Interested in a nice dose of asthma medication with your next fast food burger or serving of bacon? If you’re eating conventional meat raised in a CAFO then chances are that’s just what you’re getting.Ractopamine is a type of beta-agonist. Beta-agonists are drugs initially used as intervention for asthma sufferers. As an inhalant they stimulate dilation of the smooth muscle of the lungs and allow for ease in breathing. When injected into the body rather than inhaled beta-agonists decrease smooth muscle activity in the body.

It is often used to prevent premature labor as it stops contractions of the uterus. A noted side effect of injected beta-agonists is increased muscle mass, decreased body fat and faster physiological recovery rate. This is why beta-agonists have been used as athletic performance enhancement and fall into the category of illegal doping. Not to mention it causes some pretty dangerous side effects. Things like Tachycardia (rapid beating of the heart), palpitations (abnormal/irregular beating of the heart), headaches, tremors, nervousness, sweating, nausea, and vomiting. Pretty undesirable, huh? So, why are we eating it in our food?

3b beta agonistsWell, in the late 1990’s researchers discovered that beta-agonists increased muscle mass in mice and began testing their use on livestock. It did basically the same thing to animals that it does to athletes, increases muscle mass, decreases body fat, in short, it increases the profit margin. Probably doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, right? Wrong!

ractopamineThere are no regulations concerning the use of ractopamine in animals in the U.S. (even though it is banned in 160 other countries) so it can be used whenever, wherever, and in any amount. It is typically added to animal feed a few weeks prior to slaughter. There are significant health risks for animals being administered ractopamine, not the least of which is that it raises their stress levels, increases their heart rates, and stimulates aggression. It seems to have an even worse impact on pigs, causing them to lose the ability to stand, resulting in broken limbs, and extreme stress. Once they’ve fallen and are unable to get up, it often results in them having to be dragged into slaughter. The whole process is horrible. It is hard to imagine that this is a sanctioned process in the U.S. If you eat conventional pork, chances are you are eating the meat of an animal that suffered an unimaginable fate. In fact, the FDA has required manufacturers to add the following warning to their drug labels: "Ractopamine may increase the number of injured and/or fatigued pigs during marketing. Not for use in breeding swine."

Research shows that roughly 20% of the chemical is in the processed meat once it is ready to be distributed to your grocery or butcher. So there is no question that you are eating ractopamine when you eat conventional meat. So, why is it allowed in your food? Because there have been only a limited amount of studies on the potential impact to humans consuming ractopamine laden foods. The only significant trial was conducted in 2012 on six health, young males, one of whom dropped out of the study due to adverse health effects. The results on the other five were inconclusive. Most countries have chosen to ban the use of ractopamine because of the lack of evidence for its safety. In the US, however, not only have we not banned its use, despite the obvious horror to the animal that it causes, but we are in the process of attempting to force other countries to allow the import of our chemical laden meat products. Yet, one more reason why the TTIP is such a bad idea. You can find ractopamine in conventional pork, beef, and turkeys.

ttip postcard sausage550The bottom line is we know exactly what ractopamine does to the animals that are forced to consume it and yet, it is administered to approximately 80% of the conventional livestock in the marketplace. What can you do? Buy organic meat products, sign petitions urging meat producers to stop using ractopamine, and just say no to the TTIP!

For more information on the use of ractopamine in your food supply you can check out:

The center for food safety

Consumer Reports