Carbon monoxide and nitrates are added to meat and poultry at processing plants. Alternatives to large grocery stores offer meat with less additives.
Consuming too much meat has been known to be a health risk factor for quite some time for everything from cancer to obesity. In recent years, however, there have been increasing reports of processing plant contamination and health problems related to eating meat and eggs treated at processing plants, which is forcing many people to consider alternative ways to purchase meat and poultry.
You may be surprised to know all the chemicals that are added to grocery store meat, poultry, and fish before it reaches the grocer’s shelf. It begins with antibiotics fed to cattle to control disease and promote growth. Then, beef, poultry, and fish that go to a meat processing plant to be prepared and packaged for the grocery store are treated with nitrates for preservation, carbon monoxide gas to keep the meat’s color from fading as it ages, and flavor enhancing solutions containing phosphate, salt and flavoring.
The use of antibiotics has some people concerned that it is creating antibiotic resistant microbial pathogens that can be transferred to people when foods are not thoroughly cooked. Preservative additives have been blamed for causing chronic stomach problems and spreading salmonella because they make meat appear fresher than it is.
What is organic meat?
One alternative to eating conventional meat sold at the grocery store, is to eat organic meat. In the September 20, 2010 report entitled “Organic Foods: Are They Safer? More Nutritious?” by Mayo Clinic, “The word ‘organic’ refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat … Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution.”
It goes on to say that organic farmers “give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures, such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing to help minimize disease.” Any farmer or food processor that uses a USDA Organic label has met certain government standards, but the products can have between 70 to 100 percent organic ingredients. As far as nutrition goes, the report states that there is “…no conclusive evidence that organic food is more nutritious than is conventionally grown food.
And the USDA doesn’t claim that these products are safer or more nutritious.” Organic meat and poultry is sold in large quantities at grocery stores, which means it may have come from an organic farmer, but it is still processed in a large processing and packaging center where preservatives could be added to the meat.
Where to get meat and poultry with less additives?
The best way to purchase meat or poultry that has less additives, is to purchase it from a small local meat shop or butcher. John Reynolds, owner of a small meat store in Cincinnati, Ohio, not only sells natural Amish chicken, he sells grass fed beef that they grind, package, and cut themselves.
The meat for small stores like John’s comes from local sources, unlike the larger grocery stores whose meat comes from wholesalers who have already cut and packaged the meat in a large meat processing center. According to John, many customers don’t know that the darker color the meat is, the better it is, because it has aged. Artificial meat preservatives have given people a false impression of what good meat looks like.
The bottom line is that you just don’t know what chemicals or preservatives are in your meat when you buy it at the grocery store. Your best chance to purchase untreated meat and poultry is to buy it at small meat shops and butchers, and ask the store owner where they get their meat.
Purchasing at smaller stores may cost a little more, but it is well worth it. If you try it, you can actually taste and feel the difference. It’s a small price to pay for some great food and the good health of yourself and your family. Bon appetit!
- CBS News. “Meat Safety: Room for Improvement” (accessed September 20, 2010).
- MeatPoultryNutrition.org. “FAQ: How are Antibiotics Used in Meat and Poultry” (accessed September 20, 2010).
- ABC News. “EPA Greenhouse Gas Mandate Causes Both Joy and Concern” (accessed September 20, 2010).
- American Meat Institute. “Meat Matters: Consumer’s Guide to Enhanced Meats” (accessed September 20, 2010).
- Wrong Diagnosis.com. “Meat Allergy” (accessed September 20, 2010).
- Mayo Clinic. “Organic Foods: Are They Safer? More Nutritious” (accessed September 20, 2010).
- Email interview with John Reynolds, September 20, 2010.