ARSENIC: Did you know that 70 percent of chickens in the U.S. receive feed containing arsenic? The FDA allows an arsenic-based drug called nitarsone in chicken feed. Arsenic-containing compounds were first approved for commercial use in medicated animal feed in the 1940s in order to promote faster growth in poultry and increased feed efficiency–in other words, the chickens get fatter without eating as much. The poultry industry claims that the arsenic fed to their birds has no adverse health effects on the consumer because the kind of arsenic used in feed additives is “organic” arsenic. However, recent studies have found that organic arsenic has the ability to convert to inorganic arsenic in animal tissue, the animal tissue that you eat. Even if the arsenic remains in organic form, it may have the same effect on people that it has on chickens—causing them to gain weight even when eating less.
DISEASE: In July of 2020, the USDA accepted a petition from the National Chicken Council to allow slaughterhouses to process birds infected with avian leukosis. The infection causes a condition similar to cancer, leading to malignant tumors and lesions. Whether the condition can be passed on to humans is unclear, but eating diseased chicken does not seem like a good thing to do under any circumstances.
MYCOTOXINS: A 2019 study of one thousand conventional corn samples found that 92 percent were contaminated with one or more mycotoxins. These fungal poisons can cause breathing problems, lung inflammation, fever and burning sensations, and serious conditions like cancer, fibromyalgia, heart problems, and lupus–and even mental deficiencies. If they are in the animal feed, they’ll end up in the muscles of the animals. Make sure your farmer is using organic feed or, even better, avoiding corn altogether.
RACTOPAMINE: This drug, mostly given to pigs, promotes lean muscle growth (at the expense of fat). Due to safety concerns, about one hundred sixty nations ban or restrict the use of this drug, including Russia, China and all countries in the European Union. But in the U.S., an estimated 60 percent to 80 percent of pigs receive ractopamine in their feed. Ractopamine belongs to a class of drugs called beta-agonists, which were developed to treat asthma. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved ractopamine for use on pigs after just one human health study–an evaluation of six young, healthy men, one of whom dropped out because his heart began racing and pounding abnormally. In addition to cardiovascular effects, ractopamine has been linked behavioral changes, and nervousness in humans and pigs. Babies born to rats fed ractopamine developed cleft palates, protruding tongues, short limbs, missing digits, open eyelids and enlarged hearts. In pigs, ractopamine causes them to collapse and become “downers,” that is, animals too sick or injured to walk.
SOY ISOFLAVONES: These estrogen-like compounds will show up in the meat, milk and eggs of animals fed soy—which means any animal raised in the industrial system. Best to find a farmer who uses no soy at all—but at least pasture feeding will reduce the amount of soy that animals like chickens, pigs and dairy cows receive. Pastured beef production requires neither corn nor soy.
ANTIBIOTICS: Livestock (cows, pigs, chicken and even fish) receive antibiotics, not only to treat or prevent illness, but also to encourage rapid growth. Of course, people ingest these drugs when they eat antibiotic-treated meat, eggs and milk, with the now well-known result of antibiotic resistance—not to mention disruption of gut flora. Worldwide, an estimated 73 percent of antibiotics are consumed by farm animals; global antibiotic use is estimated to increase 67 percent from 2010 to 2030. Europe banned the use of antibiotics for growth promotion purposes in 2006, and the use of sub-therapeutic doses of medically important antibiotics in animal feed and water to promote growth and improve feed efficiency became illegal in the United States in 2017. However, use of antibiotics in animal feed is huge in developing countries, especially China, and since we no longer have Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), it’s hard to avoid such antibiotic-laced products when you buy your animal foods in the supermarket. Federal law forbids the use of antibiotics in dairy cows, but the test used to detect antibiotics (called the SNAP test) only picks up about five of more than two dozen antibiotics in use.
Since in America we tend to eat animal foods every day, the load of toxins from supermarket meat, eggs and dairy products can be very high and the effects profound, especially in growing children.
The solution? Purchase your meat, eggs and dairy products directly from a local farmer, one who practices pasture feeding and who uses non-medicated feed (preferably soy-free). In the process of protecting your family, you will also be supporting independent, conscientious farmers and a robust local economy.