pig

  1. The secret ingredient in pork

    Chops, roast, ribs, sausage, bacon...

    I'm getting hungry just thinking about all the great ways to eat pork. But there's one form of pig that makes me lose my appetite every time -- and it's exactly what people eat the most of: pork from factory farms.

    Factory farmed animals are raised and slaughtered in filthy conditions, which is one reason for all the contaminated meat scares in recent years. And, of course, the only reason the animals themselves don't drop dead is because they're pumped full of antibiotics -- drugs that often end up in your meat.

    But there's one more reason to skip out on this stuff: Factory pork contains a drug so dangerous it's been killing pigs like crazy.

    Ractopamine hydrochloride is a beta agonist that mimics stress hormones. It leads to bigger pigs -- but it also leads to deader pigs: Some 218,000 have been killed by the drug in a little more than a decade.

    That number should be even higher, except plenty of pigs about to drop dead of ractopamine overdose -- including pigs so sick they can't even walk on their own -- are quickly slaughtered first.

    And then, they're shipped off to your local supermarket...despite the fact that low doses of the drug can remain in the meat.

    The feds aren't too concerned. They claim a little ractopamine hydrochloride never hurt anyone. But in reality, there's not a whole lot of data on what low-but-steady doses of the drug does to humans.

    The only human study submitted by the drug's maker involved just six people -- and one found his heart racing so bad he dropped out.

    Here's the only thing you need to know about this drug: It's banned around the world. It's even banned in China, which doesn't exactly have the best reputation when it comes to food safety.

    Last year, Chinese officials arrested a bunch of farmers caught giving the drug to their pigs.

    But here in the U.S., you can get your own dose of ractopamine tonight if Shake-n-Bake is on the menu, and you won't even know it.

    The answer here isn't to avoid pork. Pork is delicious. The answer is to go organic -- and while you're at it, go organic with your beef and chicken too.

  2. What's in a McRib?

    I heard a radio commercial for the McRib the other day that asked an important question: where's the bone?

    I have to wonder what marketing genius dreamed that one up -- because if you're trying to sell McRibs, the last thing you want is to make people curious about what's really inside the notorious McDonald's sandwich.

    And if you guessed "not a rib," you're absolutely correct.

    The company doesn't break down specifically which parts of the pig go into the McRib, but a spokesman recently admitted that it's "mostly" shoulder.

    That alone isn't bad -- but if you want to know what else might be in that McRib and how it and other re-formed "meat logs" are made, check out this account in Chicago Magazine.

    Warning: It's not for the faint of heart... or the weak of stomach, for that matter. There's no telling which pig parts are specifically in the McRib at any given time, but this account mentions things you probably wouldn't dream of eating if they were listed on the menu -- like tripe and heart.

    The meat of the McRib also contains a frightening preservative: propyl gallate, an estrogen-like chemical that's banned or limited in many other countries.

    And that mystery meat might actually be the best part of the sandwich -- because some of the ingredients in the bun are even worse.

    One of those ingredients -- the bleaching agent azodicarbonamide -- is commonly used in yoga mats and gym shoes. This chemical is banned from food in many other nations, and British health authorities even say it contributes to asthma.

    Here, it's part of your McRib. Yum!

    And if the idea of eating your own shoes isn't appalling enough, the bun also contains ammonium sulfate. I'm not sure if this stuff makes food taste any better -- but I do know it's a heckuva fertilizer.

    On the other hand, the moment you walk into a McDonald's you know exactly what you're getting -- and it's certainly not a healthy meal. So if you're eating a McRib, don't even waste your time worrying about what happened to the bone.

    It's the least of your worries.

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