When meat is not just meat

The edgy nutrition advocate, Mike Adams, over at NewsTarget.com came up with this scary photo tour of a processed meat product from Oscar Mayer: Mystery Meat Macrophotography: A NewsTarget PhotoTour by Mike Adams

Along with increasingly close-up photographs of this meat-product, Adams lists the ingredients in Oscar Mayer's Cotto Salami:

Beef hearts
Corn syrup

Contains less than 2% of:
Sodium lactate
Sodium phosphates
Sodium diacetate
Sodium erythorbate
Sodium nitrite
Soy lecithin
Potassium phosphate
Potassium chloride

As I reconsider the role of saturated fat in diet, given the startlingly insightful discussion by Gary Taubes of Good Calories, Bad Calories, I am reminded that not all meat is meat, not all saturated fat sources are equal.

I am concerned in particular about sodium nitrite content, a color-fixer added to cured meats that caused a stir in the 1970s when data suggesting a carcinogenic effect surfaced. The public's effort to remove sodium nitrite from the food supply was vigorously opposed by the meat council and it remains in cured meats like sausage, hot dogs, and processed meats like Cotto Salami. A 2006 meta-analysis (combined analysis of studies) of 63 studies did indeed suggest that sodium nitrite was related to increased risk of gastric cancer. This argument is plausible from animal models of cancer risk, as 40 animal models have likewise suggested the same carcinogenic association.

Also, fructose? This is most likely added for sweetness. Recall that fructose heightens appetite and raises triglycerides substantially.

I personally have a natural aversion to meat. I don't like the taste, the look, smell, and the thought of what the animal went through to make it to the supermarket. But, considered from the cold, carnivorous viewpoint of the question, "Is meat okay to eat?", among the issues to consider is whether the meat has been cured or processed, and does that process include addition of sodium nitrite.

Cotto Salami and similar products are not, of course, what carnivorous humans in the wild ate. This is a processed, modified product created from factory farm animals raised in cramped conditions and fed corn and other cheap, available foods. It is not created from free-ranging animals wandering their pastures or pens, eating diets nature intended. This results in modified fat composition, not to mention hormones and antibiotics added. These are not listed on the ingredients. Wild meat does not contain fructose or color-fixers, either.

So don't mistake "meat" in your grocery store for meat. It might look and smell the same--until you look a little closer.

Copyright 2007 William Davis, MD

Comments (7) -

  • Nancy M.

    12/18/2007 3:04:00 PM |

    Wasn't Good Calories, Bad Calories good?  Man, just what the medical world needs, a good wake-up call into how schlocky their science is (sometimes).  

    Did you finish the book yet?  Parts of it infuriated me at the stupidity and arrogance of people.  And I have to say it is getting harder and harder to have respect for medical "authorities" when you know the horrible science their training was based on, that they don't question the basis for these assumptions yet assume their patients are all idiots.

    I'd love to hear more of your comments on his book if you get a chance to blog about them.

  • MAC

    12/18/2007 3:05:00 PM |

    Would be interested in any comments you have as you "reconsider the role of saturated fat in diet" as a low carb diet appears to be beneficial in raising HDL.

    This research  from Jeff Volek was of interest: Jeff Volek, et al: Low carb diet reduces inflammation and blood saturated fat in Metabolic Syndrome. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071203091236.htm

    Also, Cordain makes the case in his FAQ for the Paleo Diet that saturated fat averaged 11% in wild animal carcasses.

  • Ross

    12/18/2007 5:50:00 PM |

    If you're going to buy something like salami, ham, bacon, sausage, or other meat product, the best source is often a deli that makes it on site.  Not only will the salami, ham, or sausage be made with fewer ingredients, but it's much tastier, fresher, and often a similar cost to mass-marketed processed meats.  

    This will not be practical for people everywhere.  Living in LA as I do, there are specialty delis all over the place and it isn't too hard to find locally made sausage, etc.  One alternative would be a deli that takes great pride in presenting the craft-made meat products of a smaller supplier.

    I've actually ignored what might be the best option of all, which is to make it yourself.  Simple ham, proscuitto, bacon, salami, many different kinds of sausage, etc. can all be made in the home with inexpensive tools and (for proscuitto and salami) a decent dry place where they won't be disturbed.  It's also fun!

    But at all costs, avoid anything made by oscar mayer or any other mass produced meat product.  It's all crap.

  • chickadeenorth

    12/20/2007 5:26:00 AM |

    Even Dr Atkins said no meats allowed that are processed or have nitrates, only meats like our ancestors ate, he said it was like "the kiss of death".I don't even considered those types of meat to have sat fats, but poision, they are all part of Franken foods to me, like Snackwell cookies.. If I have sausage I get a local German butcher to make organic elk meat into garlic sausage for us.To me low carb means nutrient dense whole foods.

  • Dr. Davis

    12/20/2007 5:36:00 AM |

    What's frightening is that, whenever I've discussed the Atkins' approach with people doing it on their own, they've virtually always included plentiful cured and processed meats.

    Somehow that part of the message didn't get stressed enough.

  • Dr. Davis

    12/20/2007 5:38:00 AM |

    In response to Nancy's first post:

    I'm embarassed to admit that Taubes was so tremendously unique and entertaining (in a nerdy sort of way) that I've savored each discussion slowly and carefully. So it's literally taken me two months to read his book. But I have enjoyed every word.

  • chickadeenorth

    12/21/2007 7:21:00 AM |

    Yes I think those of us who used the board and forum understood it better and we could call his office and talk to his nurse or leave him a question, lots misconstrued they should eat a lb  bacon a day, He said no nitrates and sat fats under 20 gr a day.I learned his big boo boo was eventually incorporating rungs adding breads, potatoes etc, they are the kiss of death IMHO.