When was the last time you at a nice, juicy burger? If you’re like most Americans, it was probably just this week. The United States is a nation of meat eaters, and beef is certainly no exception. Did you know the average American consumes three hamburgers every single week?! That adds up to 50 billion burgers a year!
But you might rethink that habit after reading this, or at least change where you buy your beef. That’s because U.S. cattle growers are feeding their cows Zilmax, a drug that’s been linked to cows losing their hooves and other problems like sudden death. And if the cows eat the drug, and you eat the cow — well, you know how it goes.
Here’s the deal: Zilmax (or Zilpaterol) is produced by the drug company Merck, and has been used to promote cow muscle growth since 2007. By giving their cows Zilmax a few weeks before slaughter, American cattle growers are able to increase the amount of meat each cow produces. BEEF Magazine reports that of the 30 million U.S. cattle processed every year, about 35 percent were being fed Zilmax.
But recent media coverage, particularly a Reuters special report, has let the public in on the negative side effects of Zilmax. In just one Tyson Foods slaughterhouse, Reuters found 17 cows had lost their hooves and had to be euthanized. Each one had been feed Zilmax.
The drug has already been banned in horses, and has been linked to brain lesions, heart failure, and bloody noses in cows. According to records from the Food and Drug Administration, nearly 300 cattle have unexpectedly died or were euthanized after receiving Zilmax. In the two years since Zilmax hit the market, the number of euthanized cattle shot up 175 percent.
The findings prompted Tyson Foods to issue a statement saying it would no longer purchase Zilmax-fed cattle. Merck initially said it would halt U.S. and Canadian sales of the drug, but later revealed it had no plans to discontinue Zilmax. A company spokeswoman said it’s “too early to speculate” on when sales will resume, but Merck currently does not need FDA approval to bring the drug back to market.
Here’s how you can make sure neither cows nor you ingest the muscle-building drug Zilmax:
Be Careful Where You Buy Your Beef
Both Tyson and Cargill, Inc. have rejected Zilmax-fed cattle until these animal welfare issues are resolved. By buying beef from these companies, you’ll know you aren’t eating a cow that was once fed Zilmax.
Go Organic (or vegetarian)
Organic meat is free of chemicals, growth hormones, and other drugs. It’s a little more expensive, but if you can afford it, your health is worth the price.
If you’re up for going vegetarian (or even vegan), you can eliminate this problem all together! It’s a sure way to help the environment, avoid growth hormones and other drugs, and stay away from nasty things like pink slime.
Jordan Markuson is the Founder of Aqua Health Labs. He has been a nutritionist, writer and entrepreneur for over 10 years. He is an activist supporting consumption of raw, renewable, and organic foods. Jordan believes that based on all available scientific evidence, once food is cooked it loses the majority of its important nutrients. He is very interested in marine-based phytoplankton as a fish oil replacement because of the pure omega-3 acids it produces.