Meat MythCrushers

The Meat MythCrusher video series seeks to bust some of the most common myths surrounding meat and poultry production and processing. This is a  joint project of the American Meat Science Association and the North American Meat Institute.

Myth: Meat Costs a lot More Than it Used to:


Much has been made in recent years about rising meat prices, and from a short term perspective, prices have gone up a bit because of the recent drought and other factors contributing to higher corn prices such as ethanol policy. But if you look at prices over the last 25 years, it tells a different story. In 1980, we spent 31 percent of our grocery budget on meat, today that number is closer to 21 percent.1

Overall in the United States, we spend just six percent of our disposable income on food.2 In Europe the number is closer to 10 percent and in developing countries it can be as high as 45 percent or more.

The lower cost of meat and poultry in the U.S. has to do with our well-developed, efficient meat and poultry production system. Today we are able to raise animals that produce more meat than ever before and processing facilities have improved their efficiency and reduced waste.

The low cost of food in the U.S. provides Americans flexibility to use their income in a variety of ways whether its to buy a home, join a gym or get the newest electronics. While meat and poultry cost less here than in other nations, Americans, on average, eat the recommended amount of meat and poultry, according to federal nutrition data.

Myth: Feeding Cattle Corn is Unnatural


Feeding corn to cattle is natural. Some people mistakenly believe that corn or grain-fed cattle never eat grass. That's just not true. Nearly all cattle eat grass for most of their lives. Some cattle have their diets enhanced with corn and grain for the last few months of their lives. This is typically done in feedlots, but may happen on ranches, too. 

Cattle enjoy corn and benefit from its nutrition. While some proponents of grass feeding only claim that cattle should not eat corn, they neglect to mention that corn is the seed of a grass. When placed in a pen with a choice of consuming grass or a corn or grain based feed, cattle will always choose to consume corn.

Remember, also, that when cattle are "finished" in feedlots, their diets are carefully supervised and monitored by expert bovine nutritionists to ensure that they are completely balanced, which maximizes health and growth. Cattle raised on pasture alone consume what they choose and these diets are more difficult to control and can be nutritionally less complete for the animal.

Myth: Washing Meat Before You Cook it is a Helpful Food Safety Step




Washing meat will not make a product safer. In fact, it may even increase your risk of foodborne illness due to cross contamination. When you wash meat, any bacteria that might be on the meat surface can be splashed into or around the sink creating an environment conducive to the cross-contamination of utensils or other foods.

USDA says even careful washing is not a good practice as some of the bacteria are so tightly attached that even numerous washings will not remove them.


Myth: 800 Studies Found Meat Causes Cancer



The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), reviewed 800 studies during its evaluation of red and processed meat, but it only based its findings suggesting a relationship between meat and cancer on a very limited number of the 800 studies. In both cases, some studies showed a link to cancer and others did not. In addition, the panel reviewing the studies did not unanimously agree about the claimed association between meat and cancer.


Myth: Meat Is the Only Product from Animals Raised for Food



It varies by animal, but in many cases half of an animal does not go toward meat. For cattle, 44 percent of the animal is not used for food and in pigs 30 percent of the animal goes to other sources. Other animal products include the hides, skins, hair, hoofs, horns, feet, heads, bones, blood, organs, glands, and intestines.1

1Where’s the (Not) Meat? Byproducts From Beef and Pork Production Economic Research Service/USDA, November 2011.

Myth: Antibiotics are Primarily Used for Growth Promotion


Based on industry data, only 13%1 of antibiotics are used for growth promotion and this practice is being phased out. In 2013, FDA requested that the use of antibiotics for growth promotion be halted by 2016. Every company who produces antibiotics for animals has committed to this plan and they will withdraw their products for growth promotion use. Additional guidance requirements also mean that all therapeutic uses of antibiotics to treat, control, or prevent specific diseases will take place under the oversight of licensed veterinarians.2

Myth: If Meat Turns Brown, That Means It Is Spoiled


Red meat products are somewhat like sliced apples. Their color can change rapidly – even though the product is still safe and wholesome. In fact, retail stores often discount red meat products that have changed color but are still safe and wholesome – and well within their shelf life. These color changes in foods like apples and meat are the result of chemical changes caused by oxygen exposure. 1

The untouched surface color of fresh meat such as cherry-red for beef is highly unstable and short-lived. When meat is fresh and protected from contact with air (such as in vacuum packages), it has the purple-red color that comes from myoglobin, one of the two key pigments responsible for the color of meat. When exposed to air, myoglobin forms the pigment, oxymyoglobin, which gives meat a pleasant cherry-red color. The use of a plastic wrap that allows oxygen to pass through it helps ensure that the cut meats will retain this bright red color. However, exposure to store lighting as well as the continued contact of myoglobin and oxymyoglobin with oxygen leads to the formation of metmyoglobin, a pigment that turns meat brownish-red.

Color is also not an appropriate indicator of whether meat is cooked. The only clear way to tell if meat is cooked thoroughly is to use a meat thermometer to ensure it has reached the recommended internal temperature for that meat.

Video Podcasts and Webinars

  • Grass or grain? Is there a definitively sustainable beef production system?


    The webinar examined the science relating to grass-fed and grain-fed beef in terms of sustainable... read more »

  • 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Update


    Kris Sollid, Registered Dietitian with the International Food Information Council and Sarah Romo... read more »

  • Meat in the Diet


    read more »

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