Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A hard pill to swallow

I'm going to take a second and be slightly political.

The other night I was reading an article in the latest issue of Vogue, of all things, about the dangers and realities of antibiotic-feed meat, particularly beef.

First I had to get over the fact that such an article was even in the snooty fashion magazine, then I was surprised to find myself completely captivated and I read it from start to finished -- something I rarely do with their articles (hey, Vogue is sort of like Playboy for the fashion obsessed anyway, am I wrong?).

The issues over force feeding antibiotics to animals are nothing new. Health concerns with our eating beefed-up meat (oh puns) have been around for years, especially after Michael Pollen's food expose, Omnivore's Dilemma was released (I will forever be grateful to my mom for making me read it). Concerns like can this process affect our development, are the antibiotics making women infertile, is it safe for the animals, is it harmful to us -- all of these questions I had heard before. But what I hadn't heard before, and what the Vogue article taught me, was that the main antibiotics given to cows to prevent disease is tetracycline.

Forgive me if I sound naive, but the word "antibiotics" for animals sort of floated out there in space for me and it wasn't until I read "tetracycline" that it came back down and smacked me in the face. They're giving cows tetracycline?! And then we're ingesting it?!

To make it more clear, tetracycline is a broad group of antibiotics that treat a number of bacterial infections. One antibiotic in this group is amoxicillin. I have been prescribed amoxicillin and others from the tetracycline group for everything from a bladder infection to a root canal. It's the go-to bacterial-fighting drug and the fear is that through eating meat, we humans will develop a tolerance to one of the most affective antibiotics on the market. Not to mention that something we need to see a doctor and get a prescription for is being sold in livestock feed stores by the bagful.

The article goes on to mention that organic label watching is important -- something I wrote a research paper on for my junior English class -- including that "grass fed" means practically nothing unless the label says "American grass fed." It also sites a Clemson University study that found that pure grass-fed beef has a whole host most vitamins and minerals, including omega-3s and beta carotene (something I didn't know beef even had in it) than grain-fed beef.

Scary, messed up stuff!

It really puts my earlier argument into harsher perspective -- the one where I said I would be willing to pay more for meat to ensure the animals are treated humanely and antibiotic-free but still buy non-organic anyway. Maybe I shouldn't consider it an option anymore.


Erin said...

A friend and I were just talking about this, having both within the past year stopped eating non-organic/antibiotic-free meat. The conclusion we made: Once you KNOW something, you can't UNKNOW it.

Like once I knew about the disgusting chemicals and antibiotics being pumped through the meat, antibiotics I wouldn't want to have in my body, the idea of eating non-organic meat absolutely disgusted me. There are all kinds of theories that this is why Americans get more sick than in the past, because we're getting all these crazy antibiotics and the meds our docs prescribe can't compete.

MUST READ: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. (yes, the novelist) Rural VA farm, true story, awesome.

Jess said...

I just finished Omnivore's Dilemma after reading In Defense of Food and I wish I could go out a find some local farm where I could buy my meat from. I mean I really don't eat that much anyway, but, yea....I'm not seriously disturbed.

And so of course my solution was Whole Foods, but then of course, he shot the whole Whole Foods thing right down in the book.

Oh brother, what are we supposed to do.

caboose said...

Do you know somewhere we can get organic barbecue?