In days past, clean meats had a biblical connotation – what meats are appropriate for people to consume. In modern times, clean meat means clean of antibiotics, growth hormones and drug products popular in medicated animal feeds.
If you are like most people, the cost of clean meat coupled with the stories about confined animal feeding operations is a tough one to resolve. It leaves one with misgivings about consuming non-clean meats or struggling to justify the more costly alternative. In our local organic store, hamburger from grass fed cattle not administered hormones is $9.99 per lb. At the local discount store, regular hamburger costs $3.98 lb.
So is the price worth it? In the U.S., 30 million pounds of antibiotics are given to livestock much of it via feed. Compare that to the 6 million pounds of antibiotics used for treatment of people. The use of antibiotics is not just for treatment of disease, but to make animals grow faster.
According to Steven D. Vaughn, D.V.M. of the FDA, “The use of drugs in the food of animals is essential to keep animals healthy. It’s not practical for the poultry farmer to isolate and individually dose chickens within a flock. Catching, restraining, and handling chickens can be stressful and potentially harmful to the animals, particularly if they are already stressed due to disease. Providing medication through the feed or drinking water eliminates the stress to the animals. Medicated feed to treat all the chickens is necessary for good animal health, and ultimately to the health of humans who consume the chicken products.”
But Vaughn is not a human physician and his analyses are not without challenges. In late 2012, the Government Accountability Project filed a lawsuit against the FDA after the FDA refused to release data on the amount of antibiotics sold for animal use. Wonder what the secret is?
In late 2014, two separate lawsuits were filed against the FDA by the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society, the United Farm Workers of America and the Sierra Club. The complaints challenge the FDA’s approval of 11 drugs using ractopamine in animal feed.
The groups allege insufficient testing and research to determine side effects on people, animals and the environment. The drug mimics stress hormones, causing animals to convert feed to muscle rapidly. The chemical has been linked to muscle tremors, heart problems and increased aggression in animals. High visibility food advocates, like Michael Pollan, advise eating less meat and choosing clean meats when doing so. Eating lower on the food chain – i.e. vegetables and grains can release funds to buy clean meats and avoid diets of protein overload.