29 December 2010

more meats

I know, you must think I am obsessed with the eating (and not-eating) of meats but really I'm obsessed with all food, promise.

A little while ago, Issy recommended a book called My Year of Meats by Ruth L. Ozeki. I got this book in my stocking at Christmas. Although the main narrative is fiction, please understand this book is amazing.

DES, or diethylstilbestrol, is a man-made estrogen that was first synthesized in 1938. Soon afterward, a professor of poultry husbandry at the University of California discovered that if you inject DES into male chickens, it chemically castrates them. Instant capons. The males develop female characteristics - plump breasts and succulent meats - desirable assets for one's dinner... [S]omeone discovered that dogs and males from low-income families in the South were developing signs of feminization after eating cheap chicken parts and wastes from processing plants... The U.S. Department of Agriculture was forced to buy about ten million dollars worth of contaminated chicken to get it off the market. But by then DES was also being widely used in beef production and oddly enough, the FDA did nothing to stop that.

Of course, there was an immediate outcry to ban DES in cattle feed. But cheap meat is an inalienable right in the U.S.A., an integral component of the American dream, and the beef producers looked to cheap DES to provide it... Today, although DES is illegal, 95 percent of feedlot cattle in the U.S. still receive some form of growth-promoting hormone or pharmaceutical in feed supplements. The residues are present in the finished cuts of beef sold in the local supermarket or hanging off your plate.

 Lara continued. "When we were trying to get pregnant, it was amazing what we found out. Do you know that sperm counts have dropped by about fifty percent in the past fifty years... [r]ecent studies show that today the average man produces fewer morphologically normal sperm than you average hamster."

Quotes from My Year of Meats by Ruth L. Ozeki, New York: Penguin Books, 1998. Images from Google Images.

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