In the name of convenience and saving cash, a connection to the food we eat was lost somewhere along the way. Finding that again is proving to be crucial to our wellbeing.
One of my very first memories revolves around the revolutionary culinary invention of the TV dinner. Around 3 years old, I remember sitting down on the couch, at my very own TV tray table, and being so excited to peel back the aluminum foil on my fresh-out-of-the-oven TV dinner to reveal the mystery food sitting in the little compartments of my once-frozen dinner.
The food was a mystery to me because it was like a Christmas present – it had to be unwrapped before you knew what was inside. As an adult reflecting back, I think about that mystery food quite differently and ask questions about it that didn’t occur to most of my parents’ generation.
Questions like, “What farm did the beef in that Salisbury steak come from? Was the cow given hormones? Or antibiotics? Or something else I should know about?”
We have answers now we certainly didn’t have in the 80s.
Researchers from the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, Arizona tested 80 brands of beef, chicken, pork and turkey purchased from 26 grocery stores in five cities, including Los Angeles. Their findings were published this month in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases and have drawn widespread national attention.
They reported nearly half of the meat and poultry sold in U.S. grocery stores is contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, which is more commonly understood as the bacteria that can lead to staph infections. These infections can be as simple as a minor rash or as dangerous and life-threatening as pneumonia or sepsis.
DNA tests suggested the meat acquired the bacteria not from meat processing plants but from the animals themselves and that it had to do with industry practices of treating animals with antibiotics.
The Centers for Disease Control website says animals are generally given low doses of antibiotics in their feed because it promotes growth they don’t get otherwise.
The government agency also says about 25 percent of healthy people and animals have S. aureus on their skin or in their noses, so perhaps what is most concerning about the researcher’s report is not that the bacteria was present in the meat, but that 52 percent of the bacteria were resistant to antibiotics.
“Antibiotics are the most important drugs that we have to treat Staph infections; but when Staph are resistant to three, four, five or even nine different antibiotics — like we saw in this study — that leaves physicians few options,” said the study’s senior author Lance B. Price.
Meat industry advocates were quick to discount the study saying the sample size was insufficient to draw any conclusions. They also pointed out the bacteria would be destroyed when cooked properly and that could account for the small percentage of illnesses linked to S. aureus.
Sure, heat kills bacteria but why do I want to run the risk by even bringing contaminated meat into my kitchen? Buying that meat supports an irresponsible industry and promotes the creation of more antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
We have a choice. We can buy organic meats and support local farmers who do not treat their animals with antibiotics.
Yes, it will likely cost you more right now, but if consumer demand increased so would competition in the market and then we would see prices drop.
And this might be totally unrealistic but you could just eat less of it and that would save money. Beside the TV dinner, which should stay in the 80s, so should the age-old Mom-ism that you have to finish everything on your plate.
We need to start looking toward tomorrow.