Friday, November 30, 2012

Hidden Costs of Processed Meat

Why are all processed foods so cheap? When you go to McDonalds, you can get a whole meal for only 3 bucks! Or if you are shopping in the grocery store, the packaged and processed foods are significantly cheaper than the fresh vegetables. Why is this?

Well, the reason for these cheap options has a lot to do with the way food is processed.  And the way food is processed has a lot to do with corn.  Corn is produced in huge quantities, and it remains cheap due to government subsidies, which the corn industry receives over 50 billion dollars of. Then the corn is processed so that it can be used to make everything from ketchup to chips to soda. 

But how does this relate to Meatless Monday? Well its not only the processed junk foods that are being pumped with corn- so is our meat. It is much more cost effective for farmers to feed their livestock corn than to have them graze grass on a larger plot of land.  Corn is not the best form of nutrition for livestock, and as a consequence of eating corn, cows are not healthy as they would be if they grazed grass.  Not to mention, mass produced livestock are forced to live in conditions that are not necessarily sanitary.  Keeping hundreds of cows in a small area makes for the perfect way for diseases to run ramped.  So whats our solution? Give the cows antibiotics.  With these antibiotics, livestock are able to survive the factory farm conditions that they wouldn't be able to survive without the medicine.  But there are some serious problems that can come from this.

Every time we eat meat that has been pumped with antibiotics, we eat some of those antibiotics as well. As we consume more and more of these antibiotics, we promote the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria in our bodies.  Why is this scary? Well, let's say you get sick and the doctor prescribes you antibiotics.  However, because you have eaten meat pumped with so many antibiotics, your body has grown resistant to the antibiotics effects and therefore the medicine prescribed by your doctor will not work. Its a scary thought, and its already happening. It is estimated that antibiotic-resistant illnesses cost our public health system 4-5 million dollars per year.  This begs the question, whats in store for our future?

There are a lot of reasons why a vegetable based protein diet leads to a better lifestyle than solely a meat based protein diet.  The reasons are not just because it can create a cleaner environment, but because it can also create healthier bodies.

It's important not just to limit your intake of meat.  Its also important to make a decision that when you do eat meat, it should be clean, healthy meat.  Look for meats that say grass fed and antibiotic free.  Buy local meats if you can.  There are a lot of local farmers looking to sell their meat at the farmers market.  I know for my family, we buy a half a cow from a local farmer that we know, and freeze the meat. It lasts us for months! But, if you are just a college student and a half a cow sounds like a little too much- try buying meat from a local butcher, like The Piggery (

Meat is a delicious thing. It no doubt has many nutritional values.  However, balance is the only way to capitalize on what meat has to offer.  Eat meat if you want, but not too much, and try and make sure its meat that is healthy for you!  Happy dining!

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