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Christopher "Tanoro" Gray is a web programmer and science advocate especially concerned with resource management technologies, biology, and artificial intelligence. He is a student of epistemology and philosophy as well as an Atheist competent in Christian theology.
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Meat and Carbon Monoxide
Posted by: Tanoro - May 25, 2012 6:39PM

There is more paranoid propaganda floating around. Sometimes, the conspiracy theorists pick the most obscure and unimportant behaviors of industry in order to scrape their nonsensical crap into something that deceptively looks rational. Today, one of my friends on Facebook posted this little gem.

Decayed Meat Treated With Carbon Monoxide To Make It Look Fresh At The Grocery

Most meat eaters may be unaware that more than 70% of all beef and chicken in the United States, Canada and other countries is being treated with poisonous carbon monoxide gas. It can make seriously decayed meat look fresh for weeks. The meat industry continues to allow this toxic gas injection into many of the meat products people consume on a daily basis. The question is, how many people have become ill by this chemically altered meat that is being sold to families all over the world?


Here is the deal. According to the above scoop of dumbassery, 70% of all meat handled in the developed world is treated with carbon monoxide. The reason why is because the meat processing establishment knows their meat products are spoiled and gassing the meat with CO, a known poisonous gas, makes the meat look fresh. It can then be deliberately sold to the unsuspecting public who will consume it and become sick. The Illuminati are ingenius, indeed!

First, let me deliver the facts. The meat packing industry certainly does gas the beef with CO in order to make the meat appear more red and, thus, look more fresh. The nonsensical part is the claim that this is done in order to cover up a conspiracy intent on selling us all spoiled meat and/or tricking us into consuming meat treated with poison gas. Let me knock down some prerequisite facts that will help inspire an understanding. Many people don't know that the red liquid on your steak is not, in fact, blood. The blood in any slaughtered animal, save for trace amounts, is drained during processing. Why is meat red then? Meat contains a protein called myoglobin (Mb) that mixes with water. This protein is related to hemoglobin, the protein in the red blood cell that carries oxygen. You may already see where this is going. Myoglobin is a protein that binds iron and oxygen. As the meat sets, the iron in the Mb will change oxidation states and the meat will slowly turn brown. That's what meat does. If we treat meat with carbon monoxide, the iron atoms in the Mb bind to the CO rather than oxygen, causing the bright pink color to emerge.

Marinated steakHere is an important bit. Meat that has simply browned is NOT spoiled. Anyone who has ever marinated a steak, thawed a log of ground beef for grilled hamburgers, or field dressed a deer can explain this. Meat turns brown rather quickly when it sets. Most of us, however, have no referent for comparison, because we don't necessarily know if the meat we buy is treated with CO. However, there is a way to fact-check this notion of browned meat and its health risks. Venison, like beef, is a red meat. In preparation for this blog, I picked up the phone and called my friend, Morgan Richardson, a long-time deer hunter and deer forest manager for the Campbell Group LLC. I asked him some simple questions about the behavior of deer meat when it is field dressed. Obviously, deer hunters tend not to include facilities for gassing their meat in the hunting equipment. Therefore, if deer meat behaves as beef does, we can make two inferences: 1.) Every deer hunter eats spoiled meat because all of their meat is browned; 2.) Browned meat isn't spoiled.

Fresh, brown venison steaks1. Have you ever dressed your own deer, Morgan?


2. Do you treat your deer meat with anything to alter its color or the appearance of freshness?

No. Most hunters just dress the deer, wrap it, and throw it in the freezer.

3. How long would you say deer meat will last at room temperature before turning brown?

When you're dressing your own deer, the meat is already pretty brown. By the time you're finished dressing it, about 30 minutes or so, it's very brown.

4. Is browned meat safe to consume?

It's completely safe. Meat doesn't spoil just from turning brown. Meat is spoiled when bacteria grows on it, giving the meat a slight green tint to it. Meat can also just dry out or get freezer burned, but just turning brown is no indication of the meat spoiling. People tend to think this way because of the really red meat we buy in stores. We have this idea that meat is not spoiled when it looks as fresh as the stores sells it and it must be spoiled if it doesn't look that way anymore.

Now, let's discuss the risks of having the CO on the meat. Does CO pose any toxicity risks of its own? Five minutes of searching the peer reviewed journals turned up some compelling research on this very topic.

Retail meat can be packaged in gas mixtures containing 60–70% carbon dioxide (CO2), 30–40% nitrogen (N2) and <0.5% carbon monoxide (CO). This gas mixture with CO provides a unique combination of a long microbiological shelf life and a stable, cherry red colour of the meat. The shelf life of meat packaged in the CO mixture is longer than that of meat packaged in the commonly used atmospheres with high oxygen (O2), that is, approximately 70% O2 and 30% CO2. The consumption of meat that has been packaged in a CO mixture will result in only negligible levels of carboxyhaemoglobin in the blood. It is highly improbable that the use of CO in the packaging of meat will present a toxic threat to consumers.

So, the experts have already looked into this and concluded that it is highly unlikely that anyone would feel any toxic effects from eating meat treated with carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide treatment of meat is done simply to make the meat look more appealing and nothing more. It's not spoiled meat and the CO poses no significant health concerns.

It is important to remember that no substance is inherently toxic. Too much of any substance can kill you, including water or oxygen. The dose makes the poison. Trace amounts of CO on your meat simply can't hurt you. Neglecting your skeptical mind in the presence of pseudo-science claptrap, however, is hazardous to us all.

This blog is an editorial and contains only the opinions of the author. The author claims no expertise on most topics of discussion and this blog is not to be cited as an alternative for properly vetted journalism or scientific sources.

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