Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's What's For Dinner...?

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as “mad cow disease”, while rare, is an invisible, uncertain and fatal disease. BSE can lay dormant for years, so testing is not necessarily an accurate indicator of whether or not a particular animal carries this disease at the time of slaughter. This disease, as well as the human form of it – variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (vCJD) and the sheep form – “scrapie” seem to be caused by proteins that are “folded” wrong, according to Marian Nestle in her book, What to Eat. These proteins are called “prions” (“pree-ons”). “In the brain, misfolded prion proteins act like dominoes; they cause normal prion proteins to misfold, one after another. This destroys brain tissues (hence: encephalopathy) and leaves gaping holes (hence: spongiform).”
According to Marian Nestle, “These diseases occur spontaneously –
with no apparent cause – in older animals or humans. How they arise and spread is not really known, but one scenario to explain the epidemic in Great Britain seems most plausible: the British cattle got mad cow disease because they were fed brains from sheep that had scrapie, and people got the human variant of the disease because they ate meat from cows that had BSE.”
After hearing Howard Lyman lecture at my school (the Institute For Integrative Nutrition) last year, I really began to think more discriminatingly about the meat that I was eating, and decided to almost completely eliminate it from my diet. A former cattle rancher and farmer from a family of cattle ranchers and farmers, he discussed agricultural practices that leads to, and even spreads, the incidence of animal-to-human diseases, among other things. It seemed barbaric and far-fetched that the cattle that make up our meat supply would be fed feed made from scraps of their own siblings, but that is exactly what is done, and that is how diseases like mad cow spread. It is not uncommon for dead factory-farm animals to be rounded up in the morning and turned into feed without any testing as to the cause of death. Since the disease can lay dormant for years, some people manifest its symptoms long after exposure. According to Mr. Lyman, a study of patients with Alzheimer’s disease conducted posthumously at the VA hospital in Pittsburgh revealed that many of them actually had vCID.
As I have stated in previous posts: the manufacturing of food is a lucrative business. Food manufacturers are not in it for the betterment of mankind. They are in the business to make money. In the instance of beef production, consider the scraps from slaughtered cattle. These leftover parts of bones, intestines, ears, brains, and other inedible parts total over 12 billion pounds annually, according to some estimations. Rather than dispose of this vast amount of “goods”, meat producers make money from them. For years these leftover parts were cooked into meat-and-bone meal, which was used for animal feed or for other purposes such as gelatin products and cosmetics! To make matters worse, cooking and rendering did not get rid of the misfolded prions, thus these products were likely to be contaminated. In the late 1990’s this meat-and-bone meal was banned as feed for cattle, but for three more years the US still allowed meat from other countries that continued to use this feeding practice to be imported to our country, leaving me to wonder what is lurking inside of me...
When you consider the massive amounts of antibiotics that are piped into cows to take care of all of the digestive disorders and resulting infections that would hamper the cows growth and development into an animal worthy of slaughter, which are in the meat that is sent to market, doesn't it make sense to try to get grass-fed beef whenever possible? I don't know that just because a particular product has made it onto our grocery store shelves, it should necessarily be granted space in our grocery carts, refrigerators and dining tables as well.
Know what is in your food and where your food comes from. The safest bet is to eat food prepared as simply as possible. Avoid the "cheap meat" at your favorite fast food restaurants and processed meats like bologna, hot dogs, salami & pepperoni, and by all means don't feed that kind of crap to your kids! Buy your food as low on the processing-chain as possible, and ask questions at your grocery store. Find out what is in the meat cases at the supermarket. Consider eating a higher-quality meat and less of it, less often. Try beans as your primary source of protein. Meat could be an occasional dish, or accessory to your meals rather than the featured "event". What you don’t know CAN hurt you.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

You didn't mention that white-tailed deer can also have prions in their system. It is called chronic wasting disease the deer.