Friend and pet food/animal feed safety advocate Dr. Michael Fox is sharing with us his concerns of a commonly used feed additive. When most pet food consumers read his post, thoughts will go towards one question…Will our pets be affected from eating ‘drugged’ meats?
Pharmaceutical Cruelty Down on the Farm: Consumer Beware
By Dr. Michael W. Fox
Like many middle-aged and older Americans I take a prescription beta adrenergic blocker to help deal with high blood pressure and a hard-working heart. Imagine giving a drug that has the opposite effect, a so-called agonist. This is what American agribusiness’ pharmaceutical industry is doing to increase the growth and promote lean but larger muscle mass in pigs, beef cattle and poultry. Your Thanksgiving turkey was probably a victim of this drug-enhanced drive for ever more “efficiency” and profits. Some 80 % of America’s pigs are fed this drug under the name of “Paylean”, and 80% of cattle are given “Optaflexx”, turkeys given “Topmax” and chickens given “Paylean 20”, the brand name of ractopamine marketed by Elanco, a division of Eli Lily Co. (Elanco is also the marketer of Monsanto’s Posilac, the controversial dairy cow-injected genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.)
While millions of pigs continue to suffer the effects of ractopamine across the U.S., notably hyperexcitability, lameness and muscle breakdown, America’s beef industry has been putting ractopamine in the feed of beef cattle to make them lean and heavier-muscled with little regard for increased incidence of lameness, fear of walking, even reported shedding of hooves and thousands of deaths from pneumonia.
While mega-beef producers such as Cargill have denied any problems with this beta adrenergic agonist drug from a consumer perspective, video documentation of its effects of cattle recently moved Tyson Foods to stop buying cattle treated with this drug. Subsequently the manufacturer of its widely used Zilmax, New Jersey-based Merck drug company, as of August 2013, temporarily halted sales of this drug in the U.S. and Canada. These same steps are called for to protect pigs and poultry from the physically and behaviorally/emotionally harmful side effects of ractopamine. But by November 2014 Merck was in a position to start selling this drug again to cattle producers after FDA approval following updating of the product label and setting a lower dose.
Few consumers of beef, pork and poultry are aware of the mistreatment of these animals in CAFOs—concentrated animal feeding operations or factory farms and feedlots, or the drugs, from antibiotics to growth hormones, anabolic steroids and lean-meat making pharmaceuticals which are used to boost profits, variously putting consumers and animals at risk in the process.
This multinational industry, heavily subsidized by the U.S. government from our taxes, is seen by many as an abomination, having participated in the demise of the nation’s once viable nexus of family farms and rural communities and locking survivors into the corporate serfdom of vertically integrated production contracts which mandate cruel, cost-cutting husbandry practices and a host of vaccines and various pharmaceutical products and feed additives.
The Tyson Foods initiative may be a sign of compassion and ethics entering this corporate domain, where the welfare of animals is a matter of concern and on the agenda of more forward-thinking companies who are not simply focusing on profit margins but are beginning to recognize and cater to the rising consumer demand for drug-free produce from more humanely raised animals.
Smithfield Foods Inc has been contracting with pork producers to stop using ractopamine in an effort that could enhance its appeal as an exporter of pork to China where ractopamine has been banned after consumers became ill. Russia and several European countries have banned ractopamine and imports of ractopamine-treated beef, pork and poultry products from the U.S.
Thanks to China, the use of his drug in the U.S., as documented in my book Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health, may soon be phased out since many countries are now refusing to accept imports of meat and poultry from animals treated with this drug. What is needed next is international harmonization of animal welfare and environmentally-friendly standards of animal production which would do much to improve public health and consumer safety. For coverage of this issue in China, see the China daily, in which Dr. Fox is quoted. http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/epaper/2013-03/04/content_16273141.htm
My sincere thanks to Dr. Fox for sharing his wisdom with pet food consumers.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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