Most people commonly associate pesticides and preservatives with fruits, vegetables, and processed foods. However, many are surprised to learn that up to 90% of the pesticides in their diet, and a significant number of preservatives, are found in meats, eggs, and dairy products.
Conventionally raised livestock are commonly fed a steady diet of chemically treated grains, grasses, and feed pellets. Once processed, animal products are further tainted with compounds designed to improve shelf-life. While we have always been told these chemicals are generally considered safe in small quantities, a significant number of these toxic chemicals accumulate in your body and can severely compromise your health. Knowing how conventional farming and manufacturing practices affect meat quality will help you make informed purchasing decisions.
Pesticide Contamination Can Compromise Your Health
The chemicals commonly falling under the umbrella of pesticides include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and rodenticides. These chemicals are created to increase productivity and protect plant life from natural predators. Pesticides are also used to prevent the infestations that typically occur when agricultural animals are raised in overcrowded, unsanitary living conditions. While many potentially harmful chemicals are eventually excreted, a significant number of pesticides are absorbed into tissues and fat.
Of the numerous pesticides tested and approved by the government, many are now shown to compromise our immune systems, endocrine systems, and central nervous systems. Children are even more vulnerable to the effects than adults. Just a few of the many potential health risks linked to the consumption of even low concentrations of pesticides in meat include:
- Immune system suppression
- Some forms of cancer
- Low sperm count and sterility
- Skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis
- Depression and bipolar disorder
- Miscarriage and birth defects
- Neurological conditions
- Increased risk of ADHD
- Autism spectrum disorder
Meat Contains More Pesticides Than Most People Realize
The Environmental Working Group estimates that 167 million pounds of pesticides are used annually just to grow the food used to feed livestock. Designed to kill, once these chemicals make their way into the food chain, they are difficult to eliminate. When testing agricultural products, researchers are still finding contamination from pesticides banned decades ago.
While there are currently hundreds of chemicals commonly used in conventional agriculture, nearly 90 percent of these widely used chemicals have not been adequately tested for safety. Just a few of the pesticides commonly found in meat include:
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. One of the most commonly used pesticides, glyphosate leaves residue in animal feed more than 100 times the amount allowed on the grains cultivated for human consumption. Currently, the grains grown for our needs are allowed 1 - 30 parts glyphosate per million. The grass, grains, fodder, and hay cultivated for livestock are allowed to contain up to 300 parts per million. Glyphosate accumulates in animal tissues and is then consumed by an unsuspecting public. Researchers believe glyphosate damages DNA and destroy beneficial gut bacteria.
Methoprene is a biological insecticide commonly used to control fleas in dogs and cats. While considered safe for human consumption, Methoprene is also used in cattle feed to keep fly larvae from maturing to adulthood and breeding in manure. While researchers at this time believe Methoprene poses no risk to human health because animals metabolize and excrete the insecticide, researchers found that 20 percent of the dosage remained in tissues seven days after dosing.
Paraquat is marketed as an alternative to Roundup. While Roundup is one of the world's most popular herbicide, weeds become resistant to Roundup's effects over time. More than seven million pounds of Paraquat has been used in the US on nearly 15 million acres of land. Although all pesticides are reevaluated at 15-year intervals, the Environmental Protection Agency is not anticipated to completed their investigations into the effects of Paraquat until 2020. Regulators are currently investigating a recent wave of research suggesting a link between Paraquat and Parkinson's disease.
The Potential Consequences of Chemical Preservatives
Preservatives are commonly added to foods to inhibit bacterial growth, prolong shelf life, and inhibit discoloration and enzymatic browning. While there are many ways to preserve foods naturally, including drying, freezing, canning, and fermenting, most of the foods available commercially are preserved with unnatural chemicals.
While preservatives are used to prevent or destroy harmful bacteria, chemical preservatives do not discriminate. In addition to preventing bacterial contamination in your meat, many preservatives destroy the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. Like pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides, preservatives also accumulate in your body and can negatively affect your health. Just a few of the many potential consequences of eating foods containing unnatural preservatives include:
- Increased risk of obesity
- Increased risk of diseases affecting the digestive tract
- Breathing difficulties including asthma and bronchitis
- Increased risk of allergies (sulfites)
- Hyperactivity or behavioral changes
- Heart damage (BHT)
- Increased risk of cancer (nitrite, BHT)
Meat Can Contain a Significant Amount of Unhealthy Preservatives
To avoid eating meat laced with potentially harmful preservatives, many people avoid purchasing processed, prepackaged meat products, but feel confident purchasing their beef, pork, and chicken in the meat department of their local supermarket.
A significant number of these people are surprised to learn that at least 70 percent of factory-farmed meat and poultry contain synthetic preservatives. Just a few of the more commonly used preservatives for meat include:
Sodium Benzoate, Benzoic Acid, and Sodium Propionate
While once banned in the US, the Food and Safety Inspection Service has eased up on their restrictions of these preservatives. While these three preservatives are most often used to conceal damage and inhibit the growth of bacteria, sodium benzoate, benzoic acid, and sodium propionate are shown to interact with vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Consuming any of these potentially toxic compounds after consuming vitamin C may initiate a carcinogenic process. These chemicals have the ability to damage and inactivate mitochondrial DNA.
Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite
Used to inhibit bacterial growth and enhance color, nitrites give beef, pork, and poultry their characteristic pink color. When nitrites combine with certain amino acids, carcinogenic nitrosamines or N-nitroso compounds are formed. The combination of nitrites and amino acids is shown to increase the risk of developing colorectal and pancreatic cancer.
More than 70 percent of the chicken and beef raised in the US is treated with carbon monoxide gas (CO) during packaging. While tasteless, odorless, and only one single molecule away from carbon dioxide, even low concentrations of carbon monoxide can have detrimental effects. Mild exposure can cause headaches, fatigue, and confusion, while higher levels can cause neurological damage. Although the meat industry insists CO is not harmful when ingested in meat products, carbon monoxide can keep even decaying meat looking fresh for several months which increases your risk of contracting a food-borne illness.
Avoiding Pesticides and Preservatives with Organic Steaks and Beef
Those who are concerned about the potential risks of eating food containing pesticides and chemical preservative are selecting beef sourced from farmers who raise their cattle organically. When you select organic steaks and beef, your meat is pesticide and preservative-free. You may also appreciate knowing that your beef is from an animal that was never fed genetically modified grains, fattened with hormones, or treated with antibiotics.
When you select Cleaver's Organic and Free-Range Beef, your 100% grass-fed steaks and beef are also lower in fat and calories than organic beef commonly fed a combined diet of grass, organic grains, or organic grain pellets. A favorite in Australian supermarkets, Cleaver's beef is now available vacuum-sealed and flash-frozen for delivery to American families who want to protect their health by reducing their exposure to preservatives and pesticides.