Prevention Strategy 7: Why Only Eating Pasture
Raised Animals is so Important
This issue is so important for cancer prevention. The media constantly bombards us with messages about the necessity for our children to drink milk for good health. Milk is advertised to be an important source of calcium and vitamin D. I spoke about the importance of vitamin D and its role in the prevention of breast cancer in an earlier blog. I need to stress that the opinions expressed in today’s blog, although based on fact, are still my opinion. I no longer eat meat that is not labelled “Pasture Raised” and frankly I no longer drink or consume dairy products. As a cancer survivor, I feel more vulnerable than others to the effects of hormones in my food so my decision may be a bit extreme for others.
When I was teaching 5th grade, it became a topic of discussion and a concern among teachers as to why young girls were reaching puberty so much earlier than past generations. There are theories that our food source is the culprit. Puberty starts when excess amounts of chemicals called hormones start to be produced in the body. What we often don't think about are the about the hormones we are ingesting from food.
A decision in 1991 by the FDA to approve the use of growth hormones and antibiotics in animals raised for human consumption, was of monumental consequence to the human diet. Traditionally, all farm animals were pasture raised, but in the United States today what is commercially available is almost all grain fed. The reason...it’s faster, and so much more profitable. In the past for example, steers were 4 or 5 years old at slaughter. Today, they are slaughtered at 14 or 16 months. You can’t take a beef calf from a birth weight of 80 pounds to 1,200 pounds in a little more than a year on grass. It takes enormous quantities of corn, protein supplements, soy, antibiotics and other drugs, including growth hormones to accomplish in a few months what used to require years. These growth hormones given to cows are commonly known as rGHB & rBST?
Somatotropin is a naturally-occurring protein hormone produced in the pituitary gland of animals; Bovine Somatotropin (BST or bST) triggers nutrients to increase growth in young cattle and lactation (milk production) in dairy cows. Artificial BST is produced using recombinant DNA technology (biotechnology), and called rBST for short. rBST is commonly known as Bovine Growth Hormone or rBGH.2 . When injected into cows, rGHB increases milk production 10-15 percent and in some cases up to 40 percent. Approximately 17% of all cows in the US are given this artificial growth hormone. Incidentally, these hormones are outlawed in England and Canada. Our generation and our children’s are the first to be raised on milk and beef from these “Supercows”.
Milk from rGHB-treated cows also contains higher levels of IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1). Humans naturally produce IGF-1, and increased levels in humans have been linked to colon and breast cancer. Even though no direct connection has been made between elevated IGF-1 levels in dairy and elevated IGF-1 levels or cancer in humans, some scientists have expressed concern over the possibility of this relationship.
So how to avoid artificially consuming these growth hormones? Don’t eat meat grown with the use of antibiotics or growth hormone, as growth hormones act like estrogen in humans. Since the use of growth hormones has increased, so has the incidence of breast cancers. It makes perfect sense since estrogen fuels most breast cancers. My breast cancer was highly estrogen positive, so I am extremely cautious about introducing any type of synthetic estrogen into my diet.
Beware of marketing strategies that advertise meat as “vegetarian fed”. Even though these animals are not treated with growth hormones, they are fed a soy diet. Soy consumption is discouraged for estrogen positive cancers. Always look for certified “Pasture Raised” on the packaging. The nutritional difference between grain-fed and pasture raised animal products is dramatic. Pasture raised animal products tend to be much lower in total fat than grain-fed. For example, a sirloin steak from a pasture raised steer has about one half to one third the amount of fat as a similar cut from a grain-fed steer. In fact, pasture raised meat has about the same amount of fat as skinless chicken or wild deer or elk. When meat is this lean, it actually lowers your LDL cholesterol levels.
It is especially important not to drink milk from hormone and antibiotic fed cows. Animals are given antibiotics in large "production farms" because they are confined to tight quarters and more likely to get disease. If you really love milk, make sure you buy organic milk designated as "Grass Milk" not fed hormones or antibiotics.
As an alternative avoid cows’ milk altogether and switch to a plant based milk. I have tried all types and prefer unsweetened coconut milk. Whole foods 365 brand is the best as it doesn't contain any preservatives or thickeners. Their coconut cream is also delicious as a replacement for coffee cream. Many people seem to prefer almond milk but although I like almonds, I do not like almond milk. There are many options for plant based ice cream. I prefer the ones made with coconut or cashew milk. Plant based milk yogurt is also available from several companies.
The bottom line…when purchasing any dairy or meat products, read the labels carefully. For milk, buy "Grass Milk" only from cows that are not fed rGHB. For meat products, buy only meat from pasture raised animals.