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When meat is not just meat

Posted Aug 26 2008 11:23am

The edgy nutrition advocate, Mike Adams, over at 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

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