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Acupuncture Today – March, 2004, Vol. 05, Issue 03

The Meatrix, Mad Cows, and Medicinal Meat

By Don Matesz, MA, CH, CNC

Traditional Chinese medicine attributes certain remedial qualities to various animal products. Unfortunately, most supermarket animal products do not have these properties, because few modern farm animals are raised properly.

Most people imagine their meat, milk and eggs come from animals contentedly roaming freely outdoors, eating fresh grass or other wild pasture foods, as nature planned. This "is the lie we tell ourselves about how animal products are raised," says Moopheus in "The Meatrix," an online film ( created by the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE).

On modern factory farms, animals are confined and fed an unnatural diet of dry cereals (e.g., corn and soy) laced with salt, meat scraps, synthetic hormones and antibiotics; they may even be fed garbage, such as cement, cardboard, newspaper and spoiled dumpster food. Feedlot cattle may be sprayed with fat-soluble pesticides. The result is obese, ill animals and nutrient-depleted, over-marbled meats that present a high risk of salmonella, E. coli or "mad cow" disease.

Feedlot animals are typically butchered in assembly-line-style slaughterhouses by unskilled laborers who endure dangerous working conditions for minimum wages. After being trucked hundreds or thousands of miles, the animals may arrive at these facilities covered in manure. The production line moves so quickly that workers can't maintain clean techniques. Intestinal contents from contaminated animals on the kill line can taint processing equipment and spread salmonella or E. coli throughout the plant. Ground meat (the usual source of E. coli outbreaks) from dozens or hundreds of animals is comingled; bacteria from one contaminated animal can infect the entire batch.

In corporate chicken factories, thousands of birds are packed into close quarters. The birds are in cages stacked from floor to ceiling, with those above dropping salmonella-rich waste on those below. To stem the tide of infection the birds may be fed antibiotics, a practice that creates antibiotic-resistant salmonella.

Having so many birds in a confined space generates a lot of heat, and if fans or air conditioners fail, the birds will die within a few hours. In response, "mad" scientists have developed a featherless chicken that can stand more heat. You can view this new bald breed at Before you know it, genetic engineers will develop a boneless chicken to reduce butchering costs. Like the arrogant Po Lao in Book IX (Horses' Hooves) of the Chuang Tzu, they know not what they do as they violate nature.

At the end of 2003, media outlets reported that meat from a Washington state steer that had mad cow disease was distributed to markets in several states, and perhaps as far away as Guam. There are two main hypotheses about the origin of mad cow disease. The most widely accepted theory is that it is transmitted by the common practice of feeding meat and bone meal (MBM), which contains nervous tissue, to feedlot cattle.

MBM is also fed to poultry, which can be rendered and fed back to cattle. Furthermore, MBM is used in pet food, and is thought to be the source of deformed proteins called prions that somehow deform normal brain proteins, causing mad cow disease. Investigations in the UK suggest that an animal can contract the disease by consuming as little as 0.5 grams of diseased tissue.

This hypothesis suggests a person could contract the human version of mad cow, CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease), by eating almost any factory-farmed animal product, but it does not adequately explain how prions are created. A British farmer, Mark Purdey, contends that prions are generated when animals are exposed to organophospate pesticides, known neurotoxins, under certain environmental and nutritional conditions.

Purdey's hypothesis is supported by experiments performed by University of London scientist Stephen Whatley and Cambridge University scientist David Brown. Whatley's research, funded by the British government, showed that organophosphates in vitro can generate three of four of the protein malformations needed to create prions. Brown showed that all four malformations are generated in vitro in a high-manganese, low-copper solution.

GRACE has provided an extensive online guide to finding farmers that raise animals ecologically. [The highest quality animal products are wild or strictly pasture-fed (no grains).] Numerous studies have shown that strictly pasture-fed animal products are far more nutritious. Feeding animals grain as a main food, even for a short time, rapidly reduces their health and nutritional value. Pasture farming is also the most ecological choice.

Beware: Under current organic food regulations, animals may be fed primarily grain, so long as it is organic. To my knowledge, the most complete listing of sources of pasture-raised animal products is found at Meat, poultry, eggs and milk from local pasture farmers offer the most benefits for your patients and the planet. They have strong Chinese medicinal properties that can make nutrition a more powerful tool in your practice.

Click here for previous articles by Don Matesz, MA, CH, CNC.

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