June 5, 2011

E.coli: Does Your Chicken Taste Crappy?

You can’t smell it or taste it and sometimes it doesn’t even have symptoms, however, food or water contaminated with certain strains of E. coli bacteria can leave us fighting for our lives (especially those who are very young or old or have weak immune systems).

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the presence of E. coli is an indication of human or animal waste contamination – and is most often found in drinking water, produce and meats.

E. coli is found in the digestive systems of healthy cattle and humans. Chances are if you digest the average E. coli strain, the acid in your gut is usually enough to kill it. However it is not the case for E. coli O157:H7 (or the new mysterious strain found in Germany). So where does this virulent strain come from? It is said to come from the intestines or feces of confined grain-fed cattle on factory farms (versus free-range grass fed cattle).

Sh*t, how does this happen?
It could end up in our sippy cups or cucumbers! During precipitation or a heavy downfall, E. coli may be washed into creeks, rivers, streams, lakes or groundwater. The E.coli infected water (or manure lagoons) from a factory farm can seep into neighboring crops or when the sources above are used for drinking water and the water is not cleaned adequately, both the water and crops become at risk for contamination.

How many recalls of factory farmed meat does it take? E. coli can end up in all meat (chicken, pork, red meat), but the most common tends to be steak, roast or ground beef. This typically happens during the butchering process – if E. coli was present in the slaughtered animal’s intestines, it will be grounded along with the other parts and organs to make ‘hamburger’. If infected cattle manure is used to fertilize crops, well you get the idea.

The most common way to spread E.coli is from person-to-person, by hand-to-mouth contact. Animals spread to one another via stepping in each other’s feces or drinking from the same water trough.

So what?
It is estimated that the number of illnesses reported as a result of E.coli in the U.S. is around 73,000 per year and growing. Most recover within a few days but some (3-5% of those infected) lose their lives or spend the rest of their lives dealing with the after effects (most common – blindness, paralysis and kidney failure).

And another thing…these animals are living in poor and inhumane prisons (factory farms) for the sole purpose of making a profit as quickly as possible. Animals are crammed into tiny spaces, sprayed with chemicals (most go blind) and stuffed with antibiotics and hormones (I am barely scratching the surface here). The logic is hard to understand, but this is simple – the more confined space, the harder it is to keep these areas clean therefore the animal’s sh*t gets sliced, diced and grounded along with it and that is what makes you sick. Are you what you eat?

If the package is not marked organic or free-range, chances are it comes from a factory farm!

What to do
If you would ask me, here is what I would recommend: Stop supporting factory farming today.  

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Tanya Lee Markul  |  Contribution: 15,600