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Sourcing the Menu: Meat & Poultry

NOTE: This is an edited version of portions of Appendices 2 & 3 of the “Revised Stealth Syndromes Study Protocol as approved by the University of California San Francisco Medical School Committee on Human Research.


Standards and Sourcing (From Appendix 2)

Beef, lamb, chicken

Minimum standards: Organic certification, no plastic in growing, harvesting, handling, or packaging. All animals must be free-range.

Even if allowed by exceptions to organic regulations: No commercial fertilizers, pesticides, or recycled wastewater irrigation are allowed in this study. No irrigation of pasture and feeding areas is preferred. Drinking water from well or municipal water only. No PVC or other plastics.

Beef and lamb must be grass-fed and comply with AGA Statement of Best Practices.

Preference given to non-irrigated pasturing. For welfare of animals, supplemental hay is allowed but must come from non-irrigated pasture.

Possible source: Crowd Cow

Slaughter standards

Must be humane.

Solid cuts of meat only. No sausage or ground meat.

Slaughter to avoid all plastic contact unless absolutely vital for health and hygiene. Nitrile gloves.

Finished cuts to be placed in glass containers covered with aluminum foil (not in contact with meat) and finally sealed with a plastic lid.

Beef, lamb & goat

Lean cuts (minimum marbling) on beef and lamb. Lower fat content helps minimize lipophilic content.

Visible fat to be removed before cooking to minimize lipophilic concentration.

Chicken

Skin to remain on chicken, to be removed before cooking to minimize lipophilic concentration. Breasts only for chicken.

Eggs

Free range, organic. Certified organic feed.

Rationale (From Appendix 3)

Meat the enemy

Animal flesh presents an especially tough issue when it comes to systematic contamination by endocrine disruptors and other harmful environmental chemicals. Dairy (to be dealt with in the next section) presents even more opportunities for contamination.

While plastic food contact materials present one of the the most visible contamination sources, human contamination from consuming meat begins with animals consuming contaminated food and water.

The following emphasizes cattle, but the contamination sources are mostly analogous for sheep, poultry and pigs. Variations among species will be noted after common contamination pathways are described.

Commercial cattle and other farm animal feed suffers from the same plastic contamination as other highly processed products involving conveyor belts, plastic pipes, tubing and contact with other polymer-based machinery.

In addition, the “finishing” process by which cattle and livestock are fattened before slaughter involves numerous undesirable chemicals, but also involves grain which is another category of food with contamination problems from farm to table.

Cattle and livestock that forage in pastures or which are fed hay might seem to offer a lower burden of environmental chemicals. This would be the case if the fields from which the hay is harvested has not been irrigated.

Because of the expense of installing permanent irrigation sprinklers, pasture irrigation is often accomplished through the use of mobile sprinkler heads connected to a water source by means of plastic hoses that are frequently 100 yards long or greater.

(Example: K-Line irrigation)

Contaminates leaching from the long irrigation hoses are compounded if the water source is highly treated recycled municipal wastewater.

Cattle grazing on wastewater-irrigated fields contaminate themselves by eating moist, recently irrigated grass, or grass that is dry but which is coated with wastewater chemical residues.

Searches for studies on concentrations of chemicals of concern in livestock and their flesh could find little other than one which showed severe health effects in sheep that grazed on pasture fertilized with biosolids.

Grass-fed healthy alternative, but often abused

Grass-fed beef and other livestock offer relief from the excessive chemical, pharmaceutical and dietary practices used by industrial producers to produce maximum meat in minimum time and less money. Such factory farming has seen many health abuses in both the livestock and meat consumers.

However, even the grass-fed process has been abused (Grass-Fed Beef Loses Its Luster) by operators who employ factory-style, crowded feedlot practices.

An entire industry has developed where hay or other grass products are formed into feed pellets along with growth enhancers which are fed to cattle subsequently marketed as “grass-fed.”

From: Grass-Fed Beef Loses Its Luster

“A growing number of consumers began turning to grass-fed beef in order to avoid buying meat from feedlot cattle and factory farms. “But as grass-fed beef skyrocketed in popularity,” Lowry points out, “these same large producers have jumped on the bandwagon to offer a product that meets the letter of the law without a lot of respect for the spirit.”

Lowry explains that beef– technically grass-fed and grass-finished–is in fact coming from concentrated feedlots where the cattle are fed from troughs of manufactured grass pellets. “Large scale farms are talking about how to dope their grass with nitrogen,” Lowry says, and undernourished cattle are getting sold to the consumer at a premium because they have the “grass fed” label.

The American Grassfed Association has issued a set of guidelines outlawing the pellets, crowded conditions and other animal welfare abuses.

While true grass-fed beef offers a healthier alternative when done to standards, (Membership and Certification Submission Checklist), even those operations need to be certain that pastures and any supplemental hay and feedings done when pasturing is impossible, are free of irrigation and other harmful environmental chemical contamination.

This probably isn’t what most people think they’re signing up for. But if you’re buying “grass-fed” beef and you can’t name the farmer or locate the farm on a map, it’s a good bet you’re getting pellets, not pasture.”

Chicken & pork

Factory farming for chicken and pork have paralleled beef in intensity and opportunities for contamination in animal concentration, feeding for swift, maximum growth and processing after slaughter.

Organic regulations requiring space for animal welfare and feed ameliorate some of the contamination issues of mainstream husbandry. Potential issues remain with water sourcing as well as irrigation and growing conditions for feed which is seasonally required even for free-range animals.

The EU found environmental chemicals in feed and chicken coop construction materials in flesh and eggs. This was confirmed by a Belgian study and others.

Sausage: the original processed food (Now in plastic casings!)

Sausage of various sorts has been used for centuries to stuff animal intestines with various bits and pieces of meat, organs and offal that are unsuitable, unpalatable, or impractical to serve in their natural state.

Over the centuries, various fillers, spices, preservatives, emulsifiers, and other substances have been added to the meat bits. Modern sausage — especially the ubiquitous hot dog — is more often than not in a manufactured synthetic casing usually made of polymers and packed with meat of various origins ground into a paste with fillers and binders.

Spices, which have a lipophilic effect in attracting BPA and phthalates, are often used to cover up the off-tastes in sausages and other manufactured foods.

Replicant meat

Frozen and pre-prepared meals as well as sliced cold-cuts are usually replicant meat — created from manufacturing processes designed to be made mostly of meat, binders and other substances which are then molded to look resemble the real thing.

The associated use of “mechanical fingers” and chemical solutions designed to strip every last shred of meat from bones have introduced a new category of semi-fake meat that is artificially formed from meat fragments, glued together with a host of mostly un-disclosed substances, and re-formed either into “nuggets” or shaped to look like a whole, natural piece of meat — sometimes with fake painted/printed-on “grill” marks made of yet another chemical composition.

Many of the ingredients in these are not publicly available because the companies have classified them as trade secrets, something allowed by regulators.

Burgers

In their own way, burgers resemble sausage without a casing. And, like sausage, burgers — whether beef, chicken, fish, or veggie are fertile ground for undisclosed additives. One of the most notorious of the additives in hamburgers, as well as chicken nuggets, and manufactured meat designed to look like the real thing is the notorious “Pink Slime.

The chicken AND the egg? A fowl situation

Both the flesh and the eggs of chickens and other edible fowl have the same issues with opportunities for contamination from feed and water as other farm animals.