation was much higher in the GMO-fed pigs, I feel like it’s quite likely the GMO is the issue. Maybe because of the chemicals in the GMOs. Maybe simply because it’s a different protein the stomach can’t handle. All I know is what we put in our bodies does matter, even if it tastes the same. Even if there’s not a study proving it, yet. Hell, they used to put cocaine in Coke. At the time people probably thought, “If it weren’t OK it wouldn’t be there.”

Bottom line: If two foods taste the same, I’d rather have the healthier option. I’m not personally concerned about Cargill’s bottom line (profit). And feel like our world hunger issues aren’t going to be solved with some ammonia-treated meat, GMOs, packaged processed foods, fake food substitutes, or factory farms. And if I choose to pay a premium for what I consider to be healthier food, especially something local, raised by a family, that’s my prerogative. I am unsure why anyone argues with that, is threatened by it, or wants to sway my opinion. Eat what you want, and I’ll do the same.

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