(NaturalNews) Up until recently, U.S. pork producers were worried about tightening profit margins across their industry. Now many of them are smiling, and it's all because of Paylean, a drug that is netting them more cash for each hog they sell. Consumers of pork products may not be too happy though, since most of the pork products they buy at conventional grocery stores and restaurants are chocked full of Paylean, a chemical that has been shown to have the potential for causing cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Paylean is a conventional hog farmer's dream product
Paylean is a product of Elanco technology, a company owned by Eli Lilly. It was approved in 1999 for use on finishing swine, pigs that are being fed for market. Paylean directs nutrients away from the production of fat deposition toward the production of lean meat. According to Elanco's website, years of university and private research have shown that Paylean produces an increased rate of weight gain, improved efficiency, and increased carcass leanness in hogs ready for market.
Conventional hog producers love Paylean because it improves feed efficiency by 13 percent, and increases average daily gain in hogs by 10 percent. It reduces average daily feed intake by 6 percent, and increases lean gain by 25 to 37 percent according to research results. Use of Paylean can net a pork producer an additional $5 to10 per hog. A producer who runs a fairly large operation can increase profits by $320,000 a year or more by using Paylean.
No Paylean clearance period is required prior to slaughter
Pigs can be dining on Paylean laced feed right up until the time they enter the slaughtering process. There is no clearance period required. Other drugs used by producers require a clearance time of two weeks before the animal can be turned into food for the dinner table. Not so with Paylean, even though industry research has shown that it takes a full seven days for 97% of Paylean to be excreted following a one-time typical dose in pigs. This means that whether you are eating a hot dog at the ball park or your Christmas ham, you are consuming Paylean.
No long term studies have determined Paylean's safety
The active ingredient in Paylean is ractopamine hydrochloride, a drug that belongs to the class of beta-adrenoceptor agonists. This class of drugs binds to beta-receptors on cardiac and smooth muscle tissues. Overall, the effect of beta-agonists is cardiac stimulation, including increased heart rate and systemic dilation of blood vessels. Some drugs of this class have been determined to be carcinogenic.
Short term animal studies have shown destabilization of heart rate, reduced testicular and uterine weight, and heart weight increase. Studies with rats have shown reduction in mean litter size and an increase in total number of fetal resorptions.
No long term studies have been conducted to determine the safety or the effects of ractopamine hydrochloride in humans, and no data exists relating to the long-term exposure of humans to the chemical. Since some beta-adrenoceptor agonists have been found to be carcinogenic, Dr. L. Ritter of the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs at Health and Welfare, Canada, has recommended studies of Paylean's genotoxicity and pharmacology, and surveys of all non-therapeutic effects that follow long term use of beta-adrenoceptor agonists in humans to assist in the prediction of the consequences from long term intake of residues of raptopamine by consumers of animal meat.
Paylean label states it is not for use in humans
Although there is no clearing period required before swine fed Paylean can be slaughtered and turned into food, the Paylean label clearly states that Paylean is not for human use. It warns that individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure to Paylean. Individuals mixing and handling Paylean are advised to use protective clothing, impervious gloves, protective eyewear, and NIOSH approved dust masks, as well as to wash themselves thoroughly immediately following handling.
One hog producer whose family-owned farm produces 40,000 swine each year refuses to use Paylean for several reasons. He cannot get his arms around the idea that the USDA requires no clearing time for Paylean and yet people are warned not to touch it with bare hands or breathe it. "My scientific training says how can an animal be fed this drug and in just a few hours that animal is ready to eat. Obviously the USDA says Paylean is broken down before consumption, but we know it goes into the cells to form more muscle, so how can that be?"
China will not import Paylean fed pork
Evidently, the Chinese are better at putting two and two together. They will only buy pork from America that is not treated with Paylean. A recent news announcement from Smithfield Foods reported the company has agreed to sell 60-million pounds of Paylean-free pork to China. According to the article, Smithfield "controls their own swine production so all they have to do is stop feeding Paylean. Three weeks later they will have Paylean-free pork." This is an industry admission that fully three weeks is the amount of time needed to clear Paylean from the body of a hog so that it cannot be found through inspection.
"Contrary to what many believe about the Chinese, they do care about what they eat. It's just that they will eat almost anything that is not dangerous, and Paylean is considered dangerous by them. Just to prove the point about the Chinese, they executed some of the guys that added the melamine to up the crude protein of the whey they were selling. The guy here in this country that knowingly sold tainted peanut butter is still walking around today and will probably get a fine," says the hog farmer with the family-owned business, who asked not to be identified for fear of industry reprisal.
Animals suffer from the use of Paylean
This producer believes the pigs pay too great a price for the boost to their producer's bottom line. He calls Paylean the Arnold Schwarzenegger drug. "In a matter of weeks it turns hogs nearing market weight into solid muscle similar to what steroids do for body builders or athletes. The animals walk like arthritic old men, and yes, they actually squeal when moved along. Small men working on swine farms hate loading out Paylean hogs because they are mean and refuse to load out. You have to force them down the chute. You can see men beating Paylean fed animals to move them. Paylean makes life miserable for farm workers, but owners of factory farms don't load animals, they sit behind a desk."
Paylean makes the animals miserable, according to Chris Birky of Birky farms, who several years ago tried to raise Paylean fed pigs. He says the Paylean fed animals became extremely agitated. "They were very irritable and aggressive towards each other, feeders, waterers and even me. They were very flighty and very stressy. Mortality increased as did injury. When we would move pigs or load them for market, we had to be so careful. Any stress at all and pigs would turn purplish and shake and sometimes you might lose one to a heart attack...Just seeing what effect it had on the animals was plenty of reason not to feed it, for their sake alone...The pigs I saw didn't like what Paylean did to them, and neither did I."
Paylean-free farms are often antibiotic-free farms using humane methods
Farmers that refuse to use Paylean are often the same ones who do not use antibiotics. The have found that animals will stay healthy when they have built immunity to invading organisms. Their secret is never introducing new animals into the herd, which could act as the new vectors of disease. They use no live replacement females from other farms, and their breeders come from in-house stock.
Most conventional swine farmers think it is cheaper and easier to buy replacement gilts from outside farms and use antibiotics instead of raising their own replacement females inside their farms. Swine genetic companies make their money selling female replacement stock so they promote the idea of buying outside gilts. And, of course, the drug companies support the buying of outside gilts too, as do many universities. Because farmers who do not use Paylean or antibiotics are not spending so much time and energy fighting disease, their farms are easier to operate. There are several quite large and profitable operations that are free of Paylean and antibiotics. Most of these farmers practice humane animal husbandry.
Much of the Paylean and antibiotic-free pork coming from large but conscientiously run farms ends up being sold through natural whole food or health food outlets, or is branded as such and sold in traditional outlets. Sales of Paylean and antibiotic-free meat have really dropped as the economy has tightened, leading producers of this type of meat to question the sincerity of people about eating drug-free meat. Producers have listened to people demanding drug-free, humanely produced meat, and they have geared up to produce it for them. With this shrinkage in demand, these producers have been left holding the bag.
Consumers must hold up their end of the bargain with quality producers
Earlier this month Meadowbrook Farms, a cooperative of family owned farms, announced it was filing for bankruptcy because it was unable to make its debt payment. Meadowbrook has been dedicated to producing the kind of meat health conscious people have been saying they want, free of antibiotics and Paylean, and humanely raised. But since the beginning of the financial crisis, many of these people have gone back to traditional grocers and bought conventional food, leaving places like Meadowbrook without the income flows needed to continue operation.
Farmers of drug-free meat lament the end of Meadowbrook because it was a start to finish operation, where niche producers of drug-free meat could have their animals slaughtered. There are about four slaughtering companies that control 80% of all the pork slaughtered in the U.S. They are large and powerful, and they go after volume. Drug-free hogs do not fit into their picture of efficiency, so the loss of Meadowbrook is one more difficulty facing conscientious producers.
People have given lip service to the idea that the only thing that really matters is that they have their health. They have loudly demanded quality food, including organically grown vegetables and fruits as well as drug-free meat and dairy products. If no one had been there to fill their demands, these people would not have been able to eat the quality food they wanted. The price would have been unaffordable or the food would not have been available at all.
When people become diseased from a diet of antibiotic and Paylean laced meat, they will want to get their health back by eating better, but they may find that the producers of high quality food did not survive their desertion.
By demanding high quality foods, consumers have struck a bargain with producers of such foods. When the same consumers decide to save money by switching back to conventionally produced food, they have not kept up their end of that bargain. They have also belied their statement that their health is the most important consideration. Yes, times are tough for everyone, but there are other ways to cut back without dishonoring the bargain made with these producers and without undermining what are the known basic truths of life.
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.