Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hey, what's that stuff there in my meat? Ah hah, it's the American Chemical Feast

Well, now that's not something you hear everyday. Well other than the jokes about the worms in the supermarket salmon. But stuff in meat, naw, no one puts stuff in meat, right? C'mon Chef Roy, no one puts stuff in meat, meat is meat. Well, maybe Taco Bell, or Wendy's and earthworms. And pink slime at the golden arches, but real meat. It's just meat.

Silly made up human voice, sorry, we live in the Chemical Feast and stuff is just rampant at the stockyards and pigpens. There are just so many different things making up stuff, I could write a book about them all. Except I don't need to, some one already did. A joint venture of the FAO and WHO and their scientists wrote a fascinating and incredibly scary book titled "Toxicological Evaluation of Certain Veterinary Drug Residues in Food"  Available at Amazon, only 42 bucks. I'm not makin' this stuff up. So, today I don't want to get too scary, I just want to go into a few things about ractopamine. Yes, it's stuff. It's fed to livestock along with their regular standard diet of corn, soy, cottonseed meal, dried and ground up chicken litter including chicken feces and dead chickens, and a variety of other agricultural waste products. And of course lots and lots of antibiotics. Remember, the cattle or pigs pretty much live their lives standing, kneeling, sleeping and over all existing on top of piles of their own piss and shit. They get sick and they get sores and burns and various ailments afflict them because of their living conditions. But cattlemen are trying to help out their livestock, (cattle, pigs and others) by force feeding them a product called ractopamine. The help is indirect, the drug forces animals to put on lean muscle mass faster and grow a bit faster. Thus they only have to live in those conditions a little less time. That's sort of being humane.

So, what is this stuff that has my ire irked. Ractopamine is a class of drugs called beta agonists. Specifically it is a Beta adrenergic agonist that was first created for use in humans as a suppressant for asthma. It was never approved for use in humans because it for the most part killed humans. It increased heart rates, for extended periods of time, and then it did what it was supposed to do, dilated airways and some other stuff. Long term use it was discovered, caused the user to gain muscle mass. This was thought to be a boon to body builders if it wasn't for that unpleasant side effect, death. Along with just the typical stuff, tachycardia, tremors, muscle spasms and high arterial pressure. So it was never approved for human use but that never stopped big pharma from making money on their creations. There was that big big side effect, increase lean muscle mass. And so it came to pass that the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, soon changed its marketing tactics and pursued the livestock meat industry as a potential customer. And with great success. The stuff has become synonymous with American pork, beef and turkey products. So much so that two of the largest importers of beef and pork have recently refused to purchase any American products because of the contamination with ractopamine. Russia and China. The Chinese really want to buy untainted pork for their population and so have gone so far as to purchase the world's largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods with the intent to alter production methods within their own farms to eliminate the use of ractopamine for pork destined for export back to the home country. 

So we really can't talk about ractopamine without talking about the Downer's Decision. This is where we learn the true depths of disdain with which American Corporate leaders hold consumers. It all started back in 2007 when some activists made some movies about the horrific conditions at slaughterhouses. I'm not going to put a link here to the videos, you can look it up if you want, suffice it to say that I was grossed out. And I don't really care about the actual process of killing feed animals, that's not why I'm a vegetarian. But this was ghastly. And it all comes down to what are known as Downers. Animals that are either too sick, too deformed, too doped up, and too wild and uncontrollable to be forced up the chute to be killed for slaughter. In 2009 the State of California passed a law that made it illegal to slaughter for human food any animal that was deemed, Downer. This was also put into effect because of the very real danger of BSE getting into the food supply. BSE is mad cow disease. The problems also encompassed animals that were so grossly deformed with unnaturally occurring muscle tissue that they were unable to walk, or because they were crazed and either unable to respond or wildly uncontrollable. Well, all those were side effects of excessive use of ractopamine. And in some instances, those wild animal's actions mimicked BSE, or again, Mad Cow Disease. The cattlemen's association took the State of California to court, and eventually it went up to the Supreme Court which gave its unanimous decision that those that raise animals for human consumption have the right to slaughter and put into the system any animal they wanted to whether it could walk or not or was acting in any way different from normal. No matter what's wrong, we get to eat it. Well, literally as well as figuratively.

So, anyway, if we look at ractopamine uptake and half life within the system and amounts excreted in 24, 48 and 96 hour intervals and blah blah blah blah, boring stuff, buy the book listed above. We look at the actual figures resulting in why the use of ractopamine is so very popular with American animal ranchers. It makes them extra money. Now, here I get several different figures. Most of the USDA figures show that on average, a farmer can realize an extra 3 to 4 dollars per hog when using ractopamine. Cattle will bring from 7 to 11 dollars per head. Turkeys, about 20 cents per bird. Think about it, in America, profit is so revered, so needed, so required that tunnel vision occurs and the belief that making an extra one third to very nearly a WHOLE cent per pound profit on animals causes farmers and ranchers to just completely look the other way and use a known harmful substance that is banned in over 160 countries as being too dangerous to allow into their food supply.

Well, it's up to me to draw even more conclusions. This is something that I have tried to find out about, and have spent an inordinate amount of time looking with no results. And that is of course, just how much ractopamine gets into the environment. We know how much is excreted (up to 92% in 96 hours) after being fed the stuff, so there really is only one place for it to go. Into the huge piles of animal waste outside the places where they raise the animals. In most of the country, that waste is dumped into holding ponds and allowed to rot. Not so much here in the Southwest. Here it's too dry so they pile it up and let it dry and hope for the big storms to come blow large portions of it away. Yeah, most of the people living here in the Valley of the Sun don't know that a large portion of those huge walls of dust blowing in from the south east comes from all the huge dairy and cattle feedlots down north of Tucson. And the dust contains a huge amount of cattle manure. But that's another story. Elsewhere, the manure from feeding operations is supposed to decompose in those large holding ponds. Supposed to. What I tried to find out was how long it took for the ractopamine within the manure to decompose. So I went to the ScienceLab and tried to find the MSDS. It isn't there. I went to the EPA and they had no data on half life deterioration in the environment. I went to the PAN, no luck. I went to the ATSDR and was not helped. I went to the National Toxicology Program part of Health and Human Services, and found zilch. I went to the FDA, and they seem to believe there is no such problem, they have declared ractopamine safe. Well, except for humans. I probably could go elsewhere, but I am confident that if it isn't in these places, it won't be anywhere else. Why is it a problem, well, let's try to remember that in the past I have talked about animal poop. And this very problem. It seems that the USDA demands that anyone (and let's remember that in America, corporations are people) that owns an animal feeding facility MUST make provisions to contain the waste. The most common and accepted method is a pond to let the stuff stink up the surrounding ten or so square miles and eventually drain it and remove the leftover stuff that didn't turn to methane and further cause greenhouse gas problems. All that's okay, and if severe weather were to hit the area and most of the waste were to wash out into the public waterways, neighboring produce fields or possibly into municipal water supplies; that was perfectly fine and in accordance with the American way of life. Don't believe me? You can read the court's decision here (Circuit Court Decision)  And especially look on page two where they have determined that in areas with normally heavy rainfall occurs, ZERO Discharge is not mandated. So how big a problem is it? We probably will never know. However, if you look ractopamine up in the Wikipedia, we are informed that anyone with cardiovascular problems should avoid meat products containing ractopamine as it could causes serious problems. How much ractopamine is in meat, how much is in our water supplies because of runoff, how much do we breathe in as dust?

Is the concept of making an extra penny per pound in profit such a single minded focus for American producers that they lose sight of what these things are doing to our environment, our bodies and our future?

We indeed live within the American Chemical Feast

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