Thursday, December 6, 2012

Would You Like Extra Ractopamine With Your Pork, Sir? - December 6th, 2012
If you haven't heard of the drug ractopamine before, you're probably not alone. But if you've eaten intensively reared pork, beef or turkey, then you will almost certainly have consumed meat from an animal that's been fed the drug -- and probably eaten ractopamine yourself.

In a recent test of pork chop and ground pork samples from six U.S. cities, Consumer Reports found low levels of ractopamine in almost one-fifth of the 240 pork products analyzed, as well as a range of other nasties -- including several strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Ractopamine is a growth promoter drug. It is widely used on intensive livestock farms in the U.S. because it increases the rate of weight gain and carcass leanness in pigs, cattle and turkey. It's estimated that up to 80 percent of the U.S. pig herd is fed the drug every year. Of course, the drug doesn't come without its costs.

The European Union, China, Taiwan and more than 100 other countries have long banned its use in livestock farming because of concerns about the effect of ractopamine residues in meat on human health. As a result, many countries will not import U.S. meat from animals that have been fed the drug.

Of course, proponents of industrial farming are very quick to point out that ractopamine is perfectly "safe" and that there is no risk to humans from consuming meat from treated animals. Indeed, they argue that the ongoing ban on ractopamine-tainted meat imports by China and the EU is simply an act of trade protectionism to protect their farmers from the more "efficient" production practices of U.S. industrial farms. Or perhaps it's because their government food and safety agencies are a whole lot better at putting human health concerns above industry interest and profits. I'll leave that for you to decide.

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