These frightful facts about our nation’s meat may push you to a vegan lifestyle

For the record, I am not a vegetarian. I enjoy a succulent steak with a nice sear on it, and being from Buffalo, of course we go for chicken wings a few times a month. That said, while researching for this article I now have a new admiration for vegans. Their meatless ways, in light of the following, are spot on.

We are a germ conscious society. Hand sanitizers are in our glove compartments and clipped to our purses. Our grocery stores offer shopping cart wipes, and while we are counting our ABCs to ensure the proper hand washing time, germs are a-brewin’ elsewhere and laughing at us.

The real germ culprit may be lying in the meat aisle or the butcher shop of our local grocer. Those neatly packaged rib eyes could be hiding a nasty tale. Here are four disturbing meat industry facts that will make you spend some extra time in the fruit and veggie section.

1. Performance Enhancing Cows

It is not just the sports world that is affected by beefed up jocks. Brawny bovines and artificially-plumped chickens are chock full of antibiotics and hormones. Over 30 million pounds of antibiotics are injected, fed, stuffed and crammed into our farm animals every year. That's enough to make Jose Conseco blush.

While antibiotics and other drugs are designed to protect the integrity of the meat from diseases, the overabundance of medicine means that viruses and bacterium just work that much harder to create and recreate strains of hard-to-kill superbugs.

Excess hormones in meat are causing a host of little-known side effects, even creating an early onset age of puberty in pre-teens, says a report carried by the Huffington Post.

2. Meat with MRSA

The deadly, drug-resistant staph infection MRSA is not just found in hospitals, dirty gyms and jails. The staph strain has been increasingly showing up in animals and meat products. Estimated at causing 185,000 cases of food poisoning each year, infection by the MRSA bacteria is a serious, life-threatening condition.

A study carried by Science Daily showed that out of 395 collected raw pork samples from 36 stores in Iowa, Minnesota and New Jersey, 26 of the samples tested positive for MRSA.

“This study shows that the meat we buy in our grocery stores has a higher prevalence of staph than we originally thought,” said lead study author Tara Smith, Ph.D., interim director of the UI Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases.

3. Depressed Poultry

The last thing mass chicken farmers need is a bunch of miserable coops. A 2012 John Hopkins University study took a look at the feathers of chickens who were raised in farms. Researchers were able to determine the type of drugs that were injected by the chickens prior to slaughter. The result was quite shocking. Our feathered friends are dealing with some very humanlike concerns - depression, allergies and anxiety.

As a result, traces of antidepressants, painkillers, allergy medicines and anxiety medication like Prozac were found in the chickens. Most chicken farms are severely overcrowded. Chickens are plumped up and kept in the dark, immobilized, to ensure they form the max amount of tender meat. If you have never seen the Food Inc. documentary, watch it. It will change your eating habits forever.

4. E. Coli

Beef recalls for possible E. Coli contamination are constantly in the news. While certain strains of this bacterium are harmless and even live in our intestines, a particular strain of E. Coli, known numerically as O157:H7, can cause severe illness and death if not cooked and killed sufficiently.

E. Coli is a constant threat - from the food that animals are fed at farms and ranches, to the meat harvesting and processing plants, to the way raw meat is handled at the supermarkets, and down to how we prepare the meat in our own kitchens.

Grains and corn are fed to our nation’s cows, which are opposite the animal’s natural food. Most cows are raised in feedlots, where they constantly have a trough of corn in their face. Instead of being grass fed, which is more expensive, the cow ingests corns and grains which change its natural digestion and allow for E.Coli to grow. The solution? You guessed it. More antibiotics.

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