Six different additives are used in medicated feed for cattle in Canada.
Three of those — lasalocid sodium, salinomycin sodium and monensin sodium — are antimicrobial drugs that fall into the category of drugs that have no therapeutic use for humans, says the Beef Cattle Research Council.
Chlortetracycline hydrochloride is antimicrobial closely related to tetracyclines, which are antibiotics used in human medicine, but for which there are alternatives according to the Research Council.
Melengestrol acetate is a steroidal growth promoter and ractopamine hydrochloride is a non-antimicrobial drug given to promote lean weight gain.
According to Health Canada, natural hormones progesterone, testosterone and estradiol and synthetic
hormones zeranol and trenbolone are all approved for use as growth promoters in beef cattle. Growth hormones generally promote muscle growth and improve feed conversion, the amount of weight an animal gains per unit of feed consumed.
Medical Associations on both sides of the Canadian/US border are against antimicrobial feed additives and have repeatedly called for a ban on antibiotic use without a prescription.
Why You Should Stick with Meat from your Local Farmer!
Spoiler Alter: After reading this you may never look at your meat aisle in the same way again. This stuff is nasty reading but goes a long way to explain why factory farming of animals may be linked to a looming public health crisis.
Animals raised for meat eat more than 30 million pounds of antibiotics a year. Most supermarket meat today comes from operations that routinely feed animals low doses of antibiotics. This constant contact with drugs helps bacteria learn how to outsmart the meds, creating dangerous strains of hard-to-kill superbugs.
About 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the U.S. go to nonorganic farm animals to help speed livestock growth and counteract filthy, stressful housing situations that debilitate the animals' immune systems.
MRSA kills more people than AIDS, and it's in your meat. Forcing animals to eat drugs is creating a silent crisis. A 2011 study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases took the gross-out factor to a whole new level. Researchers found that half of the U.S. supermarket meat sampled contained staph infection bacteria, including the hard-to-kill and potentially lethal MRSA. Turkey products were most likely to harbor staph bacteria, followed by pork and chicken products.
Prozac may have been part of your chicken's diet. Earlier in 2012, Johns Hopkins University study studied the feathers of imported chickens to figure out what the birds ingested before slaughter. They found traces of antidepressants, painkillers, banned antibiotics, and allergy medication. According to scientists, Prozac is sometimes used to offset anxiety common in factory farm conditions. (Stress can slow birds' growth, hurting profits.) Scientists also uncovered caffeine in about 50 percent of samples taken. Why? Caffeine keeps chickens awake so they can grow faster.
You could be eating animal worming medication. The U.S. Department of Agriculture discovered traces of harmful veterinary drugs and heavy metals in U.S. beef, including:
1. Ivermectin, an animal wormer that can cause neurological damage in humans.
2. Flunixin, a veterinary drug that can cause kidney damage, stomach, and colon ulcers, as well as blood in the stool of humans.
3. Penicillin, a drug that can cause life-threatening reactions in people who are allergic to it.
4. Arsenic, a known carcinogen that is allowed in some nonorganic animal feeding operations. (It is commonly fed to chickens, and chicken litter, or feces, is sometimes fed to feedlot cattle—and the majority of supermarket and fast-food beef in this country comes from feedlot operations.)
5. Copper, an essential element we need for our survival but that's harmful when too much accumulates in our bodies.
Certain beef is more likely to harbor deadly E. coli germs. It's natural for cows to eat grass, but not grains. Still, most cows today are raised in feedlots, where they chomp down lots of grain to speed growth. This changes the natural chemistry in a cow's gut, making it easier for potentially deadly E. coli O157:H7 strain to survive.
Supermarket chicken could be fueling urinary tract infections. Investigating disease-causing bacteria on grocery store meat and comparing it to urine samples of women diagnosed with UTIs, researchers found that in 71 percent of cases, the E. coli bacteria collected from women with UTIs matched the strain detected on supermarket chicken. "People are eating a lot more chicken because it's often perceived as healthier," says Amy Manges, PhD, associate professor in the department of epidemiology, biostatistics and occupational health at McGill University in Montreal. "But what people don't realize is that chicken is pretty heavily contaminated with bacteria in general, and those bacteria tend to be drug resistant."
All the antibiotics that are pumped into cattle, and other modern-day farming practices, lead to tough, chewy steaks, says Sarah Klein, a senior attorney in the food-safety program at Center for Science in the Public Interest. So, increasingly, slaughterhouses have adopted the process of mechanically tenderizing steaks and other high-quality cuts of beef. Doing so involves driving blades and needles into steak—which in turn, drive any bacteria living on the surface of a steak deep into the flesh. When you get an undercooked steak, for instance, if you like to order yours rare or medium, all that bacteria inside the meat is still alive, whereas before, it would have been seared off when the outside was cooked, she says. More than half of the 82 outbreaks linked to steak in the past ten years can be linked to E. coli, a bacterium that's usually only found on the exterior of whole cuts of meat. Plants aren't required to label mechanically tenderized meat, so you don't know which cuts to handle with care and which are ok to order a little pink.
Antibiotics are used on conventional farms to make animals grow faster. And emerging research suggests antibiotics could be making us fatter, too, disrupting the natural balance of beneficial gut bacteria. "For many years now, farmers have known that antibiotics are great at producing heavier cows for market," explains Jan Blustein, MD, PhD, professor of population health and medicine at NYU School of Medicine. "While we need more research to confirm our findings, this carefully conducted study suggests that antibiotics influence weight gain in humans, especially children, too."