Myths about animal welfare
MEAT COSTS MORE EVEN THOUGH ANIMAL WELFARE IS WORSE
Fact: Despite an ever-so-slight meat price increase, we currently spend just 6% of our disposable income on food . Within that 6%, around 21% of our budgets go towards meat. That sounds high until you consider the 31% of grocery expense that went on meat back in 1980 . In reality, our efficient meat production system allows us to produce meat for less than ever before. And, that’s a fact!
PIG HOUSING IS A LEADING DETERMINANT OF WELFARE
Fact: Studies by The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) found no significant difference in the stress levels of sows raised in various systems . Instead, they discovered that the management of systems was the determinant welfare factor . When sows were housed in gestation stalls, farmers were actually better able to protect them and meet their needs.
MONITORING OF ANIMAL WELFARE IN MEAT PLANTS IS INADEQUATE
Fact: The meat industry has higher standards of regulation than almost any other food factory, thanks in large part to the humane slaughter act . Animals must be provided with water and feed, while handling must meet with humane and stress-reducing standards. If facilities are found in violation of these regulations, federal veterinarians have the power to shut them down immediately.
LIVESTOCK ARE AWARE AND AFRAID OF SLAUGHTER
Fact: Research by animal welfare expert Temple Grandin, Ph.D. found that cows behaved the same whether attending a vet visit or a processing plant. Pigs, too, showed no increase in heart rate after seeing others slaughtered . Instead, studies suggest that symptoms of distress relate more to lighting, noise, and unknown sensations such as blowing air.
Myths About Antibiotics
80% OF ANTIBIOTICS ARE USED IN ANIMALS
Fact: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have commonly stated the 80% figure concerning how many antibiotics sold in the U.S. are for animals but, by their admission, this is a guess . While antibiotic resistance is a pressing issue, an disproportionate amount of blame is placed on animal production. Figures are especially inaccurate considering that, weight-wise, there’s around 3.5 times more livestock than people. While the meat industry is in full support of phasing out growth antibiotics in meat production, the facts suggest that the 80% figure may be wildly inaccurate.
DENMARK HAS ELIMINATED ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE BY BANNING ANTIBIOTICS FOR GROWTH PROMOTION
Fact: Banning antibiotics for growth promotion in animals did reduce overall antibiotic usage in Denmark by 26% between 1998 and 2009. Yet, this issue isn’t as clean-cut as this myth makes it sound. Animals have seen higher increases in health conditions and even death since the ban came into place, resulting in a 223% increase in antibiotics for other purposes. What’s more, a reduction in resistance among animals hasn’t translated to humans. Studies show that E. coli and Salmonella resistance to several antibiotics have actually increased, suggesting no notable health impact from the ban overall .
ANIMAL AGRICULTURE ANTIBIOTICS ARE USED TO COVER UNSANITARY CONDITIONS
Fact: Studies have found no difference in bacterial contamination among agriculture and organic production . Even when kept in the best conditions, herd animals are susceptible to infection, especially given that they share water troughs, groom each other, and so on. Conditions, therefore, play no part in the need to treat or prevent infection. By taking fast preventative measures with the guidance of a veterinarian, farmers can limit antibiotic use in favor of animal welfare rather than against it.
ANTIBIOTICS ARE PRIMARILY USED FOR GROWTH PROMOTION
Fact: Only 13% of antibiotics in agriculture are used for growth promotion . What’s more, the FDA has put plans in place to phase out even this small percentage. This is a plan they hope to implement by requiring approval for all antibiotics used in agriculture. This need for approval should guard against excessive antibiotic residue. What’s more, antibiotics for growth promotion will be illegal as soon as companies change their labels and processes per FDA wishes. From then on, antibiotic use will be overseen by a veterinarian to avoid ill-use at all times.
ANIMAL AGRICULTURE IS THE BIGGEST CONTRIBUTOR TO ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE
Fact: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indeed emphasized the need for antibiotic stewardship among livestock, but their 2013 report on Antibiotic-Resistant Threats in the United States outlined that overuse in humans was the contributing factor to antimicrobial resistance . It seems resistant organisms in hospitals are primarily to blame. This is especially the case when you consider FDA efforts to reduce growth promotion antibiotic use. It’s worth noting, too, that animals must withdraw from antibiotics well ahead of slaughter. This ensures safe meat production, meaning residue and therefore, resistance from meat is incredibly rare.
ANTIBIOTIC USE IN LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION IS INCREASING AND POSING HUMAN HEALTH RISKS
Fact: Antibiotics have been used to treat and prevent illness in livestock for 40 years, but growing concerns can make it seem like antibiotic use in on the rise. In truth, the FDA efforts we’ve mentioned to ban growth promotion antibiotics are, in themselves, proof against this myth. What’s more, regulations regarding antibiotics in livestock are stringent. Veterinarians must oversee prescriptions, while withdrawal must take place a set time before slaughter to limit residue in meat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture inspects meat and poultry regularly to ensure these standards. They check both that antibiotic use isn’t rising, and that it doesn’t pose any health risks.
meat & the Environment Myths
2400 GALLONS OF WATER ARE NEEDED PER POUND OF BEEF
Fact: The most important thing to remember about this 2400 gallon figure is that it is taken from global average data. While we may have used this much water per pound of beef in the U.S. 30 or 40 years ago, modern farming efficiency allows us to produce a pound of beef with just 441 gallons of water . This is better than worldwide averages and is a number you reduce even further by opting for U.S. raised grain-fed beef. This grows an average 226 days faster than grass-fed counterparts, and thus uses a whole load less water both in food production and lifetime.
LIVESTOCK ARE WORSE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT THAN CARS
Fact: This statement, mistakenly made by the United Nations several years ago, has since been rescinded . Despite that, the myth has taken on a life of its own. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), livestock production only accounts for 9% of greenhouse gases, while agriculture accounts for 7% . This is compared with the 27% produced by cars. What’s more, research at Washington State University, Cornell and others show that beef production has and is evolving to meet growing environmental concerns.
LARGE MODERN CATTLE OPERATIONS HAVE GREATER NEGATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT THAN SMALL LOCAL ONES
Fact: Studies show that environmental efforts in cattle operations of any size can reduce negative environmental impact. In fact, given that large herds share food through sophisticated systems, large-scale farming done right could work out better environmentally than small operations that require more resources. This point is proven by the fact that modern beef production uses 30 percent less land and 20 percent less feed. These benefits are even better for large operations in the case of grain-fed beef.
LOCAL MEAT AND POULTRY ARE SAFER AND BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT THAN FOOD THAT’S BEEN TRUCKED A LONG WAY
Fact: There’s long been a leaning towards local operations for safer, eco-friendly produce, but it’s often misplaced. This is largely because local operations tend to be small-scale and thus less efficient on the whole. Trucking isn’t without problems, but large and efficient operations are generally more eco-friendly, thus negating the environmental impact of transport. Large operations are also able to transport more meat at once compared with less-efficient and small-scale transportation from local farmers . Larger long-distance farms also hold the edge from a safety perspective, as they’re able to invest in food safety technologies that are out of reach for many local efforts.
GOING MEATLESS ONE DAY A WEEK CAN HAVE A SIGNIFICANT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
Fact: Meatless Mondays and other alternatives have grown greatly in popularity over recent years, but data shows that resulting environmental impact is negligible. In fact, findings from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prove that carbon footprint reduction would be just 0.2%, even if all Americans cut out beef one day a week. This compared to the 31 and 26% reduction to be found from a focus on things like personal transportation. Much of this overestimation into the environmental impact of meat production originates from a United Nations report  that has since been proven largely incorrect.
meat safety Myths
FOOD-BORNE BACTERIA ARE UNIQUE TO ANIMAL AGRICULTURE
Fact: While meat and poultry products are often linked to foodborne bacteria, they certainly aren’t the only offenders. A report by the CDC found that 46% of foodborne illnesses were actually linked to produce such as leafy greens . Spinach, peppers, and others been behind outbreaks of pathogens we typically relate to meat, including e-coli and salmonella. By comparison, the same report only found meat and poultry responsible for 22% of outbreaks in the U.S. That’s still a pretty high percentage in the grand scheme of things, but it’s plain to see that foodborne bacteria aren’t unique or even prevalent from animal agriculture.
BROWN MEAT IS SPOILED MEAT
Fact: Myoglobin ensures meat in sealed packaging retains a deep purple-red coloring. As soon as you take meat out of the packet, myoglobin forms the pigment, oxymyoglobin, which turns meat a cherry red color. From then, continued oxygen exposure or other factors such as store lighting lead to metmyoglobin, a pigment that turns meat brownish-red. In many ways, this is similar to what happens with an apple. Brown is a sign that spoilage is beginning, but it isn’t an indicator that meat is ruined. Until a piece of meat begins to smell or feel tacky, it’s likely safe to eat despite browning.
MEAT ISN’T AS SAFE AS IT USED TO BE
Fact: Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) documents steep declines in bacteria on meat and poultry, with the presence of e-coli in beef declining by 90% in the last decade. Facts show, too, that salmonella on both pork and chicken has decreased a great deal since 2000. This is largely due to ongoing efforts towards meat safety, processing, and handling. This both reduces the occurrence of foodborne bacteria and makes sure that any remaining pathogens are removed before serving.
INSPECTORS ONLY VISIT MEAT PLANTS OCCASIONALLY
Fact: Meat and poultry plants have one of the highest inspector presences of any industry. Inspections are continuous, with large plants subject to up to two inspections during a two-shift day to ensure all members of staff are operating in accordance with regulations. Even plants that don’t handle live animals are inspected daily. If inspectors notice issues, they’re able to force changes, prevent the use of equipment, and even detain meat products.
GRASS-FED BEEF IS SAFER THAN BEEF FINISHED ON CORN AND GRAINS
Fact: While a small USDA study in 1988 suggested that feeding cattle hay could reduce e-coli, the findings were so small as to be negligible . Since then, studies have failed to show any noticeable difference in the prevalence of e.coli in animals fed on a variety of diets, and that includes grass-fed versus grain-fed beef . In fact, extensive research reveals that both grass-fed and grain-finished beef is equally safe. It seems that e.coli is a natural bacterium in the gut of cattle regardless of production.
TENDERIZED MEATS ARE LESS SAFE
Fact: Tenderization is a cause of concern for some as it involves increased handling before production is complete, but tenderized meats have a pretty good safety record. That’s because tenderization takes place in plants, with antimicrobials commonly applied beforehand to ensure safety. According to USDA scientists in 2008, the risk of illness from tenderized steaks is ‘not significantly higher’ , especially if cooked at 145 degrees Fahrenheit and rested for three minutes before consumption.
SUPERBUGS ARE ON MOST MEAT AND POULTRY PRODUCTS
Fact: Superbugs are effectively bugs resistant to all antibiotics. They’re pretty rare, and even more so when it comes to meat and poultry. This myth largely comes from the assumption that bacteria resistant to at least one antibiotic is a superbug, but that isn’t the case. Many bacteria that are resistant to one antibiotic can still be treated easily with others. What’s more, USDA sampling data shows that bacteria on raw meat and poultry products are decreasing , making superbugs even less likely.
Meat processing myths
HOUSEHOLD AMMONIA IS USED TO MAKE SOME BURGERS
Fact: Ammonia is naturally occurring in almost all foods, beef included. What’s more, ammonium hydroxide is used as standard in processing beef products. But, this is nothing like the ammonia found in household products. As with anything used in meat processing plants, ammonium hydroxide is classified by the FDA and provides significant safety benefits by creating an environment unfriendly to bacteria.
‘GLUE’ HOLDS SOME MEATS TOGETHER
Fact: A protein called transglutaminase is used to bind ingredients included in various foods, meat included. Despite the nickname of ‘meat glue,’ this is not a dangerous substance. Instead, it is FDA recognized and always listed on the label for full transparency. It should have no impact on consumers as long as they heat products to at least 160 degrees F.
SAUSAGES DON'T CONTAIN REAL MEAT
Fact: While sausages have a bad reputation for their low pork content, this is actually far from the truth. Unless a packet clearly states that a sausage contains ‘byproducts’ or ‘variety meats,’ you can rest easy that it really does contain the pork content it claims. In fact, cuts of pork used in sausages are typically no different from what you find in your grocer’s case. Inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will even make sure of it for you !
IT’S ALWAYS BETTER TO BUY GROUND BEEF GROUND FROM WHOLE MUSCLE
Fact: There’s no evidence that beef ground from whole muscle is the best. Quite the contrary, it could cost up to 8-10% more on the market. High-quality ground beef is also a mixture of various cuts to create good lean/fat ratios. That's something you'd struggle to achieve if you only used whole muscle trimmings. As if that weren’t enough, solely creating whole muscle ground beef would lead to much more meat waste overall.
ADVANCED MEAT RECOVERY IS UNNATURAL
Fact: Advanced meat recovery (AMR) has been used to remove meat from the bone for twenty years. Far from being unnatural, AMR simply involves automated rubbing of meat off bones with a knife. The process doesn’t impact meat products in any unnatural sense, yet it allows for reduced waste, lessened environmental impact, and cheaper meat products.
MECHANICALLY SEPARATED POULTRY IS USED IN PROCESSED PRODUCTS WITHOUT LABELING
Fact: Mechanically separated poultry (MSP) refers to meat left on the bone after AMR, which is then removed by a machine. MSP chicken must always be clearly mentioned on the label, though it is essentially the same as breast or thigh meat. There is even some evidence to suggest that proximity to the bone increases calcium content when compared with whole muscles. The only real difference of note is that MSP is too small to form a standalone poultry product.
IT’S UNNATURAL TO USE MACHINES AND OTHER TECHNOLOGY TO PROCESS MEAT
Fact: According to the USDA, meat is defined by its chemical and nutritional composition, as well as its cellular structure. Meat must meet these standards whether it's processed by machine or not, proving that there’s nothing inherently unnatural about these methods. Rather than adding or altering meat products, machines and technology typically improve efficiency, safety, and even cost.
THE USE OF CELERY POWDER TO CURE MEATS IS MISLEADING
Fact: Meat must contain some form of nitrate to be considered cured. Government-approved options like sodium-nitrate give cured meat its characteristic taste. While current USDA regulations dictate that meat cured with celery powder must be marked as uncured, many believe that it would be more accurate to mark such products as cured but with a regulation warning that celery powder has been used.
IT’S UNNATURAL FOR GROUND BEEF TO CONTAIN MEAT FROM MORE THAN ONE ANIMAL
Fact: Much like using multiple oranges in orange juice, it’s commonplace to grind beef from the cuttings of various cattle. There’s nothing unnatural about this, and it allows for improved processes all around. The collection of various cuttings ensures production can stick with the ideal lean/fat ratios. Trimmings also tend to be collected from various cuts and meats, meaning that grinding trimmings from different animals allows for more natural and resourceful production.
Meat Nutrition and health myths
AMERICANS EAT TOO MUCH MEAT, AND THE HIGH SATURATED FAT CONTENT LEADS TO HEART DISEASE
Fact: U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend Americans eat 5-7 ounces from the protein food group per day. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (“NHANES”), however, men typically consume 6.9 ounces of meat and poultry compared to women’s 4.4 . That suggests we're sitting just below recommended amounts. What’s more, seeking ‘lean’ cuts of meat could see consumers drastically reducing saturated fat. Lean options have less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat per portion, and a lot of healthy fats besides.
AMERICANS GET THE MOST NITRATE FROM CURED MEATS
Fact: Less than 5% of sodium nitrite intake comes from cured meats. The remaining 93% comes from vegetables like lettuce, spinach, celery, cabbage, beets, and even human saliva. What’s more, experts state that where you receive nitrate from is largely irrelevant, with cured meats offering the same nitrates as the vegetables mentioned.
NITRATE IN CURED MEAT IS LINKED TO DISEASES LIKE CANCER
Fact: A multi-year study conducted by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) on rats found no nitrate association with cancer. Quite the contrary, the National Institutes of Health  and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston found health benefits including regulation of blood pressure, prevention from injury of heart attack, and even wound healing. That’s not quite the cancer-causing damage we’ve been led to believe.
GRASS-FED BEEF IS MORE NUTRITIOUS THAN BEEF FINISHED ON CORN AND GRAINS
Fact: There is no established proof that grass-fed beef is more nutritious than beef fed on corn and grains. There is some evidence that grass-fed beef is slightly lower in saturated fat, but this largely depends on cut and choice of cooking. There is also some suggestion that grass-fed beef is slightly higher in omega 3, but that’s negligible considering that beef consumption is not a reliable form of omega 3 intake anyway. Ultimately, both grass and corn-fed beef are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available.
PROCESSED MEAT IS UNHEALTHY AND SHOULD BE AVOIDED
Fact: The term ‘processed’ has a bad reputation when it comes to meat, but it isn’t always what it seems. In reality, all meat must be processed before it can be consumed. The only difference between buying processed meat is that the processing has taken place in a factory rather than at home. More often than not, the processing also involves harmless inclusions like oats, breadcrumbs, etc. which can have health benefits. Despite some myths that processed meats can lead to cancer, one large study collected data from 14 smaller research efforts to find that no link is evident .
CUTTING MEAT FROM YOUR DIET WILL MAKE YOU HEALTHIER
Fact: Meat provides us with a whole host of vital nutrients, including protein, amino acids, and multiple vitamins. We can indeed get these things from plants and other sources, but we often have to eat much higher quantities to achieve the same benefits. What’s more, meat and poultry are unique in offering nutrients like vitamin B6, thiamine, and niacin. With this in mind, it’s plain to see that simply cutting meat out of your diet won’t make you healthier without in-depth planning or even supplements. This seems unnecessary when you consider that, based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, meat is currently the only food we eat the right amount of .
SODIUM REDUCTION IN PROCESSED MEATS IS AS SIMPLE AS REMOVING SALT FROM RECIPES
Fact: Sodium in processed meats helps to inhibit the growth of many dangerous bacteria. Sodium content also helps to improve tenderness and bind products together. As such, sodium reduction must be done gently to avoid further food safety risks. Far from just removing salt, manufacturers have to embark on sodium reduction gradually while they find ways to retain the same taste and safety.
BSE IS A COMMON THREAT TO ANIMAL AND HUMAN HEALTH
Fact: Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has decreased significantly since its peak levels during the early 90s. This reduction means that BSE is no longer the common threat to animal or human health that it used to be. This is thanks to various efforts from institutions like the FDA, who have worked to reduce practices such as feed derived from ruminant animals. Veterinarians must also now look for signs of disease when cattle arrive at a processing plant. As a result of these efforts, there have been only 60 cases of atypical BSE worldwide among older cattle.
USING MODERN TECHNOLOGIES TO RAISE ANIMALS HAS DONE MORE HARM THAN GOOD
Fact: Without modern technologies in the raising of animals, we wouldn’t be able to come close to the amounts of meat that we produce today, and prices would skyrocket, too. As technology has made everyday life easier, it has also allowed fewer farmers to keep up with a growing population. Far from doing harm, these technologies have therefore kept meat production afloat, all while ensuring the safest, most affordable food supply we’ve ever enjoyed.
USING HORMONES IN POULTRY PRODUCTION POSES HEALTH RISKS TO CONSUMERS
Fact: Despite confusion about hormone use in poultry production, federal law prohibits the use of additional hormones here. While no meat product from a living thing can be entirely hormone-free, then, a look at poultry packaging should reveal a ‘no added hormone’ disclaimer. While hormones do exist in poultry, then, you can rest easy that they are naturally occurring and unavoidable.
USING HORMONES IN PIG PRODUCTION POSES HEALTH RISKS TO CONSUMERS
Fact: Again, federal law prohibits additional hormones in pig production, so any hormones are natural and thus unavoidable.
USING HORMONES IN BEEF PRODUCTION POSES HEALTH RISKS TO CONSUMERS
Fact: Unlike pork and poultry production, hormones like estrogen are used to increase amounts of meat in modern beef production. That said, hormones used are synthetic versions of their naturally occurring counterparts. They’re also a fraction of the hormones found in products like soybeans, eggs, and even the human body. As such, these small additions are considered safe for consumers.
FEEDING CATTLE CORN IS UNNATURAL
Fact: Far from being unnatural, corn-fed cattle get to enjoy additional nutritional benefits alongside their grass diets. No cattle are entirely corn-fed, but some are provided with this nutritional supplement in the last few months of their lives. Those who claim this is unnatural also seem to forget that corn is actually grass seed, meaning cows would eat this naturally anyway. Farmers simply increase intake at carefully tailored levels for optimum nutrition.