In my most recent columns, I discussed the importance of using only “organic” dairy products. What about meat? Why buy “organic” meat?
The controversy about meat is ongoing. Should it be part of one’s diet? Can we deny the fact that many cultures have subsisted on meat as the prime source of protein for many centuries?
So with the ethical aspects aside, just how good is meat as human food? What does it provide in our diets?
Nutritionally, as I mentioned in our last article, meat ranks in the top three categories with eggs and milk as the best sources of complete protein (containing all eight of the essential amino acids).
Meat also has a very high NPU (net protein utilization) factor, which means that a good amount of what is eaten is actually used by the body. Therefore, if there are no ethical concerns, if it is “good meat”, and if it is consumed in moderation, it can be an important part of your diet.
As with other food, when we talk about meat, we should understand that the main problems associated with meat are in its production and storage. It is essential to learn how our meat is raised, how it has been processed, exactly what has been added to it, and also how it has been cooked.
Knowing all these facts, our family still includes limited meat in our diet, but we’re very particular about the meat that we buy.
Hormones in meat
In the Jan. 10 issue of the U-B, a story in business section concerned the lawsuits still pending from the use of the hormone DES more than five decades ago. Now, let me tell you the complete story.
More than 50 years ago the pharmaceutical industry succeeded in creating a synthetic copy of an important female hormone. This hormone, called “stilbesterol,” was synthesized in the laboratory, but the final product was not the exact duplication of the original. The resultant synthetic hormone was called “diethylstilbestrol.” (DES) Although it seemed to duplicate most of the needs of stilbesterol in the body, its side-effects were monumental.
One of the two arenas where diethylstilbestrol was problematic was in human pregnancy. In the complex cycle of pregnancy, there is a prime hormonal change at the end of the first trimester.
At that time the natural hormone stilbesterol should start to be released. If it is not perfectly coordinated with the diminishing of other hormones, the mother will start to abort.
The first sign will be that she will start bleeding vaginally. It was found that if these women were given the synthetic hormone diethylstilbestrol, the pregnancy would be sustained. This was a great achievement for the medical/pharmaceutical industry.
As it turned out however, this synthetic drug is a deadly carcinogen, and as those children whose mothers were given this synthetic hormone reached puberty, a certain percentage of the females developed cervical cancer while the male offspring developed testicular cancer.
At first, the reports claimed that only one in 10,000 would have the problem; new statistics however indicate that the figure may be closer to one in 25 or more. I have personally spoken with a number of those individuals who told me that knowing that, they are encouraged to go for medical checkups on a regular basis.
My niece happens to be one of those unfortunate women who developed cervical cancer after the use of diethylstilbestrol during her mother’s pregnancy.
But that’s only half the story. It became apparent at the onset that this same synthetic hormone could be used in another way. The agricultural industry is always interested in ways to increase what they call “the grain-to-gain-ratio” — how a grower can get more meat with less feeding of grain.
Along these lines, the pharmaceutical industry sold the farmers the idea that if they used this hormone, they would need less grain to fatten their animals. At first, a capsule filled with this hormone was implanted in the tissues under the skin of the neck of the animals.
It released this hormone like a gland over the growing period until slaughter, causing a change in hormonal balances. After several years of use, it became apparent that certain problems were arising.
Of prime importance was the fact that the tissue around the implant contained an inordinate amount of the hormone, and if eaten could lead to cancer. Secondly, it was found that male individuals who inadvertently consumed more of this hormone were showing signs of “gynecomastia,” a condition of enlarged breasts in men.
After about five years of use, when these side effects were confirmed, the practice of neck implants was discontinued. The use of this hormone in farm animals was abandoned for several years until the pharmaceutical industry found they could make it in the form of a powder and put it into the livestock feed.
This practice continued for many years until there was enough of an outcry concerning its carcinogenesis (cancer causing effects) then that practice was also discontinued. But it was not stopped until there were other products in the wings ready to take over.
This is the scenario thus far: a synthetic sex hormone, used to prevent spontaneous abortions in women, caused cancer in a percentage of the male and female offspring of the recipient. This same synthetic hormone was used to increase the grain-to-gain-ratio in farm animals.
Although the agricultural industry knew via the Delaney Amendment that it was allowed a zero tolerance of this chemical in meat, traces were found in carcasses and reported by several whistle-blower inspectors (The Delaney Amendment, passed in 1958 forbade the use of any additive that might cause cancer.)
Now, here is the kicker. The medical community now knows that an embryo in the first weeks of life in the womb can be influenced and affected by an infinitesimally small amount of any harmful chemical. In fact, the figures quoted state that an embryo in the uterus can be affected by 1/10,000 the amount that would affect an adult.
So the fear has been, and still is, that the reason for the current high number of cases of cervical cancer in women and testicular cancer in men is because their mothers ate meat tainted with the synthetic hormone diethylstilbestrol at the critical stages of their pregnancies.
I believe that the use of diethylstilbestrol in farm animals has been discontinued, though I’m not certain.
As you can imagine, the pharmaceutical industry was not about to give up such a lucrative product, so they had other hormones waiting.
The question we must now raise is whether the newer hormones being used currently also have inherent dangers that have not yet come to our attention.
Here are some of the products that are now being used in our farm animals. To the best of my knowledge, all are administered via ear implants: Zeranol; Synovex; Cattlyst; Revalor S; Rumensin; Component TH; Ralgro; Bovatec; Monensin and Finaplix.
Zeranol is an anabolic agent that stimulates the pituitary gland to produce increased amounts of somatotropin, a hormone that promotes growth.
Synovex has been modified by the addition of trenbolone acetate, which is an androgen-like compound. Several of the products contain estrogen and estrogen-like compounds as well as progesterone compounds. Cattlyst contains a recently approved substance called laidlomycin propionate, a drug from the category of chemicals called collectively ionophores.
Very interesting to me is a warning presented on the label of one of these products, which states, “Do not attempt salvage of implanted site for human or animal food.”
Many countries around the world forbid the use of these drugs and chemicals in their meat production. Do they know something that we don’t know? Are they being wisely cautious while we are not?
Frankly, my head is spinning from all of these animal drugs and their names.
And why are we using these products if all the long-term consequences are not yet determined? Remember, with DES it has taken more than 50 years for the truth and a settlement to be forthcoming. Do we want to risk it again?
Retired chiropractic doctor Francis Trapani’s background includes active practice for 41 years; investigative reporting for many years on stations KTRG and KPOI on Hawaii radio and exercise/fitness yoga TV broadcasts on channel KHVH, also in Hawaii. He has written three books and is working on a fourth; a yoga self-help manual “The Doctor Prescribes Yoga.” For more information, go to drftrapani.com.