I have been writing that you should steer clear of confinement-raised beef. Now recent news on beta-agonists such as Zilmax and Optaflexx, fed to cattle to gain weight, are being targeted as a serious health risk. As the WSJ notes here, “A growing number of cattle arriving for slaughter at U.S meatpacking plants have recently shown unusual signs of distress.” The Journal continues:
Cattle feeders say beta-agonists affect animals unevenly, and more acutely in hot weather than cold. Some have reported respiratory issues or increased aggression in animals fed with beta-agonists. Many have seen no adverse effects at all.
Guy Loneragan, a veterinary epidemiologist and professor of food safety and public health at Texas Tech University, has found a 70% to 90% greater incidence of death in animals fed with beta-agonists. Still, death among cattle in the final stages of feeding is rare.
“We’re at a stage now where we’ve collected a number of adverse events that seem to be related to their use,” Dr. Loneragan said. “The onus is upon the industry, particularly the drug manufacturers, to identify the specific causes of what we’re seeing, and find solutions to prevent it from happening.”
Some opponents of beta-agonists suggest the drugs pose concerns beyond animal welfare, and could have environmental and human health effects that have yet to be closely studied.
“It’s not good for anyone for animals to be showing up at the slaughter house that aren’t 100% healthy,” said Frank Garry, a veterinarian and professor in clinical sciences at Colorado State University.