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Meat Mythcrushers

Meat industry public relations campaign to “crush” myths makes false claim about the millions of pounds of antibiotics fed to farm animals.

November 27, 2012 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Image thanks to: James Bowe.


Recently, meat industry groups launched a new PR campaign to “crush” myths about meat, countering, for example, the notion put forth by the World Health organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, the  American Public Health Association, etc. that   antibiotics to livestock by the truckload poses a human health risk. These are the drugs approved for use in farm animals. And they're   fed to farm animals by the millions of pounds a year to promote growth and prevent disease in the stressful, overcrowded, unhygienic environments they may be confined in these days. The   PR people scoffed at the Union of Concerned Scientists estimate that as much as 70% of antibiotics produced in the U.S. go to livestock. The reason that it had to be estimated, of course, is that the industry refuses to release the true numbers, but it was the best we had. But it is a statistic the Mythbusters claim cannot possibly be calculated considering that antibiotic use in humans is not tracked. Turns out, as with much in meat mythmaking, this simply isn’t true. That data is tracked by the FDA Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology, as pointed out by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future. So was it really 70% of antimicrobial drugs going to farm animals like the Union of Concerned Scientists claimed or was this just a myth to be crushed. And I have to say, according to the latest available data the meat industry is right that it’s not 70% going to farm animals,   it’s closer to 80%. More than 28 million pounds a year. But then again   why listen to the American Medical Association, when it comes to your health, when you can listen to the American Meat Science Association?

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ashley Rhinehart, RN.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

For more on the concerns surrounding the use of critical, life-saving wonder drugs to buttress the bottom-line of the livestock industry, see Drug Residues in Meat, U.S. Meat Supply Flying at Half Staph, and MRSA in U.S. Retail Meat. The fact that this risky practice continues, despite desperate calls from the medical and public health communities to stop, speaks to the combined might of drug companies and agribusiness in affecting U.S. policy. I've got 20 other videos on industry influence over our food supply and hundreds of videos on more than a thousand topics.

For additional context, check out my associated blog posts:  Bugs & Drugs in Pork: Yersinia and Ractopamine and  Is Coconut Oil Bad For You?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Tan Truong

    Come on folks, free supplements in the form of antibiotics going into your bodies couldn’t be that bad.

    • Veganrunner

      Funny Tan!

  • Tina Trig

    Thank you for telling the truth. Drugs fed to animals, lack of fiber, care for animals, environmental issues, and just simply wanting to live a healthy life are good enough reasons to eat a plant based diet.

  • veganologist

    The benefits of plant based diet keep piling up, and some
    think that eating flesh is just disgusting.

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Crushing the competition with facts!

    I love you, man!

  • Southlander

    Don’t you just love it when “truth” trumps lies and bs?

  • bean

    Has there been clinical controlled studies examining meat that has been produced in a healthy and environmentally friendly manner? that is, no antibiotics, natural food (i.e. grass fed cows), and in limited quantities (no big farm, local productions)? Think about the Inuit who had diets that contained mostly meat.

    And please people, don’t think that current plant production doesn’t harm the environment either! Farming of single crops wreaks havoc on the soil and landscape. As with everything, you need to go the extra mile to find local farmers who grow responsibly.

    • Nalani

      Inuits are known to also have high rates of heart disease and shorter average lifespans.

      Monocrop agriculture is indeed harming the environment, as are bad agriculture practices in general. But meat production does several times more damage than crops do because the animals also consume crops.

      Not to mention take up space.

      • bean

        That still doesn’t answer my question about clinical controlled studies examining the natural meats (i.e. the type our ancestors would eat). Also, we don’t know if the heat disease of Inuits is caused by meat specifically or from the introduction of modern foods such as wheat.

        • Toxins

          Dr. Greger has discussed the inflammatory response of wild game

          There are inherent compounds found in animal products that are inseparable whether the meat be organic or not. that being endotoxins

          And the “completeness” of animal protein spiking IGF-1

          Furthermore, I do not understand the ideology of modeling our diet based on our “ancestors”. They had no concept of nutrition and ate whatever was available. They lived till their 30′s as well and this is something I do not personally idolize. We have an abundance of nutritional knowledge and we should use the science as our guide, not a paleolithic philosophy.

          • bean

            I would hardly call a few hundred years ago as ‘ancestors’ I think there is just more to this story. Some cultures are better at digesting certain foods, many asians have a hard time with diary, and many white americans have a hard time with soy. In Dr Gregor’s video on wild meat, it does show that it is better for us than farmed meat and a major deterrent to wild meat is due to the lead contained in the bullets. Also, in another video on wheat, Dr Gregor did say that there is something about wheat that makes us fat. Just because there is mounting evidence of meat being bad for us doesn’t mean we know the entire story. There is actually no clinical experiments on eating meat the way that mother nature made it, so we can’t say for sure that we know it is bad/good for us. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

          • bean

            Also, when I mentioned meat that our ancestors ate, I simply meant the type of food that hasn’t been contaminated or altered severely they way modern meat is made, not to suggest an ancestor diet.

          • Toxins

            Dr. Greger’s video on wild game is comparable to the meat our “ancestors” would have eaten, and it indeed did cause inflammation whether it be better or not, this is a negative result. Dr. Greger made no mention in any video of wheat causing weight gain, this assumption is false and is not based on any real science.

            We can look at the arachidonic acid content found in poultry and see that this elevated level has been linked with cancer and other autoimmune disorders

            And I have already pointed out the IGF-1 issue which should have no variability since it is based on the protein content itself. These are all things “mother nature” has made intrinsic with meat and we know these things to promote disease.

      • Oskar Haeger

        I found this article about the Inuits claiming that cardiovascular disease was rare.

        I’m not sure what to believe, but I lean towards the green side of things. I’ve stopped eating red meat a long time ago, and choose vegetarian most of the time.

        Still, I hear a lot of things about the benefit of the “natural” butter over the “heavily processed” margarine from health coaches and LCHF/Atkins people.

        I would love for Dr Greger to address this at some time in the future. That and the “Inuit paradox” linked above.

        • WholeFoodChomper

          Dr. Greger addresses a bit of the “Inuit Paradox” as related to bone health in his e-book Atkin’s Exposed . In it he describes how the mostly meat-based Inuit diet negatively affects the bone health and breast milk of the Inuits.

    • Judy Sangillo

      Are you referring to soy and corn? Those monocrops are primarily converted to meal for animal feed and oil for processed food. By consuming a plant-based, whole foods diet, one can greatly reduce dependence on those industries. (Most soy used for tofu, soy milk, etc., is organicically grown or at least nonGMO. This can be verified by reading the label.)

    • Enric Martinez

      Two things about the Inuit: a) there diet is nowadays the same as the standard Danish diet. and b) it seems that they weren’t so healthy as claimed. The link below leads to a metastudy ranging from the early 1960s when Inuit still followed a traditional diet and the 1990 when the Inuit population was already following a Western diet (I hope the URL is shown completely, if not search fpr “Low Incident of cardiovascular disease among the inuit”–what_is_the_evidence/file/79e41509268714c56f.pdf

    • ?

      Over 50% of grain traded around the world is used for animal feed or biofuels. Also, only 12 percent of crop calories used for animal feed end up as calories consumed by humans.

  • kikibrooklyn

    Thank-you, Dr. Greger, for sifting through the data for us.

    Do you know if any studies have been conducted on so-called “organic” non-factory-farmed meat from animals raised without antibiotics or pesticides and herbicides in grain or grass? What do the studies show about the levels of antibiotics and chemical residues in these products compared with conventionally raised animals?

    Thanks and all the best!


  • Mark

    Grass fed organic beef and chicken only. Boycott all factory foods.

  • Bruno Lacombe

    Pretty scary!

  • bsweat

    i love dr gregor!!! i have been a cardiac icu nurse for over 10 years and we all love him in my unit!! i wished more docs and nurses would speak up and tell everyone the truth like dr gregor is doing

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      I haven’t put you out of business yet but I’m trying! :)