How Natural Is Your Meat?
In the New York Times bestseller, Fast Food Nation: the Dark Side of the All-American Meal, Eric Schlosser outlines some very disturbing facts about exactly what’s in the food we love so much. The author originally included one tidbit about how each hamburger patty from a fast food restaurant contains bits and pieces from hundreds of cows.
Later, in an interview by the creator of the documentary, “Super Size Me", Eric explained that after the book was published, he was contacted by the CDC about a mistake he printed. They corrected this mistake by letting him know the number was more like one thousand cow bits and pieces per hamburger. Shocking.
If that doesn’t get your attention, perhaps you should consider what’s in those one thousand cows. According to Eric Schlosser’s research, that not-so-natural meat is from cows that are fed sawdust, newspaper and a significant amount of chicken feces. In case you didn’t know, cows are supposed to eat plants.
Furthermore, these cows have to be injected with antibiotics to prevent illness due to the deplorable conditions they live in which include living in their own waste. The overuse of antibiotics in animals and people gives way to new, antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, sometimes called super bugs.
So what is the average person to do with this information? Should you give up meat? Well, you don’t have to. If you’re disturbed by what you’ve learned, all you have to do is educate yourself about what natural meat is, how to get it, and why you should have it. Here’s your first lesson.
Natural Meat 101
Now that you know what makes meat unnatural, you should know that not all meat is raised and produced this way. That system of raising cattle came about with the popularity of fast food, but there are still farmers doing things the way they’re supposed to. You may not have noticed, but chances are that your local grocer has a section of natural and organic meats that are free of antibiotics and hormones from cows that weren’t fed parts of other animals. Of course there are retail chain stores that only sell natural and organic products.
In addition to the larger retail chains, there are farmer’s markets and smaller community shops that carry natural meat. NYU professor Marion Nestle, PhD., MPH, believes it’s very rare to find 100% natural and organic meat but recommends that if you can afford natural foods, you should buy them.
How to Reduce the Cost of Natural Meat
Natural meat does cost more than other meats and the cost difference depends on the type of meat and the quality of the cut. However, if you’re concerned about reducing the cost of natural meat, there are several measures you can take.
- Buy high quality natural meat and prepare them as additions to a meal, not the main course. For instance, enjoy a small portion of a supreme quality cut of beef atop a bed of rice or pasta. This will allow you to enjoy it without sacrificing your heart or wallet health.
- Buy natural meat in larger quantities to get a lower price. Then separate and freeze the meat.
- If you simply won’t buy natural meat but are still turned off by the unnatural things in it, there is a way to lower the amount of harmful substances in it after you bring it home. The harmful chemicals are stored in the fatty tissue and skin of the animals. By simply trimming the fat off of meat, removing skin from chicken, and choosing low-fat cuts of beef, you can greatly reduce how much of the bad stuff ends up in your body.
Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser: Preview the book and read excerpts here.
“Organic Food: Is ‘Natural’ Worth the Extra Cost?" Kathleen Zelman, PhD, RD/LD