Why Supermarket Meat is Always (Unnaturally) Red

by Sarah Green Living, Healthy LivingComments: 100

supermarket meat

Observation can be a very important tool when one embarks on the modern adventure known as supermarket shopping.

Have you ever stopped to notice how everything in a supermarket seems so perfectly in its place, colorful and completely alluring? If you’ve ever taken someone from a foreign country into a supermarket in the United States for the very first time, you know the kind of reaction I’m talking about.

Shock and Awe.

But things aren’t always as they appear, are they?

Case in point. Have you ever wondered why the supermarket meat display case is always bright red? Could it be that every package on display was freshly butchered that very day?

If you’ve talked to a supermarket meat manager before or have a butcher in the family, you know this is simply not the case. While some new cuts are put out every day, many of the meat packages have been sitting in the display case for two, three, four days or even longer.

Most consumers never stop to wonder about this, but anyone who has ever purchased meat from a small farm or a local butcher knows that this is not a natural occurrence. Once meat becomes exposed to air, oxidation begins which gradually turns the red color of the meat to a more unappetizing brown or grey color within just a few days.

This never seems to happen to supermarket meat does it?  The meat is uniformly red not various shades of red, brown and grey which would be truly reflective of when the meat department put each package in the display case.

What’s really going on here?

Carbon Monoxide Keeps Supermarket Meat Red Even if It’s Spoiled

The fact is that as much as 70 percent of meat sold in stores is treated with carbon monoxide to keep the meat a deceptively fresh looking red color.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that is almost impossible to see, taste or smell. It is emitted from car exhaust pipes, gas powered lawn mowers, chimneys, gas stoves (if not used properly), unvented space heaters, and charcoal grills.

The industrialized meat industry (aka Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations – CAFO) insists that treatment with carbon monoxide, called “modified atmosphere packaging” (MAP), is necessary due to the difficulty of keeping meat at the proper temperature while in grocery store coolers.

The internal temperature of retail meat is not supposed to exceed 39° Fahrenheit (4° Celsius) at any time. An increase of just a degree or two can result in an enormous increase in bacterial growth. For example, raising the temperature from 28°F (-2° C) to 29°F (-1.5° C) can cut the shelf life of meat in half.

The problem stems from ultraviolet light from the grocery store display lights heating up the surface temperature of the meat much higher than the thermometer reading in the display case. This occurs due to penetration of the UV light into the meat packaging similar to how our skin can burn even on a very cold day when the sun in shining.

Due to the struggles with temperature consistency, atmospheric packaging was developed. When meat is exposed to carbon monoxide, it reacts with the myoglobin in the blood giving the meat a bright red color. Fresh beef is naturally red, and as it ages, it becomes brown or grey. The carbon monoxide keeps it looking artificially fresh for up to a full year by restricting the growth of bacteria that proliferate from the increased heat of supermarket meat display cases.

Is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous if Ingested?

Carbon monoxide is fatal if inhaled in large amounts because the CO molecule attaches to hemoglobin in the blood and replaces oxygen in the bloodstream. Even minor exposure can cause fatigue, headaches and confusion. Increasing exposure leads to unconsciousness and then death. Individuals who are fortunate enough to survive poisoning with carbon monoxide frequently continue to suffer from neurological problems.

Despite the danger, consumer groups have been unsuccessful in recent years to stop the deceptive practice of treating supermarket meat with carbon monoxide.

True to form, the industrialized meat industry says that, unlike inhalation, carbon monoxide is not harmful when it is ingested via meat treated with atmospheric packaging. Industry also insists that MAP is necessary to keep meat affordable as consumers won’t buy brown meat even if it’s still fine to eat causing meat that is perfectly good for sale to be thrown out unnecessarily.

Ann Boeckman, a lawyer with a legal firm for the meat industry, says consumers needn’t worry about fake red supermarket meat.

“When a product reaches the point of spoilage, there will be other signs that will be evidenced–for example odor, slime formation and a bulging package–so the product will not smell or look right.”

Don’t you feel so much better after reading that statement?

No worries about supermarket meat that looks fresh when it’s not. You’ll know there’s a problem by the bad smell and the slimy feel of rotting meat even though it still looks bright red and ready to throw on the grill.

Just keep buying that fake red supermarket meat (along with the fake pink salmon) and stop complaining, ok? It’s cheap, right? That’s all that is supposed to count for us consumers anyway!

If this sounds ridiculous to you as it does to me and the lure of cheap food is just a little less appealing after reading this article, start your search for a local grassbased farmer by clicking here. Alternatively, you can spend a few dollars and have a copy of the Weston A. Price Shopping Guide mailed to you and let your fingers do the walking to find a safe source of quality meat for your family that is surprisingly affordable.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Sources:

Carbon Monoxide: Masking the Truth About Meat?

We’re Eating What? 9 Contaminants in US Meat

Carbon monoxide keeps meat red longer; is that good?

Carbon Monoxide Added to Meat to Prevent Bacteria Growth

Carbon Monoxide in Meat Packaging: Myths and Facts

Picture Credit

Comments (100)

  • Nick

    There is also another chemical powder that they use to add to meat to make it look fresh and bright red. I don’t remember the name but many many markets and butcher shops were caught using it in the late 80’s and very early 90’s. If anyone remembers the name, they should do an article on it because it might still be in use by some markets.

    February 14th, 2016 5:20 pm Reply
  • Josh

    Hi,
    I disagree. With this I have worked at kroger meat dept for 9 years and we do not put carbon monoxide in the meats walmart and any store that does not cut meat does.

    September 28th, 2014 8:22 am Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      The gassing occurs before it arrives at your store.

      September 28th, 2014 8:54 am Reply
      • Chris

        The store I work at cuts meat on the premises. The beef arrives in various large chunks called primal cuts. The primal cuts are a very dark reddish brown when they are unwrapped but after several minutes of exposure to the oxygen in the air, the color “blooms” and they turn the brilliant red color you describe in the article. It requires no help whatsoever to achieve this.

        The primal cuts are then cut into steaks and roasts (the dark internal parts of the meat that are exposed by the cut then also undergo the “blooming” process), placed into trays, wrapped in cellophane and immediately transferred to the display case. At no time are they exposed to any substances or gases besides the clean chilled air of the cutting room.

        As long as they’ve been properly handled, beef cuts will keep their bright red color up to 4 days, though they usually sell long before then. Occasionally a piece or two will start to discolor prematurely. That’s most likely because a customer put the package in their shopping cart, walked around the store for another hour (which you should never do, ever) and then decided they didn’t want it, so they put it back in the display case without telling anyone.

        Any meat in the display case that shows the slightest discoloration is immediately removed and discarded. The result? A beautiful, brightly colored display case, no trickery required. As for what goes on in Walmart and other discount meat departments, I haven’t a clue, but you usually get what you pay for, especially when it comes to fresh meat and seafood.

        November 18th, 2014 11:49 pm Reply
  • Patrick Connelly via Facebook

    I have no problem with supporting local businesses, but this is misleading: Number one, the AMOUNT of CO used by the industry is never mentioned, and according to the scientists who research this stuff (as I read briefly in the Journal of Meat Science) found that the CO forms a more stable complex with the red pigment mentioned, which not only really does inhibit bacterial growth (because CO is a nutrient for certain types of bacteria), but also implies that the CO is not free when ingested. Moreover, number two, the article glosses over the facts that there is no evidence of CO being dangerous by ingestion versus inhalation (there are serious differences in the physiology), and the FDA has approved its usage here multiple times. Finally, CO is actually used in your body as a key neurotransmitter. Your claim that this CO treatment prevents the consumer from getting “quality meat,” when in fact neither you nor the article presents evidence to support this is rather pitiable and the truly ignorant thing here. And no, it is not labeled — most likely because of the stigma you present here – and perpetuate by your language – against a, yes, toxic gas that nevertheless has powerful and important NATURAL biochemical properties (of which there are two or three other majors ones, by the way). Thanks for pulling the wool over people’s eyes.

    April 20th, 2014 7:48 am Reply
  • Tanya Bosarge via Facebook

    I find it ironic that America has brainwashed consumers into thinking they are the only safe place to live and consume products. I am an American living in China and was speaking to some Chinese and New Zealander friends about the way Americans think all of the food in China is so “horrible” and “disease ridden” and “bound to kill us all” – like all other countries are still in the stone ages when it comes to food. And then one friend said to me, “Don’t American companies put harmful chemicals in their meat to keep them unnaturally pink on the shelves?” It seems that foreigners know more about America than even the Americans. I am guilty of spending my life thinking that our “advanced” American ways were best, but now that I know better, I have made changes. I think that individual families are learning, and we’re finally beginning to educate one another about the dangers of food in America ~ thanks to sites like yours!

    April 20th, 2014 1:21 am Reply
  • Jamie Skrypkun via Facebook

    I only eat meat that looks red and winks at me through the plastic.

    April 19th, 2014 11:13 pm Reply
  • Alex Hernandez via Facebook

    Oh my, i’m afraid to read this! :/

    April 19th, 2014 11:06 pm Reply
  • Jackson Waters via Facebook

    Again this comes down to preserving of perishable food items, a supermarket cannot function without them, supermarkets struggle now with breads and ‘fresh’ fish. Raw milk is beyond them,

    April 19th, 2014 6:35 pm Reply
  • Jackson Waters via Facebook

    It looks like that because people WANT it to look like that, As soon as one vendor ‘adjusts’ the food to make it more market ‘pleasing’ and it succeeds then all others follow, the average buy does not want to think about this.

    April 19th, 2014 6:27 pm Reply
  • Marion Harmening via Facebook

    I’m glad to be a vegetarian

    April 19th, 2014 5:48 pm Reply
  • Mari Redder via Facebook

    There’s also a free WAPF shopping app now, too.

    April 19th, 2014 1:59 pm Reply
  • Chris Bode via Facebook

    Why assume locals won’t lie? I’ve got a kid who does and she’s so local we use the same bathroom

    April 19th, 2014 1:17 pm Reply
  • Michelle Karwatt Anstadt via Facebook

    Love my organic farmer! Very blessed!

    April 19th, 2014 11:24 am Reply
  • Ruth Weston via Facebook

    Support your local butcher….easy!

    April 19th, 2014 11:19 am Reply
  • Lona Ringo Sniper Rowdy via Facebook

    There was a day when every grocery store had a butcher or two along with sides of beef hanging and aging in the back, viewable thru the glass….

    April 19th, 2014 11:11 am Reply
  • Shona Matuauto via Facebook

    Justin Hetherton

    April 19th, 2014 10:47 am Reply
  • Rebecca Hillyard-Lampe via Facebook

    Yet another reason why I don’t buy meat from the supermarket …. Things aren’t as pretty as they always seem!

    February 13th, 2014 4:51 pm Reply
  • Claudia Phillips via Facebook

    Yuck! I’m thankful to be able to get grass-fed beef from a local farmer!

    February 13th, 2014 8:21 am Reply
  • Helen Rosner McDonald via Facebook

    stopped eating it yrs ago…

    February 13th, 2014 6:28 am Reply
  • Kerry Letrick Henderson via Facebook

    Stephanie… Why would CO not hurt you in that format? CO will hurt you in any Format!!

    February 13th, 2014 5:49 am Reply
    • derp

      one, because once reacting with someting, in this case a cut of steak etc., it is no longer carbon monoxide but something new made from the reactants (CO and the chemical reacting in the beef). if you take CO and react it with oxygen, it becomes CO2 for example. no longer is it carbon monoxide. If it did not react with the beef then they would have no use for it. Secondly, if you somehow could actually ingest CO without breathing it in, it would also likely react with numerous things in the GI tract and again, and more importantly it would have no direct access to your blood stream like gasses in your lungs do. most likely it would be farted out at worst if it somehow survived your stomach as unchanged CO. lol.

      May 2nd, 2016 2:23 am Reply
  • Heidi Jon-Paolo Carfa via Facebook

    I’ve cut back on meat nearly 90% and only purchase from a butcher. I do not understand purchasing meat from Walmart or a grocery store where it’s prepackaged for days. That is disgusting!

    You’re eating the flesh of a once living animal. Wouldn’t you want to eat fresher???

    February 13th, 2014 5:32 am Reply
  • Pingback: Why is the meat I supermarkets always red?? | L.A. Paleo

  • Denise Dupert via Facebook

    Ugh they are trying to kill us

    February 13th, 2014 12:55 am Reply
  • Marcia Jackson via Facebook

    wow!

    February 13th, 2014 12:54 am Reply
  • Leslie Anne via Facebook

    finding local grass fed beef now

    February 13th, 2014 12:50 am Reply
  • Mary Fitzwater via Facebook

    Might want to read!!!

    February 13th, 2014 12:22 am Reply
  • Rogan Fantastic via Facebook

    Candace S. Snow

    February 13th, 2014 12:19 am Reply
  • Stephanie Armstrong via Facebook

    Some of these comments make me laugh! Sad how clueless people are about their food.

    February 12th, 2014 11:46 pm Reply
  • Stephanie Armstrong via Facebook

    Seriously, who cares? CO is not going to hurt you in this format.

    February 12th, 2014 11:43 pm Reply
  • Leafs Zn Fishes via Facebook

    Meat is getting so expensive. I have no problem passing the meat isle these days, and I am getting healthier for it. My skin is smoother, I have more energy, and I feel more content.

    February 12th, 2014 11:32 pm Reply
  • Rachel Rachel via Facebook

    Gotta say, I love Target, but I usually notice this more on their meat than any other store.

    February 12th, 2014 11:16 pm Reply
  • Tatiana Thornberry via Facebook

    I knew it …

    February 12th, 2014 10:24 pm Reply
  • Jesse Fincher Jr. via Facebook

    Kristin..fresh ground beef turns inside in 2-3 days once it is ground. it is good to eat. walmart and Kroger sell that treated meat. It will tear up your stomach, we have 3 saws and a grinder.All fresh cut meat.

    February 12th, 2014 10:04 pm Reply
  • Meg Annan via Facebook

    The grassfed ground beef I buy at Wegmans is in a vacuum sealed package and always a very deep red. Not bright red like conventional ground beef. Hmmmm. I hope it’s not treated :-/

    February 12th, 2014 10:04 pm Reply
  • Stacy Snyder via Facebook

    Don’t forget about the artificial nitrites added to pork–which are salts dyed pink.

    February 12th, 2014 9:57 pm Reply
  • Kristin Wright via Facebook

    Funny. My ground beef is red when I buy it but a day later is brown and red in the middle. I don’t think it is treated.

    February 12th, 2014 9:57 pm Reply
    • Chris

      Your ground beef may be fine, it just may have been packed too densely. Oxygen in the air is what turns beef red. Ground beef is extruded in those little ropes so that there is some air trapped throughout the inside. If the meat is packed too tightly, those air pockets are removed and the meat turns brown. Next time you find brown on the inside of your ground beef, leave the brown part exposed to the air for several minutes. If it turns pink, it’s fine. If it doesn’t, or it has an unpleasant smell, take it back to the store or throw it away.

      November 19th, 2014 12:09 am Reply
  • Moira Morgan Blair via Facebook

    I had to watch a video and take a quiz on meat products at work, not all the gasses in the package is oxygen and that prevents browning.

    February 12th, 2014 9:55 pm Reply
  • Crystal Kornmeyer via Facebook

    I knew this and yet it still grosses me out thinking about it again.

    February 12th, 2014 9:54 pm Reply
  • Teresa C. Orso via Facebook

    Lauren Joy Orso Logan Orso Delgado Nathalie Johnson

    February 12th, 2014 9:53 pm Reply
  • Eric Barlow via Facebook

    the same color of wild game meat….

    February 12th, 2014 9:52 pm Reply
  • Danita Garcia via Facebook

    Ewww! Shop local!!

    February 12th, 2014 9:49 pm Reply
  • Sandy Califf via Facebook

    For those that don’t believe test your IQ!

    February 12th, 2014 9:48 pm Reply
  • Koen

    Well hung beef (at least 25days) is definately better than any super market beef, it should be cut/sliced as and when needed so it retains it’s freshest looking colour which should be dark dark purple red. This is the beef served in top end restaurants.

    Consumers have been fooled into thinking wet looking bright red meat is the best tastiest beef available. It’s not.

    Problem is specialist or just ordinary butchers are losing out to big super markets. If you have a local butcher that’s were you should go to discuss your meat requirments. They may if your lucky be trying to compete by selling quality products.

    These will be more expensive than supermarkets unfortunatly because well hung beef shrinks by 10-15 % as the water evaporates out in the hanging process concentrating the flavour. It also takes up space and time but well worth it. There is no comparison between well hung beef and supermarket beef in flavour taste and tenderness, supermarket beef just tastes bland watery and is tough no matter how you try and cook it.

    In many countries refrigeration is an issue, this doesn’t neccesarily make them less fortunate in this respect to many Western countries, it simply means they have to eat their beef and meat in general as fresh as possible. On the day of slaughter or in the case of poultry they buy it live. Different cooking methods like marinating are used to get that tenderness out of fresh beef as hanging even for longer than a few hours is not always an option. Many consider proper “fresh” that is freshly slaughtered meat to be far superior to anything found in a Western style super markets.

    November 17th, 2013 11:24 pm Reply
  • free time hobbies 30513

    This excellent website definitely has all of the information and facts I needed concerning this subject and didn’t
    know who to ask.

    November 13th, 2013 8:11 pm Reply
  • Bob

    I work in the HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning). Co is a major concern. It takes ALOT of co to kill a person in 1-2 minutes. That’s about 12800 PPM. 1-70 ppm is considered safe, but heart patients my have increased chest pain heigher than 50-70 ppm. That being said, that’s in a gaseous state, being readily inhaled in to the lungs and allowed to cross the gas/blood barrier in the lungs. I would need to see an adaptive table on how ingesting an item that has soluable co in it equates to a vapor ppm. As your stomache acid is digesting the meat, what is happing to the absorbed gas as the meat is broken down.

    They can irradiarte food and have it last for decades without refrigeration. It does not make the food radioactive. Inhaling Co is one thing, ingesting an item that has soluable co in it is another.

    When you cry that the sky is falling, do your research and make sure there is something to crow about otherwise is just more hype and we should all ‘be afraid’.

    November 7th, 2013 9:53 pm Reply
  • Leon Wildberger

    I been a meat cutter for 51 years and the owner of meatcuttersclub.com. There is a few things wrong with this story but let me address the red color.

    Red meat is mainly made up of muscles with fibers that are called slow fibers. These muscles are used for extended periods of activity, such as standing or walking and need a consistent energy source. The protein myoglobin stores oxygen in muscle cells, which use oxygen to extract the energy needed for constant activity. Myoglobin is a richly pigmented protein. The more myoglobin there is in the cells, the redder or darker, the meat is. Red meat is red because the muscle fibers that make up the bulk of the meat contain a high content of myoglobin, which are colored red. Myoglobin, a protein similar to hemoglobin in red blood cells, acts as a store for oxygen within the muscle fibers.

    When freshly slaughtered meat is cut into steaks, the muscle tissue comes into contact with oxygen in the air. The myoglobin in the meat binds this oxygen, forming oxymyoglobin and giving the meat a red color.

    Treatment with carbon monoxide is only found in pre cut meats handled by Wal Mart and a few big chains. Butcher shops and chain stores that cut their meat in store do not use carbon monoxide.

    October 14th, 2013 4:39 pm Reply
  • Sabb

    Thank you for this very good blog, and for all the helpful videos and recipes!

    I just wanted to mention that in Norway, where I live, carbon monoxide was used before. Now it is prohibited. When I read your blog, I’m thankful that I live in a country where the food industry is a little bit better than in the US.

    Today I got fresh milk for the first time, and I am so excited! Can’t wait to get whey and make some of your fermented food. :)

    October 4th, 2013 11:08 am Reply
  • Kelli

    So “having plenty of food while people starve in other countries” is supposed to detract from the problems of the American food system? Well, there may not be “starvation” here, but theres plenty of low-grade malnutrition caused by poor quality foods that contribute to chronic health problems in America. A rather lame argument from the food giants and uniformed consumers.

    October 3rd, 2013 1:37 pm Reply
    • Toni Barnes

      I agree. I get irritated with the phrase “first-world problems” as if we should just stop trying to improve our lives because we’re not in a 3rd world country. They are still problems!

      October 3rd, 2013 11:45 pm Reply
  • John

    Personally I eat local patsured beef. I do not care one bit if the CO2 is present or not I choose not to eat factory food. Any one care to see how bad it is just follow the recalls voluntary and otherwise. Shocking how poorly managed the processed food industry is. Sarah, keep up the great work in bringing this stuff to light.

    October 3rd, 2013 8:33 am Reply
  • MJ

    In answer to “Diligent Dan” –
    1. Sarah’s own reference link is titled “Carbon Monoxide Added to Meat to Prevent Bacteria Growth”. I just restated it. Since it is HER reference and you apparently accept what she said without question, I don’t think I have to provide any further reference on the subject.
    2. Have you ever tried to “eat” a gas? Ever tried to swallow air? What happens? This is something that children so commonly do, it doesn’t require any references. Anyone who was ever a child knows what happens when you swallow air.
    3. Ever eaten a chili pepper? does it have the same effect as inhaling pepper spray? Again – no references are needed to show that the effects are different. I’m sure you’ve seen at least once or twice on TV what happens when a person is pepper-sprayed.
    4. Do you pay attention to the news? Are you not aware that when a widespread problem is detected in the food supply the media immediately jumps on it and it is reported on for weeks. Can you honestly tell me that you weren’t aware of the mad cow scare? Of course you were! I don’t need to reference particular newspaper articles to back up this claim, because people are already aware of what happens.

    This stuff isn’t rocket science – it’s basic observation of what goes on in the world – minus the conspiracy theories. I just happen to think about what I read.

    October 3rd, 2013 3:09 am Reply
    • Diligent Dan

      MJ,

      You may have the last word. What has already been said speaks for itself.
      I will just repeat my last two lines:
      Be part of the solution instead of the problem. Learn what the powers that be are doing to the common people and help fight the good fight against man’s inhumanity to man.

      October 3rd, 2013 1:27 pm Reply
      • Tawanda

        Dan,
        You know I’m curious, what do non-CAFO producers do to reduce bacteria – the pastured-raised meat I purchsae is just vacuum sealed. If the standard grocers were simply, adding the CO to limit bacterial growth, I would think they would do the same – otherwise I would have to suspect that the real agenda is the deceptive coloring.

        In any event, since we are talking about my health, I have to err on the side of caution as best as I can. Also, interesiing that folks trying to be as informed as possible because that’s the only way one can make rational decisions – are obsessed.

        October 5th, 2013 8:18 am Reply
  • Shelly

    Thanks, Sarah! I so appreciate the education I have received from your blog!

    And yes, you can get very sick from bad meat and has been in the news more often than I would like to see. We escaped this recalled meat while on vacation in Maine by opting for frozen hamburgers that were organic and grassfed: http://www.startribune.com/local/163395576.html We were so thankful that we paid the extra money because we didn’t hear the news until several days after we had consumed that meal.

    October 2nd, 2013 7:17 pm Reply
  • Jen

    Yet another reason I am glad to buy my meat from a small local and organic farm!

    October 2nd, 2013 4:47 pm Reply
  • DRK

    As I was growing up as a child more than 50 years ago, everyone I knew would accept a live rooster to butcher and eat. Almost everyone in my community over the age of 5 was involved in butchering animals as large as cows.
    The people at the free store came around asking for food donations. I offered them a half dozen live young free range roosters. The lady looked shocked, and said we can’t use them.
    Butchering skills enable a person to keep the Government out of their kitchen. Small animals such as lambs, goats, pigs. chickens, turkeys, and ducks, can be acquired from hobby farmers that are dedicated to the cause of chemical free, GMO free pastured animals.
    The Government doesn’t allow farmers to butcher their livestock and sell it, but livestock can be bought live. Once it’s in your possession you can process and eat it.
    If you don’t have butchering skills you can start out with small animals, like chickens, rabbits, and other similar sized animals.
    Butchering adds to your food freedom
    Your ancestors had no qualms about butchering, or you wouldn’t be here..

    October 2nd, 2013 3:32 pm Reply
    • Diligent Dan

      Excellent points, DRK!
      I’m reminded of the old adage:
      Give a man a fish; feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; feed him for life.

      October 3rd, 2013 2:38 am Reply
    • LD

      Also check with shops that process deer in hunting season. They might know of hunters or farmers who do their own butchering and would be willing to help/teach or butcher your animal, possibly for part of the meat.

      October 3rd, 2013 9:18 am Reply
  • ???

    So the moral here is don’t inhale your meat?

    October 2nd, 2013 2:55 pm Reply
  • Elita

    How about whole foods? Do they use Carbon monoxide on their meats?

    October 2nd, 2013 1:08 pm Reply
  • Jacqui

    I buy beef and goat meat hear in India where they slaughter it fresh each day and hang it up in their little shops on the side of the road. It’s brown – no redness at all and I usually buy it around 8:30am. I don’t know what time they slaughter but the worst problem we face is car fumes going all over the meat which I guess is the same problem as supermarket meat in America! I wish I could know whether the cows are grass fed, I’ve enquired and am told that they are because the farmers can’t afford grains to feed them and the fat is mostly yellow. Sometimes it really bothers me seeing a 3rd world country gradually moving away from their traditions and going towards supermarkets and cars etc. Sometimes I see farmers ploughing their soil with the bull and cart – it’s brilliant!! but sadly it’s looked upon as being poor. For some reason I trust all your blogging Sarah, I’m not too concerned whether your research is properly done… I get the message that you’re trying to steer people towards supporting their small local farmers and in turn getting better nutrition for their families

    October 2nd, 2013 12:51 pm Reply
    • MJ

      I’m pretty surprised to hear that you buy beef to eat in India, since they are at least 80% Hindu (who think that cows are sacred and would never eat beef). I have seen cows wandering around the streets of New Delhi eating garbage, so even if you could purchase beef to eat, I certainly wouldn’t do it.

      October 2nd, 2013 2:11 pm Reply
    • MJ

      In fact, Hindus will not allow anyone to kill the cows. They worship cows, which is why the cows are wandering around the streets eating garbage.

      October 2nd, 2013 2:31 pm Reply
      • MJ

        do you really want to know, or is this a rhetorical question?

        October 3rd, 2013 10:22 am Reply
        • Helen T

          MJ – you’re paid naysayer commentator – it’s showing around the edges. We’re onto you.

          October 4th, 2013 10:52 am Reply
      • Pat in TX

        MJ admits above that she is Canadian, so the USDA has absolutely nothing to do with her food choices! Canadians are conditioned to blindly accept their socialist government rather than think for themselves. She probably cannot understand why we want to do so, but why she seeks out blogs she doesn’t agree with just to inject controversy is beyond me. I come to learn, sometimes to ask reasonable questions, but always to try to add to the discussion, not cause trouble!

        October 3rd, 2013 10:51 am Reply
        • MJ

          Actually, I came across this blog by accident. And I didn’t set out just to create controversy. I read what Sarah said and I thought about it, and I saw some very basic flaws in her presentation and reasoning. Then I pointed them out. Unfortunately, it appears that no one else took the time to check out what I said.

          If you check out what I said and find that I was wrong, then by all means tell the world what you found! But not one person so far has addressed what I said. Instead you are all upset that I said it.

          So who is blindly accepting what they are told?

          October 3rd, 2013 3:34 pm Reply
        • JP

          I feel you do not know many Canadians. We are no less likely to think for ourselves than anyone else.

          February 12th, 2014 10:02 pm Reply
      • Tawnya

        MJ please go away, or stop questioning every one on their choices. we are here to be informed and make our own choices. Food bloggers are people who blog about food and should not be accused of being obsessed and ungrateful for what they have. Please try to have a wonderful life. :)

        February 13th, 2014 3:33 am Reply
    • Joyce

      I agree. I am 27 and my family raised and butchered their own meats. I still live in the area of FL where my family is. I traveled to Mexico and it was the same thing you witnessed in India, but there were Wal-Marts being built everywhere last time I went, and that was a few years ago. I seems things are going in reverse. Many of us here in America want traditional things while many parts of the world they want what we have. Some countries have found a balance though.

      October 2nd, 2013 6:35 pm Reply
  • Elle

    I hope you will answer my question because I know others want to know too…..how do YOU know the sources you site are credible?

    October 2nd, 2013 11:32 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      I’ve used the eatwild source for many years to find reputable local farms. Also, I have been a Chapter Leader for the Weston Price Foundation for over 10 years now and that Shopping Guide is a goldmine for finding quality food. The gal who updates that guide every year is very vigilant in vetting the sources … not just any producer can get in that guide. Also, I make nothing by recommending either of these sources.

      October 2nd, 2013 11:39 am Reply
  • Cari

    Does rinsing the meat with water after removing from store packaging remove this CM ? If not can we rinse in anything that would help, vinegar, baking soda water, etc. ?

    October 2nd, 2013 11:21 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      There is not a way to remove the carbon monoxide that I know of. The biggest problem is, though, that the meat is not as fresh as you think it is and could very well be a food safety issue.

      October 2nd, 2013 11:37 am Reply
      • Adam

        The CM treated beef I buy does not hold its red color for as long as claimed. Its looks red at first but it starts to brown even before reaching tbe use by date. If you still disregard the use by date just because of the color, then you deserve the food poisoning you get as a result. If you cant tell spoiled meat from fresh meat, you probably shouldn’t be cooking it in the first place.

        October 2nd, 2013 12:24 pm Reply
  • Marion

    Until a couple of decades ago (until before the supermarkets, in the days when one bought meat at a butcher who often killed and butchered his produce) one would bleed the animal (catching the blood to make bloodsausages and the like) and then HANG it for a couple of weeks (in a cooled place, such as a refrigerator or a shed with blocks of ice – the idea would be to ‘ripen’ the meat, not to spoil it). Only organ meat would be sold fresh, the rest was, as I said, hung in a cool place. This hanging was essential; it almost predigested the meat so the end cuts would be tender and delicious. Apparently, the better buchers still age their beef:

    http://www.goodcooking.com/steak/aging/aging.htm

    And this is what is so ludicrous about this all; until forty, fifty, sixty years ago, no housewife would expect to buy beef that looked as if it had just been slaughtered. Nobody would WANT beef that had just been slaughtered. Our culture has distanced itself so much from our food (instead of buying meat from the butcher who still had half a carcas haning behind the shop counter to buying meat in plastic boxes) that we don’t even know any longer what good beef looks like. It has become subjected to this wholesale idea that everything that is sold must be FRESH, or at least LOOK fresh (‘shop appeal!”), so it has to look as if it has come straight from the slaughter.

    October 2nd, 2013 10:50 am Reply
  • Krista

    I think you need to be fair and not lump ALL supermarkets together. I work at a very small grocery store (we only have 2 stores), and our meat department really does butcher the meat every day. The day-old meat gets sold at a discount, and with coupons, and is usually brownish in color. I can’t even begin to tell you how UPSET customers get when they can’t get perfectly red meat at our store! I think readers need to remember to research where they buy their meats, and ask how everything is done, where orders come from. I can’t verify to the “quality” of our meats, since it is grain-fed, but it is always FRESH.

    October 2nd, 2013 10:28 am Reply
    • Roberta

      Everyine should know that local anything is NOT a surpermarket. I wish there were still many local, and family owned and operated markets around. Unfortunately..there are not..too bad.

      October 2nd, 2013 11:07 am Reply
  • Karen

    So is that why when I buy hamburger from the store the outside is bright red, but when I break it up the inside is brown? I always wondered why the inside would turn brown first and not the outside. Thanks for the informative article.

    October 2nd, 2013 10:19 am Reply
    • Lorrie

      I think they have started spraying all of it now as it comes out of the grinder. I noticed the last time I checked my hamburger meat that this time the inside was all red where typically if I had waited a couple of days the inside was brown.

      October 2nd, 2013 10:30 am Reply
  • Cath

    Interesting. In the last six months or so, in the UK a couple of the big supermarkets have started vacuum packing meat and all the meat is now a dark brown. Although I think they are more concerned with cutting the packaging;-)

    I still use my butcher though and lovely local Jersey beef – yum

    October 2nd, 2013 8:23 am Reply
  • Colin

    Karma has funny ways of catching up with people sometimes.

    October 2nd, 2013 7:07 am Reply
  • MJ

    First of all, I’m curious to know where you came up with the statistic that 70% of supermarket meat is treated with carbon monoxide. I`m not saying that your statistic is wrong, because I don`t know – but you need to substantiate the claims that you make.

    Second, the meat is treated with carbon monoxide to reduce spoilage, not to provide the red colour. The red colour is a side effect of the process, because the carbon monoxide bonds with the naturally-occurring myoglobin in the meat.

    Third, you imply that by eating carbon monoxide-treated meat you are actually eating carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a gas. As soon as you open the package, the small amount of gas in the package will mix with the air around it and dissipate, and the portion of the carbon monoxide that has bonded with the myoglobin in the meat is no longer carbon monoxide anyway. The new compound is called carboxymyoglobin.

    Fourth, even if you were in fact able to eat carbon monoxide gas (and it would be interesting to see you try), you should know that eating something is not the same as breathing it in. For example, eating a chili pepper will not have the same effect on you as breathing in bear spray which, as you no doubt know, is aerosolized chili peppers.

    Fifth, supermarkets are required to put a “best before“ date on the packaging of meat that has been treated with carbon monoxide, so that there is no doubt about how long the meat can be safely kept in the refrigerator before cooking and eating it..

    Sixth, if supermarkets were in fact selling rotten meat on a widespread basis, we would certainly hear about it in the media. a) people who noticed the awful smell would be returning the meat by the cartload, and b) any people who actually did eat the meat would be sick – and I don`t mean just a little tummy-ache. People would die. Either way, the media would have a field day.

    Lastly, if you think that the local butcher has freshly-butchered meat in his meat cases at all times, you are simply wrong. Freshly-slaughtered beef, for example, is left to hang for at least 14 days in cold storage before being cut up into steaks and so on. It tenderizes the meat.

    Maybe you should stop obsessing about what might be wrong with the food you eat and start to think about being thankful that you live in a country where there are refrigeration facilities readily available at all times, not to mention food regulations that help to keep our food supply safe to eat. Or how about being thankful that you have more than enough to eat every day, and a vast variety of different foods to choose from at the grocery store? There are many people in the world who are not so fortunate – or so rich – as you are.

    October 2nd, 2013 4:27 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Sources are provided at the end of the article.

      October 2nd, 2013 11:41 am Reply
      • MJ

        Yes, but one of your three sources cites another one of your three sources, and all of them are opinions, blogs or magazine columns – not research.
        This leads me to believe that you really have no idea whether your statistic of 70% is true or not.

        October 2nd, 2013 12:27 pm Reply
        • Diligent Dan

          Oh, I forgot, “opinions, blogs or magazine columns” are not valid because …?

          What keeps the reporting (opinion) of a dedicated consumer advocate who does the proper research from being valid? Did you even bother to check the sources cited *by* those authors? Much of the research cited is from government agencies–both foreign and domestic. How about the Los Angeles Times, Consumer Reports, and the San Francisco Chronicle? Maybe you’d believe the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health? They’re cited.

          No, Sir or Madam MJ, YOUR opinions are the ones I must question: Will you come clean about ALL of your connections to the meat processing industry?

          I do agree that we should all be thankful to live in America; however, we must remember that the America in which we live today is a FAR CRY from what the Founding Fathers envisioned (reference the above Web site article).

          Notice what George Washington said during his famous Farewell Address in 1796: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”

          Unfortunately, America is no longer supported by the great pillars of religion and morality, so we must have vigilant watchmen to show the folly and danger of the greed and lack of human concern exhibited by Big Industry, Big Pharma, Big Meat/Poultry, and virtually every other conglomerate in American life today.

          I, for one, am grateful for Sarah Pope and others like her who at least are in the fray; watching, warning, and trying to make America a little safer place in which to raise our children. God bless her and others like her, since it’s painfully obvious that He will no longer bless America because we have forgotten Him. This will not change until every American, as Benjamin Franklin (a self-proclaimed NON-churchgoer) admonished, does his best to “imitate Jesus.”

          October 2nd, 2013 3:52 pm Reply
          • Diligent Dan

            Sorry, I thought the Web site URL I referenced above would show up with the comment. Since it didn’t, here is is:
            https://www.thetrumpet.com/article/9114.7934.0.0/society/law/why-character-matters

            October 2nd, 2013 3:55 pm
          • MJ

            Oh dear – you caught me! I’m a 52-year-old independent bookkeeper from Canada. I’m a mother of 3 and a grandmother of 1, and the big secret about my connection to the meat processing industry is that I eat meat.

            Opinions are fine, as far as they go – but they aren’t facts. And the only opinion I expressed was that Sarah should stop obsessing over food and be grateful. Everything else I said was information I easily found on the internet or is just basic common sense.

            October 2nd, 2013 9:43 pm
        • A

          Also note that the one source that does say 70% says “it is speculated” — aka we made this up — and that it’s 70% of beef and chicken (not red meat).

          I enjoyed the source that pointed out that these “facts” are being promulgated by a company that sells the currently-popular product for keeping meat red for longer, which would be devastated by the CO packaging.

          October 2nd, 2013 4:08 pm Reply
          • Diligent Dan

            A,
            What is beef if not “red meat”?

            Also, speculation does not imply that the statistics were “made up,” only that they weren’t exact. There are bases for them, but the data may be impossible to fully track, so it must be estimated. Can YOU visit every grocery store and butcher shop in America to get an exact count? If so, statistical analysis principles would indicate that the count would have changed while you were counting.

            While I, too, would like to know just *who* did the speculation, the fact that it is speculated to be OVER 70% still means that, at the least, over 50% of our meat is being packaged this way–and that’s enough to be misleading and alarming.

            MJ,
            The fact that opinions may not necessarily be facts does not, of itself, make those opinions invalid; especially when they are based on facts.

            Regarding your *opinion* that Sarah is “obsessing” over food, thank God that she and others do! It is my *opinion* that too few people worry about the food we eat, and that is precisely why America and all “developed” countries are experiencing epidemic obesity, cancer, ASDs, and so many other man-made or man-aggravated diseases.

            If you wish to point out specific factual errors, fine, but Ad Hominem attacks are uncalled for and do not move the dialogue forward in any constructive way.

            October 3rd, 2013 1:51 am
          • Diligent Dan

            MJ,
            Excuse me, but I don’t see *YOUR* sources for the claims you make! You made six assertions in your original post and yet did not list a single source, report, study, journal article or the like to back up your claims.

            Are you now of the *opinion* that it’s okay for YOU to claim your assertions are “easily found on the internet or [are] just basic common sense” and that we should blindly accept them? So YOUR assertions are to be believed, but not those of investigative reporters and authors who are active in this type of work everyday?

            I find the thought ludicrous. Please go attack someone else’s well-intentioned-even-if-not-perfect work. Oh, wait… . On second thought, don’t. Be part of the solution instead of the problem. Learn what the powers that be are doing to the common people and help fight the good fight against man’s inhumanity to man.

            October 3rd, 2013 2:28 am
        • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

          MJ .. the article states that “as much as 70%” of supermarket meat is treated with CO. This is an industry estimate. The problem is that CO treatment of meat has been given GRAS status (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the FDA so no one knows the EXACT amount as it doesn’t have to be reported and companies keep it as secret as they can (for good reason). Hope that helps. Tuna, by the way, is also treated with CO.

          October 3rd, 2013 4:35 pm Reply
    • SWolf

      If your so sure that the US meat industry is safe then why is horse meat being found in packages marked beef? Among other issues that have happened. It is not foolproof. And yes markets have been known to sell spoiled meat. They take it out of what it was first packed in then they repack it with a new date on it and try and sell it. Markets that cater to lower income families do this quite often is it right no do they get caught sometimes. Also many stores will freeze meat just before it’s sell by date so they again can repack it with a new sell by date on it once thawed out again. Now this practice is ok. I’ve seen so many markets do this especially with fish and poultry. You are putting way too much faith int eh US govt that they actually care about the people. And that supermarkets don’t do immoral practices just to turn a buck and that they will always get caught if they do something wrong. Wake up and take your blinders off

      October 2nd, 2013 12:39 pm Reply
      • MJ

        1. horse meat is not inherently unsafe to eat – just a cultural no-no in North America. People in France eat and enjoy horsemeat. Mislabelling the packaging is another matter. People should be able to rely on what the packaging label tells them is inside. It’s called “truth in advertising”.

        2. I certainly don’t think that the US meat industry is fool-proof, but as I said before – people who eat rotten meat get sick, and if all stores were regularly selling rotten meat then someone would notice – and the media would have a field day. Sarah is not talking about isolated markets, she is painting all supermarkets and the entire meat industry with the same brush. This is sensationalistic and over-simplified.

        October 2nd, 2013 2:24 pm Reply
        • SPS

          What ever way you look at it, if you buy a product from a company that says 100% beef and find out that there is horse in it . You should be able to get compensation from this company as if you wanted horse , you would buy horse .
          To me finding horse in my food is disgusting and very upsetting, like finding your pet dog or cat in your food .
          Also most of the horse found in 100% British Burgers came from Romania where the people were made to get rid of there Nags by the Romanian government to modernise the roads and transport . Food and glue , nice hay . X

          April 2nd, 2014 1:45 pm Reply
    • lightperson

      MJ…………..well said. People have so much anymore that it has caused them to go nuts.

      October 2nd, 2013 3:19 pm Reply
    • Julie in Alaska

      Love this comment! Thank you! I wish all this stuff would be answered so aptly!

      October 3rd, 2013 3:36 am Reply

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