Google “meat,” “bacteria,” and “drug-resistant,” and your Internet-gazing eyes will see some things that will make you want to hang up your steak knife. Recently, the Translational Genomics Research Institute published a study revealing some bad news about the bacteria present in the meat many of us eat.
Researchers bought 136 packages of 80 different brands of chicken, pork, turkey, and beef at 26 grocery stores in five cities around the country, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Flagstaff and Washington, D.C. According to the findings, 47% of the samples contained Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as staph. Furthermore, of these tainted parcels of flesh, half contained staph strains resistant to over three antibiotics, including penicillin and tetracycline.
While advocates of organic, sustainable, small-scale farming will continue to blame the industrial meat factories fond of dosing herds and flocks with antibiotics, the study won't go uncriticized. Some will holler about the small sample size. Others will argue that consumers have to be responsible for their own safety by cooking meat properly, something omnivores should already be doing to ward off established bacterial boors like Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella, and e. Coli.
Many will point out that no known connection has been made between drug-resistant bacteria in meat and human illness. We don't care. It's like the old Apple Jacks commercials in which know-it-all parents and classmates heap scorn on youngsters for getting giddy over a bowl of cereal that “doesn't even taste like apples.” Their response (“we eat what we like”) was always ironclad in its unrefutability. Like those kids, we may not know the truth quite yet; we may not be able to prove that these discoveries are a harbinger of the apocalypse.
Still, at a time when Americans are buying more meat than ever before, something smells pretty rotten.