What’s in your meat? From dyes to preservatives and hormones to antibiotics, Australians have been left in the dark when it comes to what our meat products. Until now.
The ABC’s recent Four Corners episode shed light on a critically important issue: additives and drugs in our food. Featured in the program was the revelation that farmed salmon in the US is fed a synthetic chemical called astaxanthin to give the flesh its orange colour. Without the added colouring, farmed salmon would actually be white or pale grey.
While US supermarket chains now have to declare whether their salmon is farmed (and therefore artificially coloured), there’s no rule here in Australia. Tassal, Australia’s largest producer of farmed salmon, doesn’t mention astaxanthin in its list of ingredients because, apparently, it uses a “natural identical” synthetic version of the drug. And it’s not just salmon.
In the pork industry, a synthetic drug called ractopamine is being used by many pork farmers to reduce fat (for leaner pork) and speed up muscle growth to make pigs ready for slaughter more quickly. Ractopamine, also known as Paylean, is banned or restricted in 160 countries – but not Australia where it isn’t deemed unsafe.
In 2008, Jamie Oliver’s program Jamie’s Fowl Dinners exposed the use of growth hormones, designed to fatten birds up and bring in greater profit more quickly.
The Australian Meat Federation website states that Australian chickens are not fed hormones and that chickens grow so quickly because they have been “selectively bred over the past 60 years for growth rate and to be highly efficient at transforming feed into meat”.
Still, Australian chickens are widely fed antibiotics to prevent disease and treat sick birds. However, antibiotics are not generally used in Free Range Egg and Poultry Association accredited or organic farming. If birds have been fed antibiotics, they are not allowed to be sold as free-range or organic.
But it doesn’t stop at meat. There are also other food products where drugs and chemicals are used. You can read more about it at theage.com.au.