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May 1, 2010 4:21 AM   Subscribe

American Meat Is Even Grosser Than You Thought In the focus on E. coli and salmonella, meat contaminated by heavy metals, veterinary drugs and pesticides has been slipping through the bureaucratic cracks. PDF report from USDA via. Pesticides previously and more.
posted by infini (89 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I gave up bad meat only to fall into the bad tofu crowd.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:30 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm going to fry up some bacon....

naw... I'm gonna eat it raw....
posted by HuronBob at 4:45 AM on May 1, 2010


This is where Tea Partiers and others calling for smaller government fail spectacularly-- the idea of shrinking the FDA rather than increasing its strength is a dangerous one. There is this odd idea that a true capitalist market will regulate itself; that when consumers are choosing where to spend their money, suppliers will provide them with safe, quality foodstuffs. This might work in a local community where a reputation for tainted meat would quickly put you out of business, but it doesn't work with national chains. Unfortunately we have short memories and meat packers and restaurants that have killed people are still in business.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:53 AM on May 1, 2010 [32 favorites]


One has wondered about the "short memories" aspect getting even shorter in this easily editable age of bits and bytes pushing information around.
posted by infini at 4:55 AM on May 1, 2010


Gravy: You fail at understanding free capitalism. People buy meat and eat it. If it's bad, they get sick. Since health care is also capitalist, they then die for want of treatment. Dead customers stop buying the same meat. The customers who bought good meat live to buy it again. Capitalism really works!
posted by Goofyy at 5:26 AM on May 1, 2010 [13 favorites]


I guess I just can't get all that excited about this. I mean, I know this stuff is supposed to be bad for you, but I can't shake the "precious bodily fluids" image.

I mean, "OMFG COPPER!!11!", but there's a reason the FDA hasn't established regulatory controls over copper. It's because copper toxicity generally involves one of two pretty rare genetic defects and involves way, way more copper, i.e. gram quantities unless you inject it intravenously, than could possibly be in meat. Trace amounts just aren't that big a deal; the liver handles copper pretty damn well, and copper is actually essential to human metabolism.

Ivermectin is a perfectly useful anti-parasitic medication with an 18-hour half-life, a normal dose of which is, again, in gram quantities.

I could keep going, but the whole thing is just boring. We eat all sorts of nasty shit all the time, and the minuscule amounts we're talking about here, even over time, just aren't worth worrying about.

Conclusion: your liver and kidneys are actually pretty awesome.
posted by valkyryn at 5:37 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just had a steak tartare burger last night and it was delicious. I asked for it rare and it came raw and barely warm in the center. MMMMMmmmmmmmmm.
posted by caddis at 5:38 AM on May 1, 2010


The supply chain, from farm to plate, is simply too long, convoluted, and obscured for consumers to be able to make informed decisions. Beef even gets blended from multiple sources. I wasn't surprised to see this start in 1984 — another Reagan legacy for the school lunch, along with ketchup as a vegetable.
posted by adipocere at 5:39 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Everything is grosser than you thought. At least for industrial food. How about the acceptable levels of mouse parts in canned tomatoes? Hint: it's not zero.

That's why that dumbass article about how locavores are preventing agricultural development was such nonsense. I'm not buying local food because it's going to save the world, though maybe it will. I'm buying it because it's better and it goes from the farmer's hands to mine or a butcher I trust. Farmers invite me to see their farms and I've even helped "process" chickens several times.

Most "greenhouse gas" emission estimations for food are estimations and I'm not going to base my diet around them. I can see the effect of local food on the community and feed myself with healthy food that I truly trust.

As for the FDA, I'm happy it goes after big companies that hide behind cans and packages, but there need to be exemptions for small farmers that can't afford to hire their own set of USDA inspectors for processing. Some of this new food legislation would devastate small farmers, which is truly unfair since local food is so accountable. If I get sick, the CDC doesn't need to do a year long investigation. I know exactly where my food came from.

If you are going to lump me in with the tea partiers for saying that, here is an example of a regulation that a small farmer friend of mine couldn't comply with- all meat processing for large animals for sale has to involve a USDA inspector and the USDA inspector has to have their own on-premises office and bathroom. They can't use yours, they have to have their own.
posted by melissam at 5:42 AM on May 1, 2010 [13 favorites]


I think most people just don't want to know how terrible the industrial food chain is for their bodies.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 5:56 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Factory farms practice medieval cruelty. That is the most important thing as far as I am concerned.
posted by chance at 6:11 AM on May 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


la - la can't hear you.
posted by adamvasco at 6:17 AM on May 1, 2010


You corpse-grinders don't get it. It's meat. It's a rotting cadaver. The rottenness is contagious. It starts the moment your tongue touches putrefying flesh. It rots your teeth and gums, leading (according to a new study) to elderly dementia, endocarditis, and cancers up and down the whole digestive system. Your sweet soul that God put into your body to love and revere all creation is smothered beneath each new bolus of festering flesh that drops like a pre-fecalized turd into your gut, where it explodes like a decay bomb, releasing fat and bacteria into your abdomen that gathers around your internal organs and becomes a virtual gland, pumping toxins into your body, and turning you into a billowing, greasy-faced entitlement-monkey, squatting on feces-specked haunches, pounding your chest, and howling for the FDA to come and save you. Then I have to pay taxes not only for that gigantic federal bureaucracy, but for the huge costs of your medical care as your body degenerates into that long, smelly putrefaction you'll think of as "the rest of your life", but will in fact be karmic revenge for animal torture you found so amusingly "tartare" in your brave youth.
posted by Faze at 6:26 AM on May 1, 2010 [27 favorites]


ROTFL Faze. I'm pretty sure a food we've been eating for most of our evolution isn't poisonous. The truth is that diseases of civilization like heart disease and diabetes are absent in hunter-gatherers whether they eat mostly yams (Kitavans) or mostly meat (Inuit). Humans evolved eating meat and it makes no sense that it would kill us.

As for the common myth that we didn't, do a quick search on Google Scholar and see how many hundreds of anthropology articles are about how meat eating helped fuel the evolution of the large and powerful homosapien brain.

What do all those hunter-gatherer cultures have in common? Well, the ones that have been fortunate enough not to have food trade with the West don't consume trash like sugar, white flour, high-fructose corn syrup, and alcohol.

When I was a vegan I was on 15 different medications and was overweight. As a omnivore now, I'm on zero medications, am svelte, and according to my doctor I'm in excellent health. The difference wasn't the meat, it was the sugar and refined soy/gluten junk I ate as a vegan, which was 100% plant based and made me bloated and constipated.

Plants aren't stupid. They can't run away, so they produce chemicals to defend themselves. Some people, including myself, are highly sensitive to those chemicals. And if you think plant's aren't full of rotting bacteria, I have a pile of compost I'd like to show you.

Many meat studies are problematic because they lump processed meats and overcooked meats in with the real thing. Digestive system cancers have been conclusively linked with salt, which is present in large amounts in processed meats.

If you are for animal rights, yeah, a vegan diet is the only option, but don't pretend it's 5000% the best diet for everyone and if you eat meat you are going to die.

If not, just don't eat junk.
posted by melissam at 6:38 AM on May 1, 2010 [37 favorites]


I hate the HURR HURR PEOPLE EETING TASTY ANIMALS reactionary anti-vegetarian crowd, and I do try to limit my meat consumption, but I'll be damned if Faze's comment doesn't make me want to go straight to Fuddrucker's out of spite.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:42 AM on May 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


Melissam: how can one be sure, without proper laboratory testing, that a food is not tainted by a contaminant? There's a person quoted in the article you linked to who claims that a farming family tasting its own food and finding nothing wrong with it is a "more elegant testing protocol than running samples (...) through a corporate laboratory". Unless local US farmers have evolved built-in spectrometers and ELISA tests in their digestive systems, this is magical thinking. Knowing the farmers and helping with chicken processing is a nice social interaction but as far as food safety is concerned, it doesn't tell you much. Salmonella and pesticide residues are not exactly visible. You can trust the farmer but, for all you know, the livestock is drinking water that was polluted by someone spraying pesticides miles away, or the tomatoes have been shat upon at one point by salmonella-carrying pigeons, or the stored corn has been developing invisible molds due to the right conditions of moisture and temperature.
There are lots of benefits in local food, no doubt about that. I can believe that the USDA tests made for corporations are indeed impractical for small farmers, but then better tests are needed. Here in the EU, there's a broad consensus that the only road to food safety is thorough testing, and that's probably the one thing you won't hear our farmers complaining about, particularly after several food scares that left entire agricultural sectors in shambles.
posted by elgilito at 6:45 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


You corpse-grinders don't get it.

You have teeth in your mouth specifically designed to tear flesh off of bones.
posted by EarBucket at 6:58 AM on May 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


If you are going to lump me in with the tea partiers for saying that, here is an example of a regulation that a small farmer friend of mine couldn't comply with- all meat processing for large animals for sale has to involve a USDA inspector and the USDA inspector has to have their own on-premises office and bathroom. They can't use yours, they have to have their own.
posted by melissam at 5:42 AM on May 1


This is really the problem with our lobbyist based politics. Every bit of progressive legislation ends up getting passed with a compromise. But it's a compromise with big business that turns the regulations into something that gets rid of competition or gives them some other advantage that vastly over-compensates.
posted by 445supermag at 7:00 AM on May 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


So copper content in meat may not beso much of a problem, if you're right valkyryn. But on the other hand - no regulation of dioxin levels in meat? And I thought your financial market needed an overhaul.
I guess the American view is that if you wind up killing a few people with dioxins no one else will buy it and you'll go out of business. Ah, the free market indeed...
posted by opsin at 7:06 AM on May 1, 2010


I love how, when the topic of being informed about meat production comes up, the standard reply from a certain subset is 'MM, M! Look at me eat my tasty tasty bacon!'

From TFA:
"We also found that FSIS does not recall meat adulterated with harmful residues, even when it is aware that the meat has failed its laboratory tests."

In other words, sure, maybe copper isn't so bad. But the organisation tasked with keeping bad meat from being sold lets bad meat get sold according to standards that probably aren't standard at all. Reassuring, that. It's been obvious to those paying attention that the FDA hasn't actually been working for the public for some time. As a result, we don't really know whether the chemical levels involved are 'trace' or not, because the inspection machinery is broken. The FDA inspection process is designed to be expensive enough that small producers can't actually produce, and ineffective enough that the big producers never have to change.

Also FTFA: "[M]edications may be consumed along with the meat. Such drugs include Ivermectin (which can act as a neurotoxin in humans), Flunixin (which can damage kidneys), and penicillin (which can cause life-threatening allergic reactions in some people).
The meat from sick dairy cattle is low-grade, and is usually turned into burger and sold to the sorts of buyers who stretch their dollars furthest, like fast food chains and school lunch programs."

So it may contain chemicals that fuck up the incredible human kidney, and bad meat is (unsurprisingly) directed to those with the least ability to avoid it by buying higher-quality meat. So the economically privileged bacon-eaters of America don't get sick from their meat as often, simply because their life styles don't put them in contact with the bad stuff. And so long as those with the resources to effect change believe that they're safe, then there's no political will for improvement.

In conclusion, cavemen didn't eat corn-fed beef.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:07 AM on May 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hey everyone, faze's comment is hyperbolic to the point of humor. I know vegans are always harassing you with their bully pulpit (oh wait, they do not have one) but we don't need to completely derail this thread in response to his rather poetic polemic.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:07 AM on May 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow Faze, I'm going to have to cancel our dinner reservations at Longhorn.
Thanks, I think.
posted by jara1953 at 7:13 AM on May 1, 2010


Metafilter: turning you into a billowing, greasy-faced entitlement-monkey, squatting on feces-specked haunches.
posted by jquinby at 7:15 AM on May 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


That's why that dumbass article about how locavores are preventing agricultural development was such nonsense. I'm not buying local food because it's going to save the world, though maybe it will. I'm buying it because it's better and it goes from the farmer's hands to mine or a butcher I trust. Farmers invite me to see their farms and I've even helped "process" chickens several times.
It's good that you "trust" these people, but there's no reason to think that stuff from local farms will be "cleaner" then stuff you get from a big industrial operation. A lot of this stuff just seems like paranoia to me.

You know what it reminds me of? The anti-vaxxers. The difference is that the locavores, at least the ones who are worried about health and think industrial agriculture is all poisoned. Unlike the Anti-vaxxers, there not really doing anything harmful they're just being eccentric. Which is fine. But all the hectoring and moralizing from these people really gets annoying. As if somehow eating food from a supermarket is so immoral pox that's going to cause... well they never say what actual health problems people are going to have... but it's just so gross, according to them.

You can make anything seem gross if you think about it long enough. Think about all the germs sitting on door knobs around the office. Sure, most of them are harmless but there still there little living organisms that are going to get on your skin and colonize on it. You have little insects living on your body right now, in fact. Mites and whatnot.

It's gross when you think about it, but actually that's helpful. We need bacteria in our guts to process food properly, and the only way we get it is from other people. Babies don't get any bacteria until they are actually born.

(The moralizing is especially annoying if their CO2 emission are actually higher, but the evidence for that isn't really good enough for me. Usually whenever anyone says "X is worse then Y at greenhouse gases, they're usually full of crap and trying to push some agenda. I usually ignore those types of claims, what we need is cap and trade or a carbon tax so that the externalities are priced in)
posted by delmoi at 7:22 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


...I'll be damned if Faze's comment doesn't make me want to go straight to Fuddrucker's out of spite.

Mmmm, spiteburger...
posted by grouse at 7:30 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's good that you "trust" these people, but there's no reason to think that stuff from local farms will be "cleaner" then stuff you get from a big industrial operation....It's gross when you think about it, but actually that's helpful. We need bacteria in our guts to process food properly...

Thanks alot Delmoi, now the needle on my sarcasm meter has a big dent in it, from wrapping all the way around and hitting the pin at zero. And my iron-o-meter is in pretty bad shape too.
posted by 445supermag at 7:33 AM on May 1, 2010


Upton Sinclair's The Jungle was a pretty damn good rendition of how nasty the American food industry was, and, basically, still is. Between that and the pork farms with massive shit pools spraying porcine feces as a fine mist across the countryside, I'm completely unsurprised at any point finding out about how our wonderous market works under defacto deregulation.

Mmm mmm.
posted by yeloson at 7:36 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm going to take this opportunity to remind all of you, regardless of opinion, to think of that one special person in your peer group who is distinctly less healthy and less given to analytical thinking than you are and yet never ceases to upbraid you for supposedly inferior diet and lifestyle practices. Now I want you to laugh uproariously and go about your day.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:37 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's amazing to me that this stuff is still considered shocking news. Anyone who pays attention has surely heard already that corporate farming is disgusting and cruel; there's no other way to get massive quantities of cheap meat onto American plates.
posted by something something at 7:56 AM on May 1, 2010


but I'll be damned if Faze's comment doesn't make me want to go straight to Fuddrucker's out of spite.

I'm heading to 5 Guys momentarily.
posted by empath at 7:58 AM on May 1, 2010


It's good that you "trust" these people, but there's no reason to think that stuff from local farms will be "cleaner" then stuff you get from a big industrial operation. A lot of this stuff just seems like paranoia to me.


It's true. It's not the fact that it's local that matter, it's your knowledge of it. A Kraft plant was local to me for a long time. But many of the farms I buy from I have been to and worked on. I also process many of the animals I eat myself. I can guarantee you there is no ammonia in my burger unless someone put it there when I turned my back.

You are totally right that there could be stuff I can't see, but nothing added at least. E coli has been found in all types of cattle under all husbandry methods. Doing a good job butchering is the best preventative. How much of that beef in the supermarket came from a cow whose digestive system was punctured in the butchering process? You better have a butcher you can trust.

I don't think everyone should eat this way, though I'm sure a lot less meat would be consumed in general if people did. Breaking down a cow is tough work and not for the faint of heart. If anything is gross, well slaughter itself can be pretty darn gross.

Paying a good butcher = $$$. I don't eat very much meat myself and I eat every part of the animal.
posted by melissam at 8:06 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with something something--hearing about how gross and potentially harmful processed foods are is nothing new. But it still makes me think twice before buying hamburger at the store..

Hey here's an idea that should please everyone: let's make all of the nasty processed foods have a special label so those of us who are cool with having a little antibiotics or feces in our food can know what to buy.
posted by gumtree at 8:10 AM on May 1, 2010


The rottenness is contagious. It starts the moment your tongue touches putrefying flesh. . . . smothered beneath each new bolus of festering flesh that drops like a pre-fecalized turd into your gut, . . . a billowing, greasy-faced entitlement-monkey, squatting on feces-specked haunches, pounding your chest, and howling for the FDA to come and save you.

Jesus, what is in your diet that makes the crazy cause I'd like to remove it from mine if I can.
posted by nola at 8:37 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


As if somehow eating food from a supermarket is so immoral pox that's going to cause... well they never say what actual health problems people are going to have... but it's just so gross, according to them.

It's impossible to say what it's going to cause without studies on its consumption, but it should seem intuitive that, given where it comes and how poorly its regulated, it has a greater statistical likelihood of causing something than one of the many alternatives. As someone mentioned above, the people who are worst off are the ones trying to save a buck, or the ones who can't afford otherwise. The rest of us should be able to vote with our wallets, but then, cognitive dissonance is a funny thing, isn't it?
posted by tybeet at 8:41 AM on May 1, 2010


it should seem intuitive that, given where it comes and how poorly its regulated, it has a greater statistical likelihood of causing something than one of the many alternatives

Is there a separate regulation system for family-owned local farms? If there isn't, then those farms are as poorly regulated as the big agribusiness farms, perhaps even more poorly regulated, since they may get less attention from inspectors due to their size.
posted by grouse at 8:51 AM on May 1, 2010


Ivermectin is a perfectly useful anti-parasitic medication with an 18-hour half-life

I'm not even sure what this means. It has to be used immediately upon manufacture because the chemical is so unstable that it breaks down on its own after 18 hours? Because that's the only way that drug could possibly be processed out of tissue after metabolism stops. And the Wikipedia article for ivermectin includes this (sourced in the footnotes) statement:

Field studies have demonstrated that the dung of animals treated with ivermectin supports a significantly reduced diversity of invertebrates, and that the dung persists for longer.
posted by hippybear at 8:59 AM on May 1, 2010


but it should seem intuitive that, given where it comes and how poorly its regulated, it has a greater statistical likelihood of causing something than one of the many alternatives.

The problem is that "poorly regulated" is a subjective measure. Obviously if something were truly poorly regulated, it could be harmful. The question is whether or not the criticisms leveled here actually amount to "poor" regulation. It would be impossible to keep food entirely free of contaminates, unless they were going to raise cows and chickens in clean rooms like the ones they use to make microchips. That seems impractical.

The other question whether or not "it" (the stuff they mentioned) is enough to cause problems at the levels observed. It may seem "intuitive" that they are "bad" but it's not the case that because something is intuitive, it's true.
posted by delmoi at 9:02 AM on May 1, 2010


Is there a separate regulation system for family-owned local farms? If there isn't, then those farms are as poorly regulated as the big agribusiness farms, perhaps even more poorly regulated, since they may get less attention from inspectors due to their size.

Hence the checking-out of said farms yourself. As someone mentioned up-stream imposing these same regulations on small farmers would make it impossible for them to survive. You are essentially your own regulator. At the same time, as the OP points out, these regulators aren't exactly successful at regulating.

Personally, I have yet to encounter a local farm in the areas I've lived that would turn a blind eye to a downer cow, or one that packs animals in to the kind of confines you find in factory-scale operations, or one that is forced to use antibiotics, even. In my experience there is a completely different philosophy regarding the animals and the practice, and that trickles down to what you consume in the end.

Of course it's always possible that small farms could produce tainted meat, I'm not arguing that they're somehow invulnerable. But the pressures for a small farmer versus a factory-scale operation are worlds apart, and consequently so are the logistics and the operations. It's a factory after all; efficiency is rule numero uno.
posted by tybeet at 9:07 AM on May 1, 2010


The other question whether or not "it" (the stuff they mentioned) is enough to cause problems at the levels observed. It may seem "intuitive" that they are "bad" but it's not the case that because something is intuitive, it's true.

I guess that's our fundamental difference. I subscribe to the precautionary principle. News reports like this one are nothing new, and they are certainly evidence of potential risk of harm. Again, I think of things like this in a statistical, long-term sense. To me, reading things like this strikes me as entailing a significant burden of proof on part of the regulators and the factory farmers that their practice is safe - not the other way around.
posted by tybeet at 9:15 AM on May 1, 2010


imposing these same regulations on small farmers would make it impossible for them to survive

So you are saying that small farms are, in fact, even more poorly regulated than large farms? But it is justified out of economic necessity?

At the same time, as the OP points out, these regulators aren't exactly successful at regulating.

It would be the height of hubris to believe that I was qualified to act as a de facto agricultural inspector. Or that the farm wouldn't hide any of their less savory parts.

I'm sorry I don't share your faith in small, local businesses. The pressures to make a quick buck are there just as much for a small business, and I've been treated dishonestly by many a small business in non-agricultural realms.
posted by grouse at 9:18 AM on May 1, 2010


unless they were going to raise cows and chickens in clean rooms like the ones they use to make microchips. That seems impractical.

µ
posted by pracowity at 9:19 AM on May 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


uh, so should I pack clothes for my two weeks in the US or just cans and ramen?
posted by infini at 9:37 AM on May 1, 2010


It would be the height of hubris to believe that I was qualified to act as a de facto agricultural inspector. Or that the farm wouldn't hide any of their less savory parts.

Agreed. But you can do business with intermediaries who have developed the competence to do so, and who are open about their processes and continue to seek feedback from, and provide information to, their customers. New Seasons Market in Portland has been developing their own relationships with producers for some time, and the results get better all the time. And as far as openness, they love it when customers ask questions. They'll talk your ear off if you let them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:52 AM on May 1, 2010


grouse:
Many of the problems (and subsequent solutions) in industrial farming come from the process of industrial-scale farming itself.

For example, let's suppose you have so many cows using a particular bit of space that they end up wading in their own shit on land so over-grazed that green plants won't even grow there anymore. Then in order to keep the cows from getting sick, you pump them full of antibiotics to battle infection from the shit-lake, and restrict their movement to prevent any injuries that would almost certainly become instantly infected, thus exacerbating the shit-lake problem. One could, if motivated, create similar conditions on a farm with twenty cattle, but it would be rather harder to achieve the critical mass of shit required to necessitate the full industrial-strength countermeasures. In the case of the small farmer, maintaining the shit-lake will not have an economy of scale attached to it, and thus would likely weed out this hypothetical farmer by mere capitalistic selection.

Similar problems and solutions of scale occur when raising ten thousand battery chickens instead of a hundred on a small farm, or slaughtering hundreds or thousands of animals each and every day.

So yes, it is true that the small farmer is less regulated than the industrial farmer, and we should be careful of what we consume. But many of the worst atrocities of industrial farming require an industrial scale to create. And even then the system still allows these atrocious conditions to exist. Introducing industrial regulators into small farming will not solve problems that industrial regulation has not solved in the big producers, and will likely just cause small producers to be put out of business.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:06 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


>Ivermectin is a perfectly useful anti-parasitic medication with an 18-hour half-life

I'm not even sure what this means.


It means that once ingested, the body will have metabolized or otherwise excreted half of the amount ingested in 18 hours.
posted by valkyryn at 10:11 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: It's meat. It's a rotting cadaver. The rottenness is contagious. It starts the moment your tongue touches putrefying flesh. It rots your teeth and gums, leading (according to a new study) to elderly dementia, endocarditis, and cancers up and down the whole digestive system. Your sweet soul that God put into your body to love and revere all creation is smothered beneath each new bolus of festering flesh that drops like a pre-fecalized turd into your gut, where it explodes like a decay bomb, releasing fat and bacteria into your abdomen that gathers around your internal organs and becomes a virtual gland, pumping toxins into your body, and turning you into a billowing, greasy-faced entitlement-monkey, squatting on feces-specked haunches, pounding your chest, and howling for the FDA to come and save you.

Someone had to do it
posted by lalochezia at 10:14 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


While it's impossible for me to take Faze's rant very seriously... there is a point lurking in there somewhere, though perhaps not the one intended.

Once you get your head around the idea that you are eating a dead animal, the rest of the stuff that may or may not be in there seems somehow pedestrian. I mean, this right here? This is a bloody hunk of cow muscle. This is, by any objective standard, entirely gross, and far more disgusting than ingesting things which, under other circumstances, might be proscribed you by a physician.

But I'm still gonna eat it, and it isn't going to bother me. Once you've swallowed *cough* that bit of nastiness, I mean, really, who cares about the rest of it?

There aren't any demonstrated health issues here. It's all based on some sort of instinctive "ick" factor. But if you're going to be grossed out by the possibility that you may ingest a trace amount of pharmaceuticals/metals/whatever, you should also be grossed out by the idea of meat in general.
posted by valkyryn at 10:15 AM on May 1, 2010


ah, yes, therein lies the rub; they may be prescribed by a physician, and I have had a physician prescribe them to me despite them knowing of an alergy (penicillin).. however it would be life threatening.
So, some sort of duty of care seems required. May not bother you, but it would bother me.
As this thread shows, people are customized, some, unable to process an all plant diet, others, the opposite; others still, somewhere in between.

Like the birth control pill residue being detected in water testing, or artificial-hormone-mimics in water due to the photochemical breakdown of plastics... these things actually do lead to serious questions that need asking regarding processes of manufacture, and simple urban and regional planning. There are small changes that can be made to steps in the processes of our modern society, it isn't like people criticizing practices, or questioning our methods believe that the only way to save our society is to destroy it, or ban meat, or attack meat eaters... we can fix the series of smaller issues, by breaking down the problems to their constituent elements, and be well on the way to a much more sustainable society. There are serious potential consequences to sticking our heads into sand just because it may align you with someone you otherwise politically disagree with.
posted by infinite intimation at 11:03 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


caddis: I just had a steak tartare burger last night and it was delicious. I asked for it rare and it came raw and barely warm in the center. MMMMMmmmmmmmmm.

OK, my first reaction on reading this was "This person doesn't know what steak tartare is." But googling for "steak tartare burger" reveals that there is in fact such a dish, and that it involves a certain amount of cooking. This seems wrong to me, like hot gazpacho, or green salad flambée, but I suppose it's just a matter of terminology.

Also, have you ever managed to get whatever reaction you were looking for from this kind of vegetarian-baiting? Because I've never seen it work. All it does is tell the world that you're the kind of person who finds vegetarianism in others threatening for some reason.
posted by baf at 12:03 PM on May 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


One of the very few pluses of living in Oklahoma is the easy access to beef, pork, and buffalo, all organically grown, pesticide free, and no more expensive than the pesticides loaded supermarket variety.

I wish that I could say the same about chicken, but I have been incapable yet to pay $8 per pound. Surely the time will come!
posted by francesca too at 12:05 PM on May 1, 2010


uh, so should I pack clothes for my two weeks in the US or just cans and ramen?

Well, do you think the food where you live is any better? If so, why?
posted by delmoi at 12:20 PM on May 1, 2010


I guess that's our fundamental difference. I subscribe to the precautionary principle. News reports like this one are nothing new, and they are certainly evidence of potential risk of harm.
What's the difference on an individual level between the precautionary principle and paranoia? There's obviously some point at which it crosses the line.
posted by delmoi at 12:20 PM on May 1, 2010


Also, have you ever managed to get whatever reaction you were looking for from this kind of vegetarian-baiting?

I think I just did.
posted by caddis at 1:01 PM on May 1, 2010


Dirty little secret of human evolution: we are not carnivores, nor herbivores, nor even omnivores. We are top-tier scavengers and detritus eaters. We LIKE dead, slightly decayed meat. We LIKE fruit that's no longer alive but is in the early stages of auto-digestion. That's why MSG is so popular.

Wether or not this is what is "natural" for us, or evolutionarily correct is a moot question. By that standard you're also not supposed to live into your forties. You DO live longer and have better health if you don't eat meat, refined sugars, excess salt, etc. Them's the facts, jack.

And you know, the meat industry also is a major contributor to greenhouse gasses, groundwater and river pollution, and habitat destruction but who really gives a shit about that.
posted by clarknova at 1:08 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


The truth is that diseases of civilization like heart disease and diabetes are absent in hunter-gatherers whether they eat mostly yams (Kitavans) or mostly meat (Inuit). Humans evolved eating meat and it makes no sense that it would kill us.

This is really rather reductionist. Hunter-gathers have many other lifestyle aspects that are different from my sitting on my butt commenting on Metafilter. And medical problems often have multiple causes. Saying that eating meat would kill us, or not, does not make sense. More likely it's eating a lot of meat, or too little, and over a long period.

Human beings evolved having a livespan that was markedly shorter than the one we currently enjoy. We face many health issues that members of nomadic tribes wandering the plains died before having to contend with them. Not facing them means they had no effect on reproductive fitness, meaning they couldn't be selected against, meaning that it's very well possible that a diet of specific "natural" foods could well cause us trouble later in life. Maybe less than a diet of Cheez-Wizz, but still.
posted by JHarris at 1:29 PM on May 1, 2010


We are top-tier scavengers and detritus eaters. We LIKE dead, slightly decayed meat.

This is why we all eat dog food.
posted by JHarris at 1:31 PM on May 1, 2010


What's the difference on an individual level between the precautionary principle and paranoia? There's obviously some point at which it crosses the line.

The difference is that the precautionary principle establishes a condition that can be met. There is a burden of proof that can be established in response to a concern over contaminants and etc. If a business operates a large-scale operation such as factory farming, there's significantly more room for risk (and, apparently abuse) - that's the lesson I'm seeing in these reports - and so with more risk there should be more regulation and higher standards. With paranoia there is no halt condition, so crosses the line into paranoia happens when an individual fails to assimilate new evidence and adjust attitudes.
posted by tybeet at 1:39 PM on May 1, 2010


This is why we all eat dog food.

If you'd spent your entire life with nothing but what your legs, hands and a broken rock would bring you you'd damn well love you some kibbles and bits.
posted by clarknova at 1:51 PM on May 1, 2010


Also, dog food isn't decaying, it's fresh meat that's rendered and permeated with preservative. But you'd still probably gobble it up.
posted by clarknova at 1:58 PM on May 1, 2010


too big to eat
posted by bottlebrushtree at 3:03 PM on May 1, 2010


Well, do you think the food where you live is any better? If so, why?

yeah. I live in Finland. EU has very different rules and regulations on what goes into food, what goes on labels and what's allowed to be sold or on tables. Also I'm hindu and don't eat beef if I can help it or at least certainly not bring it home and cook it. I also have access to a far wider tastier culinary range due to having grown up in Malaysia and from vegetarian home cooking - that is, I'm able to creatively put together a variety of meals that aren't always the obvious. I just don't wave it around like a flag.

Tbh, even the frozen food here is far better in taste and quality than any tv dinner I had in the US. There must also be a whole bunch of citations available for reference and linking on the difference in quality of food available in Helsinki versus the US but I'll look into that in the morning if you still need the debate.
posted by infini at 3:14 PM on May 1, 2010


I should also add that I gained 10 kilograms (that's 22 pounds to you) within 3 months of my first ever arrival to the US 12 years ago and have spent the rest of my time trying to lose that. It tells me that there are far more additives in the foods there than on any other continent I've been on because I maintained my weight between 16 and 32 quite easily. I've also been able to maintain that far more easily here. I *Know* I'll gain weight in the two weeks I'm in the US, it always happens so. Its a vicious cycle of get fat/diet - the food/diet industrial complex people.
posted by infini at 3:18 PM on May 1, 2010


This is really rather reductionist. Hunter-gathers have many other lifestyle aspects that are different from my sitting on my butt commenting on Metafilter. And medical problems often have multiple causes. Saying that eating meat would kill us, or not, does not make sense. More likely it's eating a lot of meat, or too little, and over a long period.

The Inuit eat fresh meat, which contains all the needed vitamins. Cooking meat destroys the Vitamin C, which is why people used to get scurvy at sea. (As well as other things, I would think)
posted by delmoi at 3:20 PM on May 1, 2010


Traditional Inuit diets are 'prime' stores of bio-accumulation toxins, top level feeders in the arctic suffer a multiplication effect in terms of bioaccumulation. (that study shows no connection to the proliferation of diabetes in Inuit populations... but the dangers of Pop (Persistent Organic Pollutants) are much more direct and dangerous. So 'we're' (all of us, collectively) ruining the traditional food (and other resource) sources with pollution, and because of physiology, the "modern" diet is simply untenable for groups... this is a bad place to be.


And the physiology does not transfer well to most diets elsewhere... so, yes, I think if you watch these "isolated" diets in an evolutionary sense... we quite likely are messing with larger scales of change than we know currently. remember that evolution by natural selection is not taking us "to" somewhere, it can actually lead us down a blind alley.

How is the 'unique' diets of Americans different from the 'unique' diets of people who are Inuit?

Most recent research I have seen in paleo-climatology, paleo-anthropology, archaeology, sedementology, and geology shows that it was because our ancestors formed evolutionarily in a period of vast, and extremely rapid events of climate change... it was climate change that birthed our species, habitable living places ebbing and flowing, snapping and cracking(on a geological scale), over and over again over thousands of years, one millenia dry, grasslands, the next millenia lush jungles, then back to grassland, over and over, varying climates, varying niche environments, all challenging and stressful and made 'us' (or rather those primates we owe genetic heritage to) develop the need to potentially be "jackofalltrades" able to adapt and fill so very many of earth's niche 'environments', then out of Homo Erectus arose Homo-us People, and in the last 10 000 years, we have largely kept our family units in one place (or maybe more accurately, with one style of diet and challenges). Trading "uncertainty" and nomadic lives for "settled" and stable lives.

It has been a long time since that precursor species had to face those challenges, could our species handle it? Have we all been to 'stable' for too many generations? (I don't think we are in that dire of a situation on a wide scale) , but I also think we need to do a far better job of quality control and labeling and testing also with American food (and also start looking at practices to reduce waste, and increase recycle-ability of our society).
/opinions.
posted by infinite intimation at 4:12 PM on May 1, 2010



This is really rather reductionist. Hunter-gathers have many other lifestyle aspects that are different from my sitting on my butt commenting on Metafilter. And medical problems often have multiple causes. Saying that eating meat would kill us, or not, does not make sense. More likely it's eating a lot of meat, or too little, and over a long period.


The hallmark of hunter-gatherer life is high infant mortality is low adult mortality. Lifespans were low on average, but some people lived a very long time.

What I think is reductionist is blaming all our problems on meat, a constant in the human diet of thousands of years, rather than sedentary lifestyle, junk food, etc.

You are right, we have to look at meat not from meat vs. no meat. We have to look at types of meat, amounts of it, and other factors. Meat today is not meat yesterday. No wild animal has the fatty acid profile of domestic pork for example...and it's obvious that wild boar does not come with added salt and nitrates. And these days we can sit around eating bacon, while hunting a wild boar without guns...is well....lots and lots of exercise...dangerous exercise.
posted by melissam at 4:46 PM on May 1, 2010


In conclusion, cavemen didn't eat corn-fed beef.

No. They ate caveman-fed water buffalo.
posted by jonmc at 4:57 PM on May 1, 2010


Corruption? Inefficiency? Nah, probably more like hiding a potential problem until somebody proves conclusively it is. It's like expecting Moody to pour a trillion bucks into researching better methods to rate a bond and then expecting they will overnight turn AAA graded bonds into ZZZ shit. Sure they will do, if you give them the trillion.

But imagine you don't give a rat about spending a trillion into scientific methods, all you want is a nice tidy AAA. You could spend a lot less by doing one nice research, reasonable enough not to look foolish and maybe to be somehow useful. Once you have obtained that, would you spend more for a better rating method? Nope, not at all, not until the shit hits the fan provoking such a mess it can be smelled from Mars. Nor is Moody going to invest a zillion without some sort of compensation.

Now let's move to the food industry.

Visit their CEOs (odds they are on a plane somewhere or about to go to a meeting fundamental for mankind) and ask them to invest more into food safety. You manage to tackle one, and reasonably enough he/she yells "what's the problem with you! And with that food contamination shit? Show me it's a problem by having The Food Agency tell me it's a problem and I'll comply, even if that means further cutting salaries or outsourcing to the moon!".

A little scared, you run to the most interested people, the masses eating the stuff produced by industry. Uhm, they don't like to pay the taxes needed to finance the research, and they are dirt poor too. They say "Why, ask our government to shift priorities, I don't control where the tax money goes".

You go to the government and are greeted by a bunch of smartly dressed lobbyist, each one of them explaing their own industry is vital, shifting money from them would be like killing baby seals. You politely ignore they are wearing baby seals.The politician just doesn't understand you that much, your technicalities are not part of the rethoric classes provided by the resident spin doctor.

You run to the research lobby, find there is only Al Gore, he's stuck on its elevator showing how fucking off scale the global warming is. You pity the poor fuck, he's so lonely at the level he is.

So now what do you do?
posted by elpapacito at 5:01 PM on May 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I meant to say Biomagnification, not just bio-accumulation.

The developing fetus and neonate are particularly vulnerable to POPs exposure due to transplacental and lactational transfer of maternal burdens at critical periods of development. It has also been reported that residents of the Canadian Arctic, and who exist at the highest trophic level of the Arctic aquatic food chain, have PCB intake levels in excess of the acceptable daily intake, and that may place this population at special risk for reproductive and developmental effects. In another report, children in the northern Quebec region of Canada who have had significant exposure to PCBs, dioxins and furans through breast milk also had a higher incidence of middle ear infections than children who had been bottle fed. Most authors, however, conclude that the benefits of breast feeding outweighs the risks.

Studies of carcinogenesis associated with occupational exposure to 2.3.7.8-TCDD also seem to
indicate that extremely high-level exposures of human populations do elevate overall cancer
incidence. Laboratory studies provide convincing supporting evidence that selected
organochlorine chemicals (dioxins and furans) may have carcinogenic effects and act as strong
tumour promoters.

More recently, literature has been accumulating in which some researchers have suggested a
possible relationship between exposure to some POPs and human disease and reproductive
dysfunction. Researchers have suggested that the increasing incidence of reproductive
abnormalities in the human male may be related to increased estrogen (or estrogenic type)
compound exposure in vitro, and further suggest that a single maternal exposure during
pregnancy of minute amounts of TCDD may increase the frequency of cryptorchidism in male
offspring, with no apparent sign of intoxication in the mother. Associations have been made
between human exposure to certain chlorinated organic contaminants and cancers in human
populations. Preliminary evidence suggests a possible association between breast cancer and
elevated concentrations of DDE. While the role of phytoestrogens and alterations in lifestyle
cannot be dismissed as important risk factors in the dramatic increase in estrogen dependent
breast cancer incidence, correlative evidence suggesting a role for POPs continues to mount. This
latter theory has been supported in a report that noted that levels of DDE and PCBs were higher
for breast cancer case patients than for control subjects, noting that statistical significance was
achieved only for DDE. While a causal relationship between organochlorine exposure and
malignant breast disease remains far from proven, the possibility thatchronic low level exposure,
when coupled with the known bioaccumulative properties of POPs, may even contribute in some
small way to overall breast cancer risk has extraordinary implications for the reduction and
prevention of this very important disease.
-From the U.N. environment programme(pdf); Ritter L; Solomon KR, Forget J, Stemeroff M, O'Leary C..
posted by infinite intimation at 5:21 PM on May 1, 2010


So now what do you do?

Are you suggesting armed insurrection to avoid the calamity of global warming?
posted by Jasper McLean at 7:52 PM on May 1, 2010


I could keep going, but the whole thing is just boring. We eat all sorts of nasty shit all the time, and the minuscule amounts we're talking about here, even over time, just aren't worth worrying about.

In my experience the greatest difference in quality between organic and conventional agriculture can be seen in dairy and meat more easily than other areas. I recently bought steaks from Smith's, what were supposed to be good cuts of sirloin with the fat trimmed. It looked good in the package, but the parts that were hidden were gray and starting to turn. I don't know how they keep it from turning color (though to be honest I'm not interested), but if you keep it in your fridge for a week or more (I didn't do that) the part you can see looks the same color as the day you bought it - when you turn it over it's a different story. Seriously, I don't want to know how they do it, but I'm not getting suckered again. I don't want to sound all old and cranky, but meat in the supermarket was not like this when I was a kid, and I grew up in the '70s. Heck, I don't think it was like this 20 years ago, from what I remember anyway. I drank a lot 20 years ago ...

I'm not one to waste food, so I cooked it to medium well and microwaved it after seasoning the hell out of it, which is such a shame for an unusual treat. I buy red meat maybe a couple times a month at most, both because of budget and because eating beef more often is very wasteful for a lot of reasons. This just confirms that for me it's worth it to pay more to get the kind of meat I can cook rare and not have to ruin it. And this is just from the foodie perspective, not to mention the environmental effects. It's just not worth it to go cheap and to buy crap I have to worry about getting food poisoning from eating.

And dairy ... well, there is no comparison. Especially with eggs. But a lot of people have chickens around here, and you're allowed females even within city limits, so you can often get great eggs for cheap or free from spring through fall.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:52 PM on May 1, 2010


By the way, we also have local organic grass fed cattle here, which is amazing but still a bit pricey at the store. Unfortunately, I'm not close friends with anyone in the business yet, but a contracting friend recently got paid for a job partly in beef, like a whole cow. Really good beef, too, but he had to freeze it and is giving it away to family as quickly as possible, so not always practical to use as a form of payment.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:05 PM on May 1, 2010


I mean, this right here? This is a bloody hunk of cow muscle. This is, by any objective standard, entirely gross, and far more disgusting than ingesting things which, under other circumstances, might be proscribed you by a physician.

That's purely subjective. I don't think the idea of eating a dead animal gross. I think death and regeneration is the way of life. People are omnivorous but flexible, so vegetarian diets can be healthy but so can omnivorous diets, though neither is moreso by itself - it's possible to have a very unhealthy diet with no meat. However, I think our system of producing and delivering meat and dairy on a massive scale has some serious problems inherent in its design, particularly concerning food safety regulation, which has gone by the wayside in the heyday of deregulation frenzy. (Well, I didn't like the way that looked once I wrote it out, but there you are ...) These things are worthwhile to talk about.

I don't really care if you think it's gross. That's your issue.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:24 PM on May 1, 2010


Read Fast Food Nation. The meat processing industry is powerful and profitable. Meat is mostly irradiated, and we cannot be informed, because we might get scared. Most people will buy irradiated meat because it'll be cheaper, and steak is delicious. Really, it's okay, we can choose for ourselves. Beef and other meat animals get fed lots of antibiotics, which I belief is far more likely to cause antibiotic resistance. I hope cleaning up the food supply is on Obama's list; this is exactly what government is for.
posted by theora55 at 9:48 PM on May 1, 2010


I could keep going, but the whole thing is just boring. We eat all sorts of nasty shit all the time, and the minuscule amounts we're talking about here, even over time, just aren't worth worrying about.
and this is where you are so fucking wrong. How old are you? Are you overweight - probably.
Why do you think that is? Maybe the food you eat has too many additives - growth hormones, or high fructose corn syrup but <>its just booring >. remember that when you are in later life and maybe have diabetes or cancer or any any number of ailments which maybe could have been alleviated by not ingesting crap in the first place. <>its just booring >
posted by adamvasco at 12:32 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


... I'm hindu and don't eat beef if I can help it ...
posted by infini


Then this post is kind of like FOX News doing a story on quality control in abortion clinics, you know, in their "No Spin Zone."
posted by caddis at 3:06 AM on May 2, 2010


not necessarily. Living in multicultural america taught me to eat whatever was available, politely than to make a high maintenance fuss. For eg some flight from sfo to paris had exactly one dish available in cattle class - beef lasagna. I am pragmatic not to want to starve. The same problem with conferences and events. Its being professional but at the same time being aware of not having any control over the crap i ingest. Do you think this problem is not there in chicken or pork?
posted by infini at 3:34 AM on May 2, 2010


Maybe the food you eat has too many additives - growth hormones

Okay, growth hormones. How are those "additives"? The article you linked to made the claim that several of the hormones were naturally occurring, which means they are in all milk. And anyway, that's only about one type of drink, milk, which not everyone drinks. I didn't know there was much growth hormone in beef itself, but if there is it will be there, at least at some level, whether or not extra growth hormone is added.

Also, keep in mind that plants contain plant hormones.

The other thing, HCFS is just a link to a 'neutrality disputed' Wikipedia page which isn't even all that conclusive, for example:
They also reported that the rats on HFCS 24 hrs/day did not gain a statistically significant amount of weight when compared to the rats on sucrose or chow only. Additionally, no differences in blood-glucose levels were observed. Another study was conducted for 6-7 months, and fat pads were removed from the rats and weighed. Fat pads for rats on HFCS 12 hrs/day weighed significantly more than rats on chow only, but were not different from rats on sucrose. Fat pads for rats on HFCS 24 hrs/day did not have a statistically different weight than rats on chow only.
So HFCS won't make you fat if eat it 24 hours a day, continuously. But it will make you fat if you eat it 12 hours a day, continuously, compared to eating table sugar 12 hours a day, continuously. If you're a rat. On the other hand:
A 2008 study in humans analyzed the circulating levels of glucose, insulin, leptin, ghrelin, and triacylglycerol during a 24 hour period after consuming drinks containing HFCS or sucrose. The researchers concluded that the consumption of HFCS or sucrose did not yield differing metabolic effects.[49]
There are other studies that compare fructose consumption to non-fructose consumption, but the first study was the only one that compared it to sucrose (cane sugar). Sugar is bad for you, whether it's sucrose or fructose. But making HFCS out to be demon juice gets a little old.
posted by delmoi at 3:52 AM on May 2, 2010


Delmoi wiill this Princeton Research link do for HFCS?
Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain.
Similarily The Cancer Risk because of Hormones in US Beef references Dr Epstein of University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health and contributer to the Cancer Prevention Coalition
Big Agriculture is equally as evil as Big Oil.
posted by adamvasco at 4:32 AM on May 2, 2010


.....and careful with that chicken infini.
posted by adamvasco at 4:34 AM on May 2, 2010


So for the first experiment:
The first study showed that male rats given water sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup in addition to a standard diet of rat chow gained much more weight than male rats that received water sweetened with table sugar, or sucrose, in conjunction with the standard diet. The concentration of sugar in the sucrose solution was the same as is found in some commercial soft drinks, while the high-fructose corn syrup solution was half as concentrated as most sodas.
Why not use the same levels? If you look at the study mentioned on wikipedia, rats fed with fructose 24/7 gained less weight then rats fed fructose 12h/day.
The second experiment -- the first long-term study of the effects of high-fructose corn syrup consumption on obesity in lab animals -- monitored weight gain, body fat and triglyceride levels in rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup over a period of six months. Compared to animals eating only rat chow, rats on a diet rich in high-fructose corn syrup showed
The second experiment seems to ignore sucrose. I'm sure the results would be pretty similar. Anyway, I don't think people should be gulping down gobs of sugary drinks every day. Certainly people do that, and it's a really bad idea. But the idea that HCFS is some kind of poison, that there are small amounts of it in random food products, and it will kill you is way over the top. Replacing HCFS with sucrose won't make food any safer.

The research in question would be like a person ONLY drinking soft drinks, and nothing else.
posted by delmoi at 5:14 AM on May 2, 2010


Why not use the same levels?

The HFCS used is 55% fructose and 45% glucose, whereas sucrose is 50%/50%. The study mentioned used an 8% solution of HFCS and a 10% solution of sucrose. The unequal levels were used to control for the sweetness of the water (to make it approximately equal), which would otherwise confound the results.

But the idea that HCFS is some kind of poison, that there are small amounts of it in random food products, and it will kill you is way over the top.

I don't think anyone here is saying that. All refined sweeteners are bad for health, and they only get worse the more refined they become. Why? Sweetness of sugar acts on the brain in much the same way as cocaine or heroin does. A tiny bit never hurt anyone, HCFS isn't cyanide, but more and more is making it into the foods people eat. So the trend toward using HFCS is worrying, and is harmful, and so makes for a clear parallel to food adjuncts and contaminants already discussed. Considering obesity is actually increasing at the rate of an epidemic, on a population scale "poison" may not actually be so far-fetched.
posted by tybeet at 8:09 AM on May 2, 2010


adamvasco - that chicken problem, among others, is why i just simply gave up in the US. luckily I lived a couple of blocks from chinatown in SF and would stick to stir fries I would make at home, soups and stuff and the occasional purchase of pork hanging from the butcher's hook. that was the only way to ensure i wouldn't gain ridiculous and unwarranted amounts of weight unrelated to actual amount of food I was eating. the problem with travel though is that one is wholly dependent on purchased food so its a tradeoff. the sweeteners in everything are just frightening and the level of salt as well. I can tell the difference when I'm in other countries and there's simply no way to avoid it all completely within any reasonable budget. its simply systemic mistrust of the labels adn ingredients - take the furor over labeling milk with bgh for example. Michael Pollan's book The End of Food is also an eye opener.
posted by infini at 8:30 AM on May 2, 2010


Do you think this problem is not there in chicken or pork?

To be honest, it's there in vegetables as well. What you did was focus your own religious bias against meat on one aspect of the whole food problem, hence my earlier analogy.
posted by caddis at 3:17 PM on May 2, 2010


delmoi: The research in question would be like a person ONLY drinking soft drinks, and nothing else.

This is, as far as I can tell, just accounting for the variables.

If there are variables (i.e. eating/drinking 'other' things...) then part of doing this science is to account for, and 'control' those external things by testing with controls on those possible external variables.

(If those mice were being fed some other foods, would someone not be in here right now saying; 'yeah, but correlation does not equal causation'... wouldn't someone be here now saying that it "could be" the "rest" of that mouses diet that "caused" unhealthiness).

That said; I'm bored. Who cares if people we are paying to be food inspectors aren't inspecting food.
Also, infini may have a religious observance relating to one aspect of this topic... don't let that distract you from the wider questions, and the fact that our food supply, and sources have implications to everyone here, to all of us. As caddis notes, vegetables and other foods are also being neglected, and allowed to go unchecked... honest question; if our nation feels a need, and has the resources to make everyone flying across the skies on an airplane take off their shoes, or get full body scanned with a high-tech machine... why are we NOT doing even cursory checks on our food supply?

Why does it take a "crisis" event to make anyone care seriously about serious things?

The 'deregulation' kick that went on in the last decade (yes, I know that it has been facing challenges longer than that, but the chilled budgets of the 00's have left us seriously deficient in terms of "fast action" and responses to dangerous food and drugs) has left us in a pretty bad position; can we still export our foods? Last I checked a lot of the world simply would not import our foods, whether for our caution to the wind (literally, seeds spread by wind) GMO crops, or lack of testing for mad-cow (just because we don't TEST for it doesn't mean it isn't there).
I mean, this right here? This is a bloody hunk of cow muscle. This is, by any objective standard, entirely gross, and far more disgusting than ingesting things which, under other circumstances, might be proscribed you by a physician.
Wait, You seem to have a reversed view to what I am seeing... the "flesh of another life-form" may have some ick factor for some people... but this is inconsequential, and really, entirely subjective, entirely 'personal', and completely irrelevant; Human ancestors have evolved with EATING at least some MEAT (some with pure meat diets, some with almost none, others a balance between sources), so the "meat" isn't a problem on its own, only when combined with other bad practices, but seriously, how can chemicals not be considered some form of foreign substance... which our bodies have almost no experience with (evolutionarily) breaking down, dealing with, expelling or making use of.

Did any of our ancestors evolve ingesting "chemicals", or "anti-bacterials"? No.
Did any of our ancestors develop mechanisms for breaking down various heavy metals, or human produced chemicals? No.
Do various chemicals which may or may not be harmful alone ever break down, or combine in nature and form "toxic" or dangerous things which can harm us? yes.
Is cancer rare?
....

"There's obviously some point at which it crosses the line."

A line delmoi, I am pretty sure it would cross A line, there is not hard and fast "one line" for all time. Paranoid today is yesterdays reasonable concern. Conversely, yesterdays "inconceivable" (ex. planes as weapons) ... is tomorrows "single greatest threat ever".

Also; Yesterday's "no risk, because all doctors smoke the brand with the gold label"... is today's "millions of dollars in health care costs".

Paranoid? Or simply not actively "tearing down" (used lightly, because I think environmental science, and precautionary principles will come out of this thread fully unscathed) science, and environmental biology and toxicology and other investigations.

I understand concerns, as some people take things a step too far, and try to advance potentially dangerous untested beliefs (ex. opposition to vaccines) as 'science'... I really see little difference between people doing that kind of made up belief based "science", and people who say "that's just being paranoid, or that's boring" when real investigations and research are done which suggest things need some changes in our food production, supplies, and raw materials.

[I am suggesting that at some point, people who are 'paranoid of paranoid people', and continually call into question actual science, just to "score points", and make "vaxxers", or "enviro-nuts" look "paranoid" begin to hinder cultural change, environmental improvements, health quality improvements and other positive changes in our society.] -it may feel good to feel "superior" to someone pedaling "fear-science"... to point out how illogical "homeopathy" or some other thing out there is... but ALWAYS acting this way when science comes up... starts to hinder real positive advances.

It seems some are thinking of it in a sense of believing that the important issue is "this individual person will not die, or have a shorter life because of this particular piece of food"... I do not believe that this is the "biggest" level of study. Or how we should base statements of "safety"vs"danger". But hey, it's all about getting a product to market right? Speed, efficiency, and productivity.amirite?

What I am thinking of, is what happens over generations; evolution is a process that cannot be readily or easily "reversed", and again, it 100% certainly IS a process that is indisputably CURRENTLY occurring; now, thinking of this, is this what we ought to be eating, or unconcerned about eating and more importantly, what of those with low income, and the least ability to "choose" healthy foods.

So often I hear people in relatively comfortable situations non-nonchalantly say, "oh, well, if you want to eat healthy, you just need to be smart" (implying [and sometimes actively suggesting] a superior smug-personal smartness); "If you want to eat healthy, you just need to eat better foods".
-ahhh, so that is my problem, now, where may we get those foods?

It's been said before, and people spend their careers studying this but... the availability of 'healthy' foods, and wise choices, and balanced diets is something that is restricted in reality along lines such as 'class', 'race', economic situation, location of living (urban/rural) and various other non-chosen, unchangeable factors. This is not "stupid people eating bad food, and becoming unhealthy"... this is... "quit lying about making a 'small government' and decrying the 'failure' of regulation and government intervention all while actively acting to de-fund those valuable services, which is what is actually making them worse and untenable... if you believe that "government is always wrong, or never the solution"... don't then go and try to LEAD the government.
posted by infinite intimation at 9:07 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I should add i eat everything else that moves/moved ;p the beef is conditioning pure and simple.

now, back to the point, is the debate " beef is bad for you" or "food is contaminated in general adn full of additives, mislabels and general gunk for the benefit of the food industrial ecosystem"

and are there daily ways to avoid such food?

not as far as I've observed.

that is the key concern, not pork or beef or lamb (mmm rogan josh)
posted by infini at 12:40 AM on May 3, 2010


It baffles me when people bring up the hunter-gatherer diet in reference to our current eating habits. We've evolved! We're not hunter-gatherers anymore. What they ate is kind of irrelevant since they also didn't live indoors and certainly didn't have toilets. Why do we idolize one part of their existence? They had horrendously high infant mortality rates and, again, NO TOILETS.

We've evolved to be who we are now. That is to say, human beings have indeed evolved to eat Cheese Whiz. And use toilets.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:42 AM on May 3, 2010


Homo sapiens, according to wikipedia, has been around for 500k years. 'Anatomically modern' homo sapiens sapiens has been around for 200k years. Let's suppose people have had 10k years to evolve as 'civilized' homo sapiens sapiens, which I think is quite generous; then we've had 5% of the time we've been anatomically modern to 'evolve' to civilized standards.

Industrial food has been with us for one hundred years. There has certainly been no appreciable evolution in this period of time.

There's still so much pre-civilized human in our bodies that it certainly makes sense to ask what ancient humans were evolved to deal with. Even if the circumstances have changed slightly, it's still largely what our bodies are built to deal with.

Any evolution that has occured over these last one-to-ten centuries has likely had physiologically negative implications: Our increased knowledge of medicine makes infant mortality go down, sure, but we simultaneously have removed the evolutionary mechanism that might select against things like terrible allergies or bad eyesight or poor immune response.

I wonder sometimes whether civilization is sustainable from an evolutionary standpoint. Maybe in 200,000 years we'll be feeble lumps of pink, dependent on robot bodies that serve as an iron lung to exist in the world, unable to stand any variation in our soylent diet. In this bleak future, food inspectors will certainly be a necessity.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:44 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe in 200,000 years we'll be feeble lumps of pink, dependent on robot bodies that serve as an iron lung to exist in the world, unable to stand any variation in our soylent diet.

If Wall-E is any indication, it won't take quite that long.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:58 AM on May 3, 2010


Most people will buy irradiated meat because it'll be cheaper, and steak is delicious.

The low-grade crap that passes for steak in most grocery stores these days is not delicious. That's what I don't understand about it. Why eat it if it's not even that good? I can see ground beef, maybe, though it's pretty bad in terms of food safety, although more palatable than bad steak. Saving for a much more occasional but amazing grass-fed steak from a local rancher is so much better. I can't afford it every night, nor do I desire it that often, but when I do buy it it's so good it's memorable.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:04 PM on May 3, 2010


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