At the beginning of the summer, we reported that the Organic Consumers Association, Friends of the Earth, and Center for Food Safety filed suit against Sanderson Farms for falsely marketing its chickens as “100% Natural” when in fact they were found to be FULL of “…antibiotics, steroids, hormones and even a drug with hallucinogenic effects.”1

However, Sanderson Farms isn’t the first company- and certainly won’t be the last- to pump their animals full of unnatural or prohibited substances, because money. And it’s not just U.S. meat: chicken from China was found to contain Prozac (and don’t forget that approved seafood from China has potentially been raised on pig feces)! The FDA has also caught “hatcheries injecting antibiotics directly into chicken eggs” and Tyson Foods was caught “injecting eggs with the dangerous human antibiotic gentamicin.”2


But, while most people are well aware of Big Pharma they are blissfully unaware of “Animal Pharma.” You see most big Pharma companies (including Pfizer, Merck, Boehringer Ingolheim, Sanofi, and Novartis) also operate very lucrative animal divisions. However, without drug ads on TV or safety scandals being reported, no one bats an eye.

“Because the activities of Animal Pharma are so underreported, few Americans realize that most of the meat they eat is banned in other industrialized countries. One example is ractopamine, a controversial growth-promoting asthma-like drug marketed as Optaflexx for cattle, Paylean for pigs, and Topmax for turkeys and banned in the European Union, China and more than 100 other countries. Also used in U.S. meat production is Zilmax, a Merck drug similar to ractopamine that the FDA linked to 285 cattle deaths during six years of administration. Seventy-five animals lost hooves, 94 developed pneumonia and 41 developed bloat in just two years, Reuters reported.”3

(Currently, the European Union boycotts our hormone beef. They note that the routine use of the synthetic hormones zeranol, trenbolone acetate, and melengestrol acetate pose “increased risks of breast cancer and prostate cancer.”4They also boycott our chicken because we dip them in chlorine baths. If you are still buying non-organic meat you should stop now.)


According to the Center for Food Safety, Animal Pharma uses over 450 animal drugs, drug combos, and feed additives “to promote growth of the animals and to suppress the negative effects that heavily-concentrated confinement has on farm animals.”5

But we don’t stop there. We also use:

  • nitrites and nitrates in processed meat (which the WHO declared carcinogenic in 2016)
  • the parasiticide formalin in shrimp production
  • carbon monoxide to keep meat looking red in the grocery store no matter how old it is
  • ammonia (pink slime)
  • chickens are fed with inorganic arsenic to produce quicker weight gain with less food (the same reason they give them antibiotics)
  • arsenic is also given to turkeys, hogs, and chickens for enhanced color
  • and that trademark pink color of farmed salmon is made possible by the chemicals astaxanthin and canthaxanthin (in the wild, salmon eat crustaceans and algae which make them pink)

All this goes into the food you put in your mouth and into the mouths of your children.

Sadly, because factory farms are breeding grounds for disease, drugs are often needed. But more often than not, farmers are using off-label drugs and harsher drugs to keep their animals “healthy”. And many of these drugs are harmful to other animals who will come into contact with them, and our water sources. But have no fear, according to the Salon article, “Big Food is working with Big Pharma” to replace antibiotics with vaccines. (I’m surprised it’s taken them this long.)

But, now that we know and because this lawsuit has been filed, won’t things get better? Unlikely, for two reasons. One, “In exchange for China agreeing to accept U.S. beef after a long hiatus, the U.S. agreed to import cooked chickens from China. China’s food safety record is abysmal including rat meat sold as lamb, gutter oil sold as cooking oil, baby formula contaminated with melamine and frequent bird flu epidemics.”6


And two, in the U.S. we are moving towards privatization and corporate “self-policing” in the meat industry. (It could go either way, honestly the USDA doesn’t have enough meat inspectors as it is so maybe privatization won’t be terrible but then and again, you’d have to trust Big Ag to do what’s right and I don’t know about you but I don’t trust them that much.)

The takehome? Don’t eat meat unless you raised it yourself or know who did.


Sources and References

  1. HNN, July 6, 2017.
  2. Salon, July 8, 2017.
  3. Salon, July 8, 2017.
  4. Salon, July 8, 2017.
  5. Salon, July 8, 2017.
  6. Salon, July 8, 2017.