Red-meat eaters, before you savor that last Summer burger or celebrate #TacoTuesdays, you might want to read this. According to a new report, approximately 80 percent of conventionally produced beef contains two or more types of health-causing bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (a common cause for skin infections and food poisoning).
In the Consumer Reports study, researchers bought 300 packages of ground beef from 103 stores across the country. Of those, 181 packages were conventionally produced ¡ª meaning the cows were raised on feedlots, given antibiotics, and fed a mixture of soy and corn diet ¡ª while 119 packages were listed as sustainable ¡ª the cows were not given antibiotics and were raised in pastures.
When the contents were analyzed for samples of bacteria, not surprisingly, the conventional meat had a greater risk of making someone sick. More concerning was the fact conventional beef contained more antibiotic-resistant bacteria like S. aureus bacteria called MRSA, which kills 11,000 people in the US per year.
Why do conventionally raised cows lead to bacteria-filled beef? The focus on feedlot-raised cows is to make them as fat and big as possible, which is why farmers use corn and soy instead of grass. Cows can’t digest this feed very well, so it creates an acidic environment in the cow’s digestive tract, which can lead to ulcers and infections. Research shows that these digestion problems can lead to higher levels of E. coli in cattle waste. The cows’ unnatural diet is further induced by farmers feeding their cattle almost anything to fatten them up, including gummy bears, lemon drops, chocolate, and even plastic pellets, which can also lead to unsafe meat.
Scary news, although those in favor of conventionally produced meat, like Mindy Brashears, a Texas Tech University food safety professor, still say the beef industry in the US is safe. Furthermore, the USDA pointed out that none of the E. coli found in the consumer report was the toxin-producing variety.
Ready to completely give up meat? If you’re shaking your head, then remember to choose organic meat when possible, cook your ground beef thoroughly ¡ª at least to 160 degrees Fahrenheit ¡ª and use these four ways to cook a burger that’s safe to eat to keep your meat-lover soul content.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Anna Monette Roberts