What do bacon, sausage, hot dogs, salami, beef jerky, and ham have in common? They are examples of processed meat. Processed meat is meat products made from muscle meat, animal fats and additives. The addition of additives changes the color and texture making the product palatable and visually appealing. Sometimes animal skin, internal organs, and blood are used in the processing.
Smoking, curing, fermenting and adding salt or preservatives are the main methods used in meat processing.
You may ask, why are these processes bad? Cancer-causing chemicals like N-nitroso compounds and benzopyrene residue can form during processing. It’s estimated there are 34,000 deaths from cancer every year caused by diets high in processed meats.
Eating 50 grams of processed meat daily increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer by 18%. That’s like eating 4 strips of bacon, or one hot dog.
Read on to see five horrifying facts about the processed meat you eat.
1. There’s Poop in Your Meat
Yes, you read that right! Your meat is contaminated with feces. If you don’t cook it properly you run the risk of E-coli poisoning and blood infections. In factory farming, overcrowding is common. Feces adhere to the animal’s hide or get trapped in the intestines. Ultimately, the feces then make their way onto your plate if not cooked properly.
2. There’s Carbon Monoxide in Your Meat
Believe it or not, it’s legal to use carbon monoxide to package meat. The gas keeps meat red for more than three weeks. While the dose of carbon monoxide is said to be harmless, it creates another problem. Carbon monoxide keeps the meat red even after it has spoiled, so people may not know when their meat has gone bad.
3. There Are Superbugs in Your Meat
On factory farms, livestock are fed antibiotics to prevent the growth of bacteria and protect them from developing disease. Overcrowding and unhygienic living conditions make developing disease more common. Repeated exposure to antibiotics lead to ‘superbugs’, bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. When you eat meat from these farms, you’re also consuming the antibiotics they were fed, as well as the superbugs.
4. Your Meat is Held Together by Glue
That piece of meat on your plate may actually be meat scraps held together by a synthetic form of transglutaminase, also known as meat glue. Transglutaminase, in its pure form, is an enzyme that repairs body tissue in living organisms. Meat glue creates a similar process in meat, holding together individual meat pieces to form one solid slab. Cooked ham is an example of meat that uses synthetic transglutaminase products.
5. Your Chicken May Contain Prozac
The conditions of factory farms cause depression in some chickens. Farmers give their chickens antidepressants, not to help them be happy, but to avoid the stress of depression which slows their growth. Giving antidepressants to chickens helps them grow larger. The larger the chicken, the more money paid to farmers. The next time you eat that chicken nugget, you might also get a dose of Prozac!
The World Health Organization classifies agents into one of five groups:
1: Carcinogenic to humans
2A: Probably carcinogenic to humans
2B: Possibly carcinogenic to humans
3: Not classifiable
4: Probably not carcinogenic
Processed meats are classified as Group 1.
So, how do you get the protein from meats without the added carcinogens? Eat only fresh meat when possible, and make sure the label says it’s 100% grass fed, or better yet, pasture-raised. You can also try substituting beans in your recipes, which are a great source of protein.
The FDA has said it’s OK to have up to four rodent hairs per 100 grams of processed food.