Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Drug Store in American Meat

Food consumers seldom hear about the drugs oestradiol-17, zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol acetate and the names are certainly not on meat labels. But those synthetic growth hormones are central to U.S. meat production, especially beef, and the reason Europe has banned a lot of U.S. meat since 1989.

Zeranol, widely used as a growth promoter in the U.S. beef industry, is known for its “ability to stimulate growth and proliferation of human breast tumor cells” like the “known carcinogen diethylstilbestrol (DES),” says the Breast Cancer Fund, a group dedicated to identifying and eliminating environmental causes of breast cancer.  Zeranol may “play a critical role in mammary tumorigenesis” and “be a risk factor for breast cancer,” agrees a recent paper from the College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering at China Agricultural University in Beijing.

Why is such a drug, that requires “Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment” for use– “laboratory coat, gloves, safety glasses and mask”–routinely used in U.S. meat production and not even labeled?

Melengestrol acetate, a synthetic progestin put in feed, is 30 times as active as natural progesterone, says the European Commission (EC) and trenbolone acetate, a synthetic androgen, is several times more active than testosterone. Trenbolone acetate is administered as ear implants commonly seen at livestock operations. Operators say the implants and the ears are removed from the human food supply at the slaughterhouse. Do they become feed for other animals?

Why does the European Commission ban meat made with such chemicals?  “There is an association between steroid hormones and certain cancers and an indication that meat consumption is possibly associated with increased risks of breast cancer and prostate cancer,” says the EC’s Committee on Veterinary Measures. “The highest rates of breast cancer are observed in North America, where hormone-treated meat consumption is highest in the world,” it says, adding that the same statistics apply to prostate cancer.

In fact, Kwang Hwa, Korea, has only seven new cases of breast cancer per 100,000 people, says the EC report, whereas non-Hispanic Caucasians in Los Angeles have 103 new cases per 100,000 people. The breast cancer rate also increases among immigrant groups when they move to the U.S., says the report, suggesting causes are not genetic but environmental. In the overarching search for a “cure,” is the “cause” of a lot of possible U.S. breast cancer overlooked?

Another growth drug used in U.S. beef, pork and turkey–yes turkey–is ractopamine an asthma-like drug called a beta agonist. Like growth hormones, ractopamine lets livestock operators produce more weight more quickly from their animals. Ractopamine was integrated into the food supply under reporters’ and consumers’ radar more than ten years ago. It became a favorite on U.S. farms when its ability to increase muscle by “repartitioning” nutrients and slowing protein degradation was discovered in a laboratory.

Unlike other veterinary drugs used in U.S. meat that are withdrawn before slaughter (or thrown away as ears) ractopamine is begun in the days before slaughter and never withdrawn. It is given to cattle for their last 28 to 42 days, to pigs for their last 28 days, and to turkeys for their last seven to 14 days. Marketed as Paylean for pigs, as Optaflexx for cattle, and as Topmax for turkeys, ractopamine is not just banned in Europe, it is banned in 160 countries.

Public health officials and livestock specialists are increasingly questioning the drug’s wide and often clandestine use. “Ractopamine usage benefits producers, but not consumers. It is bad for animal welfare and has some bad effects on humans,” said Donald Broom, a professor at the University of Cambridge’s department of veterinary medicine, at a forum on the topic in Taipei earlier this year.

In China, the Sichuan Pork Trade Chamber of Commerce reported that more than 1,700 people have been “poisoned” from eating  Paylean-fed pigs since 1998 in 2007, it seized U.S. pork for its ractopamine residues.

Thanks to the black hand of Big Meat on USDA and FDA policies, the drugstore in U.S. meat is largely hidden from food consumers. So are the health effects of the cheap, ubiquitous and unwholesome meat.

Martha Rosenberg’s is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

More articles by:

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail