If you’re like most Americans, you most likely buy your meat at the supermarket. Be it raw chicken and steaks from the butcher case or cold cuts from the deli counter, we tend to not give much thought to the meat we buy beyond whether it’s fresh and how much it costs. But you might want to think twice before buying your next Styrofoam-and-cellophane-wrapped chicken breast, because what we’re about to tell you may have you buying all your meat at the organic butcher shop from now on.
The vast majority of meat purchased at supermarkets comes from livestock that has been raised on what are called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), also known as “factory farms.” There are about 257,000 CAFOs in the United States, and the EPA defines them as "a production process that concentrates large numbers of animals in relatively small and confined places, and that substitutes structures and equipment (for feeding, temperature controls, and manure management) for land and labor." Any animal that’s forced to live in such cramped quarters isn’t going to be especially healthy, so they’re given antibiotics, hormones, de-worming medication, growth-promoting drugs, and other medicines that help them reach their slaughter weight quickly and without getting too sick. According to a recent USDA Inspector General Report, beef sold to the public was found to be contaminated with 211 different drug residues.
If all of this makes you a bit queasy, well, welcome to the club. Thankfully, there are alternatives. More and more butcher shops are opening every year that practice whole animal butchery, purchasing pasture-raised animals that aren’t treated with hormones or antibiotics from small local farmers. Even Whole Foods has strict animal welfare standards and sells high quality local and organic meat, so you can also purchase your meat there instead. Yes, it’s more expensive than supermarket meat, but it’s well worth the expense, as you’ll see. It also tastes a whole lot better, too.
Thankfully, several companies are producing high-quality raw meat for purchase at grocery stores these days, so you're not completely out of luck if there are no good butcher shops around. Niman Ranch, Laura’s Lean Beef, and D’Artagnan products, for example, are being made available in an increasing number of grocery stores, and they’re all reputable; the meat we’re discussing here is sold in non-branded, cellophane-wrapped packages and is often far less expensive than the name-brand meat.
So read on to learn 19 surprising things about the industrial meat that’s stocking the shelves at your local supermarket. It’s not going to be pretty, but there are some harsh truths about the massive industry that’s putting cheap, low-quality meat on your dinner table that are important to know, especially because it may be putting your health at risk (all those antibiotics don’t just disappear when the meat is cooked!). It’s smart to be an informed consumer, especially when the facts are as frightening as these.