By Nancy Smorch
In case you hadn’t heard yet, pharmaceutical giant, Merck, voluntarily (albeit temporarily) pulled their drug Zilmax off the market after a number of cattle at a Tyson meat processing plant in Washington state previously given Zilmax displayed stressed or missing hooves.
Over the years, a number of other issues experienced by cattle have been attributed to the use of Zilmax (side note: sales of Zilmax last year were $160 million!). Merck actually generates $3.3 billion in global sales for animal health products. Tyson and Cargill announced that they will no longer be accepting cattle that have been given Zilmax until Merck provides scientific evidence of its safety. China and South Korea have banned the import of meat produced from cattle given Zilmax.
Zilmax is a beta-agonist and is used to build muscle in the cattle to increase their weight weeks before processing. Cattle farmers claim that they need the additive to turn out more meat with fewer animals. With the cost of corn increasing due to its increased demand for use in livestock feed, ethanol production, and the recent drought, cattle farmers have been calling Zilmax “Vitamin Z” for it’s ability to add about 30 pounds onto the cattle in their last few weeks.
Cattle farmers are trying to fill the rising demand for beef without supplementing the cost of raising more cattle.
To put things into perspective: in the U.S. in 2012, 26 billion pounds of beef were processed from 91 million head of cattle. In comparison, in 1975, 24 billion pounds of beef were processed from 131 million head of cattle. There has been an increase in the weight of cattle of 20% in the last two decades.
Even if you are not concerned for the welfare of the cattle (which we MUST be), as much as 20% of Zilmax may remain in the meat the consumers end up buying. Think about that. If Zilmax was designed to put weight on the cattle, I wonder what it’s doing to the humans who consume beef supplemented with Zilmax!
"Have no fear," though.
As I said, Merck has voluntarily pulled if off the market until further “research” can be done. They do have plans on releasing it again and have been talking with key vets and scientists about their product.
As disturbing as this whole story is, it’s a mere mole hill in the mountain of… I don’t even know what to call it! There’s deception, inhumane treatment of animals, total disregard for the health of animal and human health, desire for profits over doing what’s right, putting the lives of humans in extreme danger due to overuse of antibiotics (not to mention the consumption of meat that is filled with toxins), de-grassing of the grasslands, overproducing corn leading to mono-crops, GMO corn used to feed the cattle, and basically a TOTAL disregard for the natural order of things!
Come on people! This has gotten way out of hand! We need to wake up and have this conversation - even if it’s uncomfortable. We need to educate people and let them know exactly what they're eating and what it’s costing the animals, the environment, and their own health!
If you think that Zilmax is our only concern, you need to dig a little deeper. Of course, we are all aware of the overuse of antibiotics in animals. But there’s also the hormones that have been given to them (beef) to increase their rate of growth. And then there's the diet they are fed - corn, which is in no way part of their natural diet, and non-digestable. And the corn they are being fed is GMO corn doused with pesticides…. Then there is Ractopamine, another growth additive has been banned in numerous other countries, but is used in beef and cattle in the U.S. It goes on and on!
It’s no wonder we are experiencing such a HUGE health crisis in the U.S. We are eating way more meat than we really need, and the meat we are eating is loaded with chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, and GMO's. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to put the pieces of this puzzle together.
What can you do?
I’m not saying we all have to be vegan or vegetarian, though if that works for you, great!
If you do choose to eat meat, choose organic grass-fed beef. Stop eating the meat at fast food places and restaurants that don’t serve organic grass-fed beef. You’ll find if you do this, you will more than likely not feel the need to eat so much meat. For some, eating meat is an engrained habit. We don’t have to have meat with every meal - or even every dinner. There are a TON of wonderful recipes out their for dishes without meat. Play around with them and when you find good ones share them with friends and family.
OK, enough of my ranting. I’ll let you ponder all of this for a while.