December 30, 2002 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Chickens are "natural born killers". This is the basic message of a recent ad from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. This organization has filed a lawsuit against Tyson Foods for making false health claims. I came across this organization and its campaign on an entertaining C-Span program[Did anybody else watch this program?]. On the program, Neal Barnard, the leader of this organization, said that when you heat chicken(and other meats) certain carcinogenic amines are created. But, when you heat a veggie burger, it just warms up. Therefore, he recommends a 100% vegetarian diet. It looks like the organization's next move is a TV ad with this message. Your reactions?
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy (43 comments total)
Just as long as the veggie burger is not made to taste like it's meaty brethren. I hate those veggie burgers, I prefer my patty to taste normal.
posted by riffola at 8:03 AM on December 30, 2002

Here is some background information on PCRM. Some choice quotes:

"The American Medical Association's opinion about PCRM is unequivocal, saying that it "finds the recommendations of PCRM irresponsible and potentially dangerous to the health and welfare of Americans."

"While PCRM claims to be primarily a network of doctors, the group's own literature shows that physicians make up less than 5% of its membership"

Oh, and they're funded by PETA.
posted by jsonic at 8:13 AM on December 30, 2002

I think I'll sue the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine for making false claims of safety for vegetarian foods. It seems that foods that contain starches, which includes a lot of vegetarian fare such as potatoes and wheat flour, also generate carcinogenic substances when cooked.

In the meantime, here's a good recipe for Chicken Vesuvio, which includes carcinogenic chicken, carcinogenic potatoes, and carcinogenic alcohol. Enjoy!

---------- Recipe via Meal-Master (tm) v8.06

Title: Chicken Vesuvio
Categories: Main dish, Meats, Poultry
Yield: 4 Servings

2 tb Olive oil
1 Whole chicken
3/4 ts Salt
1/2 ts Ground black pepper
3 Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 1/2 tb Garlic, minced or pressed
1 c White wine, dry
2 Sprigs, fresh oregano
2 Sprigs, fresh thyme
2 Sprigs, fresh rosemary
2 tb Lemon juice
2 tb Fresh parsley, minced

Chicken should be cut up into 8 pieces, with breast cut into quarters.
Discard wings and giblets or reserve for another use. Yukon Gold potatoes
should be about 8 ounces each, peeled and cut lengthwise into 8 wedges,
each about 3/4 inch thick.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed backing sheet with paper

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven
over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Wash chicken and pat dry,
sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.
Place chicken pieces skin side down in the pot. Cook until golden brown
and crisp on one side, about 4-6 minutes. Turn pieces over, reduce heat to
medium, and cook until brown and crispy on the other side, about 8 to 10
minutes. Remove to prepared baking sheet.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to pot. Add potatoes, arranging in a
single layer, with one flat side of each wedge against the bottom of the
pot. Cook until golden brown on one side, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to
medium-low, and turn potatoes, cooking them until brown on the other side,
about 8 to 10 minutes more. Remove to baking sheet with the chicken.

Remove pot from the heat. Add garlic, cook briefly until fragrant (less
than a minute), add wine, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and remaining 1/2
teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place chicken pieces skin-side down
in the pot, then add potatoes.

Bake uncovered in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove chicken and potatoes,
and rearrange so that potatoes are on the bottom (in the sauce) and
chicken on top. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes until chicken is done.
Arrange chicken and potatoes on plate. Remove herb stems from sauce. Stir
the remaining lemon juice into the pot. Pour sauce over the chicken and
potatoes (or serve chicken and potatoes onto plates, and then pour sauce
over them), sprinkle with chopped parsley, serve.


posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:15 AM on December 30, 2002

It's always real hard to trust science coming from an organization with an agenda. They make some baseless claims which as far as I can tell are not peer reviewed and have no real supporting research from other sources. He qoutes Scientific Amercian from 1892 as if thats some help to his case. So, overall, sounds like crap, and I say that as a vegetarian.
posted by malphigian at 8:16 AM on December 30, 2002

Veggie burgers are often loaded with sodium, which doesn't exactly scream "healthy" to plenty of us out here.
posted by raysmj at 8:19 AM on December 30, 2002

For some reason i don't think the goal of that ad was to convince me that little baby chickens would make cool pets... but who bothers to read all that small print?
posted by 10sball at 8:19 AM on December 30, 2002

So, chicken's not good for your health then.

Damn it! When will this madness end? Next they'll tell us that beer is also bad.
posted by einarorn at 8:22 AM on December 30, 2002

When we all accept the fact that we are going to die and that simple common sense nutrition and exercise may give us a little statistical advantage we will all be better off. It's all a crap shoot.
posted by McBain at 8:27 AM on December 30, 2002

I hate fanatics of any sort.
posted by St Seneca at 8:35 AM on December 30, 2002

Actually, it's not just chicken that is bad for your health - cooking most types of meat can create high levels of the extremely carcinogenic "Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons" (PAH's).

BUT....(there's always a "but") it really depends on how you cook it. It turns out the GRILLING meat (or frying it at high temps.) produces these PAH's - it's the partial combustion of the saturated animal fat which does it. But Mmmmmmm - it sure does smell good!

But WAIT! Oh no! Cooking carbohydrates can produce high levels of Acrylamides. So what to do? What to eat?

Well, the common factor here is the the highest levels of acrylamides come from foods cooked at high temperatures (often fried or deep fried) such as one of the worst culprits - potato chips.

Moral: If you are a vegetarian, a meat eater, or even a CANNIBAL, don't grill or or fry...simmer! eat lots of garlic too.
posted by troutfishing at 8:38 AM on December 30, 2002

and there you have it. We're all going to die!
posted by angry modem at 8:47 AM on December 30, 2002

Did someone say acrylamides?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:56 AM on December 30, 2002

And yet if you eat nothing whatsoever, you die even quicker. I'm beginning to think that this whole death thing is practially inevitable...
posted by vraxoin at 9:10 AM on December 30, 2002

PCRM may have a definite agenda, and be wrong on some issues. But they have correctly pointed out that the the massive amounts of antibiotics fed to chickens are bad for human health because they create antibiotic resistance.

They are also correct in saying that people should not pig out on chicken, as massive amounts of it are not healthy.

Americans continue to pile on the unhealthy food, and as a result too many of us are obese and diabetic.
posted by 4midori at 9:59 AM on December 30, 2002

If chickens weren't meant to be eaten, they wouldn't be made of meat.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:21 AM on December 30, 2002

Who needs chicken when we have Quorn? mmmm.... nothing like some vat-grown mycoprotein to kickstart your day.
posted by dvdgee at 10:29 AM on December 30, 2002

Mmmmmmmmm Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. They're aromatic-y.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:33 AM on December 30, 2002

I think this is an agenda driven campaign too, and not worth much in objective terms, and I'm a vegan.

That being said, if I had to eat meat, it wouldn't be chicken. Free range chicken would be fine, except the term is undefined and meaningless.

Factory farmed poultry is evil. Not for how it treats the chickens it raises, but for the quality of the meat it produces and that people consume.

Just an example: chickens live their whole lives packed into coops where they walk on grates and their waste falls below where it collects for weeks at a time. This waste gives off huge amounts of amonia into the air which the chickens breathe in 24/7. The ammonia is thus recycled into their bloodstream and tissues. AT slaughter, the chicken's liver and kidneys are often inflamed and diseased from being chronically overworked, and chicken meat has much higher than normal levels of disolved waste products such as nitrates (amonia) and urea. And thats all before you consider the hormones, additives, growth stimulants, antibiotics etc in their feed.

Straight out of Soylent Green, except the motive here is to maximize profits at the expense of nutritional integrity. Beef production, for diff't reasons is just as corrupt. Take the well marketed term "Corn-fed Beef". Whens the alst time you saw a cow grazing in a corn field? In fact, corn is a completely foreign source of nutrition for cattle, but its cheap, thanks to farm subsidies so theya re force fed the grain, and then medicated to counter the illnesses it causes in their gut, which evolved to digest grasses, not seeds.

So go ahead and enjoy your Polo, but what you can't taste is still likely hurting you. I'm the first to admit that being vegetarian is not at all a guarantee of wholesome food. In fact, the entire food production industry has fallen prey to the profit at any cost syndrome and that includes production of many staples of a vegetarian diet.

But IMO, meat production is by far the worst culprit.
posted by BentPenguin at 10:52 AM on December 30, 2002

I guess we could talk at length about PACs...or other meat carcinogens...or salmonella....or E. coli...or hormones...or the fact that most Americans harbor antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria because they get a dose of antibiotics each time they eat meat.

But as usual, the real question broils down to this: why would anyone want to eat meat?

Eating meat is completely unnecessary for health (it is in fact unhealthy to do pointed out by PCRM and a host of others). More importantly, it causes immense, avoidable suffering.

PCRM and organizations like PETA are right about chicken, and absolutely right about animal welfare in general. Slowly, people are beginning to understand the horror they perpetuate through their own unethical and lazy choices.

Humans are dumb, selfish, and at some level guilt-ridden over their own cruelty. Many of our meat eating friends' guilt surfaces as spluttering anger and self-righteousness when PETA or some such accurately mirrors the true horror of "meat". Defensiveness when confronted by evidence of wrongdoing is commonplace among children...and in those with childlike ethical development.

Pity, really....but one supposes that growth is possible. It took centuries for slavery to become unacceptable among many. Someday, posting recipes for Chicken Vesuvio in response to a health discussion about chicken will be as rare and distasteful to all as handbills posted advertising "healthy Africans" to work ye olde plantation. In the interim, the horror, guilt, and shame will continue.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 12:15 PM on December 30, 2002

Seems like it's about time for somene here to do a "US deaths from tainted meat" post. Mmmmm. Meat. Mmmmm delicious shit tainted meat. 3,000 plus deaths a year delicious! Eat it up.
posted by troutfishing at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2002

But as usual, the real question broils down to this: why would anyone want to eat meat?

Actually, its more like this: why would anyone want to spend time worrying about what someone else eats?

posted by jsonic at 12:27 PM on December 30, 2002

Meat = Slavery

That's cute, foldy, as always. But your "eating a burger is the same of crashing a plane into the WTC" skit was even better

Also, I have friends whose relatives are Holocaust Survivors: they always have interesting things to say about that other nice idea of your PETA buddies, the "Chicken Holocaust".

Also, I'm sure that doctor Foldy also avoids to prescribe animal-tested drugs to his patients, relying on nice warm herbal teas right?

Childishly yours, I wish you a nice, condescending-as-always, Vegan, Year 2003
posted by matteo at 12:37 PM on December 30, 2002

Right on Matteo. Equating meat and slavery is disgusting. The fact of the matter is that we need to consume living matter in order to continue living ourselves. Short of us all growing green leaves on our limbs instead of hair, some living creature is going to have to give up its life willingly or not so I can keep on keeping on. Whether it's a potato or a pig. I think it is interesting that environmental types want us to have it both ways, we are supposed to be "better" than the animals, but than ignore the fact we are animals. There is a healthy balance, and I don't think it includes screaming murder when a chicken brought into existance for the sole purpose of being eaten in fact gets eaten. The ecological arguments are the only meaningful ones, but like weening us off of gasoline, the change isn't going to happen overnight. PETA's gonzo methods probably do more to sabotage a shift away from foods like beef, which doesn't make sense as a food source ecologically.

That said, I loves me a good cheeseburger.
posted by McBain at 12:50 PM on December 30, 2002

why would anyone want to eat meat?

cause bacon tastes gooood. pork chops taste gooood.
posted by goddam at 12:53 PM on December 30, 2002

And if sewer rat tasted like pumpkin pie, I'd probably eat it.
posted by McBain at 12:56 PM on December 30, 2002

They can have my meat when they pry it from my cold dead jaws...
posted by squidman at 1:03 PM on December 30, 2002

Veggies are what food eats.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:07 PM on December 30, 2002

> why would anyone want to eat meat?

Ask our brothers the chimpanzees. Jane Goodall documented not just meat eating but cooperative hunting among wild chimps. People are omnivores and have been eating anything that will sit still to be eaten (or doesn't move quite fast enough to avoid it) for quite a long time.

My question- if your sensitivity is cranked up to such a fever pitch, how can you bring yourself to eat anything? Why do your fellow-feelings extend to embrace our animal brothers but exclude our vegetable brothers? For now you're apparently content to languish among the moral left-behinds but one day, when your sensitivity begins to approach mine, you'll be able to see a salad for the ghastly thing it is.
posted by jfuller at 1:21 PM on December 30, 2002

I am not a scientist, but as I understand it, the "carcinogens" created by heating food products are the result of the heat breaking down proteins into more basic molecules, and eventually, their constituent elements, some of which are radioactive isotopes which "cause" malignant cancerous growth. I would appreciate it if anyone could link to a credible source which indicated that the mere heating of meat produced enough carcinogens to pose a health risk independent of any chemical in it, and that this risk was not also the case in cooking vegetables at comparable temperatures.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 1:27 PM on December 30, 2002

fold_and_mutilate's stupid inflamatory rhetoric provoked and bunch of stupid inflamatory responses (including a godwin, natch). Nice job all around guys.
posted by malphigian at 1:32 PM on December 30, 2002

In the interim, the horror, guilt, and shame will continue.

And the five-piece chicken dinners with a side of slaw and mashed taters.
posted by adampsyche at 1:34 PM on December 30, 2002

These threads are always DOA. It's the I/P of the eating world.
posted by Skot at 1:36 PM on December 30, 2002

And if sewer rat tasted like pumpkin pie, I'd probably eat it.

McBain: I'm not a real fan of pumpkin pie, but rat (coypu) (bever rat) is called water rabbit in Belgium. Cooked in beer of course. Haven't had it myself yet. (NL)
I'll eat all meat. I do prefer meat of animals who enjoyed life. Being a vegetarian would be more true to my political views, but I am too weak. God, I love meat.
posted by ginz at 1:41 PM on December 30, 2002

That song, again.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:55 PM on December 30, 2002

Regarding suffering, I don't see why causing suffering to animals from eating meat is any worse than causing suffering to animals through any other luxuries humans enjoy (i.e. through destruction of habitat, pollution, etc.). And what constitutes suffering? Do insects suffer? How about seafood? I've heard lobsters can't feel pain, so it'd be ok to eat those and not cause any suffering?
posted by sip at 11:35 PM on December 30, 2002

sip: if feeling pain is the issue, perhaps we should put chickens under general anesthesia, and then kill them?

foldy: I know, people have piled on you already, but -- you must realize that if you're against killing animals for food, human consumption is only a minor problem. Surely most of the living creatures in the world that are killed for food are killed by other animals. When you've convinced the lion to eat tofu, and the blue whale not to eat plankton, and my cats to engage in Strategic Claws Limitation Talks with the mice, then come back and we'll address humans eating meat.

BTW, have you tried the Chicken Vesuvio recipe yet? It's really good! It's an American-created/Italian-influenced dish out of Chicago.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 12:07 AM on December 31, 2002

The US is just nothing more than a playground for health claims and counter claims related to food and drink (like yesterday's NY Times article on drinking.) That I too could take a "stand" about what I eat only adds to the absurd nature of it all.

So I'll do it anyway. 1. Food should taste good and not bore me to tears. 2. Mass production of anything is bound to have negative side effects. 3. Chicken is best when roasted.
posted by Dick Paris at 2:50 AM on December 31, 2002

You know... when I heat my shoes they just warm up too.

I got pretty hungry one time and thought I'd give them a try. Did you know leather shoelaces taste like beef jerky? Or that they have a different taste in winter as compared to summer?

Mmmm... shoes. The other white meat.
posted by shepd at 2:52 AM on December 31, 2002

Just an example: chickens live their whole lives packed into coops where they walk on grates and their waste falls below where it collects for weeks at a time.

I've worked with Chicken Farms -- most commercial farms are independently operated on behalf of major corporations -- there is no standard for how they are managed, but the larger corps require the cleaning by wash (pressurized hoses) of the undergrates at least once every day, because the material that builds up is bad for the chickens, changes the flavors in bad ways, changes the growth patterns (stunts the animals, making them take longer to market), and makes it harder for humans to enter the coop to do feed checks and culling.

Now, the other side of this is that a large catch-pond is necessary to catch ammonia-laden water, which is often not managed according to EPA guidelines, and leeches into the water supply. Not nearly as bad as at hogfarms, but still not a great thing.

and chicken meat has much higher than normal levels of disolved waste products such as nitrates (amonia) and urea. And thats all before you consider the hormones, additives, growth stimulants, antibiotics etc in their feed.

As compared to....? Free-range chicken often has higher nitrate concentration in their muscles, actually, because their fecal material is never cleared away, being out in a field (which is always smaller than you'd expect, having seen one...there is often more room for movement in a commercial coop than in a "free range", which often merely means "outside"). Now, the hormones (not used much at all anymore, in favor of pure diets like corn feed instead of mixed meals) andn growth stimulants were a problem, yes. Not so much anymore. I'll agree on the antibiotics, though. I think they are overused, and buy chicken from industry farms that use none. Sure, it costs, but it is also kosher killed and approved, so I am happier.
posted by dwivian at 12:16 PM on January 1, 2003

RE: grilled meat carcinogeic?
(from Harvard School of Public Health)

"Dietary sources of destructive free radicals include fried, barbecued, and char-broiled foods (that means mostly meat, folks). The high temperatures associated with this sort of cooking can lead to the formation of harmful chemicals associated with high levels of dietary oxygen free radicals: Heterocyclic Aromatic Amines (or HAA's). Grilled meat tastes grilled because it is coated with the smoke from sizzling fat; this smoke contains Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH's) which are also high in destructive free radicals. Both HAA's and PAH's have been identified as unquestionably carcinogenic (Tufts University Diet & Nutrition Letter, Sept. 1993). Dietary free radicals are also present in alcohol and coffee. Environmental free radicals are strongly associated with environmental pollution."

For further reference, see this Google search
posted by troutfishing at 9:22 PM on January 1, 2003

Give it up: us righteous meat-eaters ain't gonna give up our heterocyclic aromatic amines and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons without a fight.

Besides which, I'm pretty sure a good dark ale cancels out all their negative effects.

Meat and beer. Mmmmmm!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:10 AM on January 2, 2003

Five Fresh Fish - add some raw garlic, vitamin E and broccoli, and yer rockin' ! Carcinogens just need a little balancing
posted by troutfishing at 3:43 PM on January 2, 2003

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