Chemical warfare: what’s going into your meat?

Chemical warfare: do you know what’s in your meat?

Chemical warfare: what’s going into your meat?

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



    To make a comment, please register or login
    3rd Nov 2016
    They have certainly messed up roast chicken in the last 40 years.
    Marinated in oils when people don't ask for marinated chicken, then the fat just ooses out of them and the salt goes down to the bone.

    Abnormal texture in the meat that becomes dry and pasty when eaten. Wings taste like the bird has been washed in dish washing liquid and then packed without rinsing.

    Generally, un-natural, un-chicken, over salted, over oiled, texture and taste

    3rd Nov 2016
    No mention of the fact that so much meat is coloured to make it more attractive to purchasers?
    Snags, frankfurts, processed meats - and even plain mince, all have colouring additives added to them, to make them attractive to look at, and therefore to encourage purchase.

    Don't get me started on how most bread is now at least 30% soy flour!!
    Soybeans are basically toxic, and contain phytoestrogens and other toxic chemicals that suppress thyroid gland activity, and interfere with the bodys hormones.

    Free MSG is produced when soyflour is made, and MSG (even natural MSG) is harmful to many people.
    My wife gets blinding headaches and her vision is affected by black spots, within minutes of eating food with MSG in it.

    Talking to others, we find she's not alone with MSG intolerance.
    So many people speak about how much they ache after eating Asian foods (they are loaded with MSG and soy).

    What annoys me is the deviousness of food manufacturers, when they refuse to be up-front and honest, about what they put in our food.
    They use cute terminology such as "natural flavour" or "natural colour", or other disingenuous terms, to hide the real name and origins of the food additives.
    3rd Nov 2016
    So what do we eat? From recent literature and information it seems that almost everything has some additive or contaminant in it - Very perplexing !! I was advised to eat salmon for
    my arthritis, now you are telling me this is suspect now too.
    Help !!
    go veg!
    6th Nov 2016
    Simple really, don't eat meat or dairy - your health including arthritis will improve. There is loads of evidence that being vegan is better for you, the environment and the animals because they don't want to live a short, miserable life before a violent death. At least try it for a month or start by cutting back meat to one or two days a week. Meat includes fish and chicken.
    4th Nov 2016
    Regarding chicken, I couldn't agree more with Charlie's comment. Thanks to the article though, I now intend to restrict my cooked chicken purchases to organic or free range. At least that doesn't involve antibiotics (hopefully!??).
    Considering the salt levels in most value-added meats (such as marinated meats), I often wonder who the devil manufacturers use as taste-testers. Do they all come from Moonee Ponds? In this day and age, when doctors will routinely advise control of salt intake, the salt levels in these foods are ridiculous. Manufacturers should be ashamed of themselves for so blatantly putting sale-ability before community health. (Yes, you rightly ask, and what sort of naiive fool are you? LOL)

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