The media have made a big fuss over McDonald’s January announcement that it would stop using a substance known as “pink slime”—technically ammoniated beef trimmings (uh, yum?)—in the restaurant chain’s hamburger patties after its use of the substance was exposed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and others.
While putting an end to the “Quarter Pounder With Slime” era is undoubtedly the right move for the fast-food giant from a public-relations standpoint, people who think that this means that McDonald’s burgers are now somehow nutritious and safe are just kidding themselves. In addition to meat’s carcinogenic effects and its high levels of cholesterol (absent from all vegan foods) and saturated fat—and virtual lack of dietary fiber—which raise cardiovascular risk, meat frequently contains toxins that can damage our health.
Of the tens of millions of cases of food poisoning in the U.S. each year, thousands will prove fatal—and this problem is made worse since factory farms use so many antibiotics (to prevent the spread of diseases caused by severe crowding that many of the bacteria found on animal flesh have become antibiotic-resistant.
One U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study found that 66 percent of beef samples were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” while a report by the U.S. General Accounting Office cautioned, “Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been transferred from animals to humans, and many of the studies we reviewed found that this transference poses significant risks for human health.”
Think you’re better off with McNuggets? Think again. It’s not uncommon for farmers to put arsenic in chicken feed to kill parasites—and some of the arsenic remains in the birds’ flesh. Regular exposure to even low doses of arsenic can cause cancer and other diseases in humans.
So why not go for the fish fillet sandwich? Here’s why: Fish accumulate high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and methylmercury in their flesh. PCBs can cause skin problems and liver damage in humans, and pregnant women and children have been especially cautioned not to eat fish that may contain high levels of methylmercury, which can cause central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) damage.
Of course, as bad as it is for human health, meat is even more hazardous for the animals killed in its production. Although McDonald’s officials are well aware that a less cruel method of chicken slaughter is available (and already widely used in Europe), they continue to refuse to implement a policy that requiress to require their U.S. and Canadian suppliers to use to this method.
That’s all the more reason, then, that if you’re craving burgers or nuggets, you should break out the Boca or grab some Gardein. By going faux, not only will you not have to worry about chowing down on mechanically separated meat (pictured above) and pink goo, you’ll also be avoiding far nastier stuff—and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that the only thing you’re killing are your hunger pangs.