Americans consume somewhere in the ballpark of 5 billion hamburgers a year. To keep up with this demand, just over 4100 cows are slaughtered every hour in the U.S. That’s a lot of dead cows! When 68 cows a minute are slaughtered you can bet that mistakes are made or parts are shifted into the wrong areas. A study published in the Annals of Diagnostic Pathology helped to discover just how much “shifting of parts” is really going on.
The study presumed that most hamburgers are composed primarily of meat. 8 different popular fast food hamburger brands were tested using histologic methods. The burgers were evaluated for water content by weight and then microscopically to verify tissue types. An additional test known as Glial fibrillary acidic protein staining was used to test for brain tissue. We’ll give you the good news first, none of the eight samples had brains in them. Unfortunately that is as good as it gets.
The mean water weight of the burgers was about 50%. Now for the strange part, actual meat content in the burgers ranged from 2.1% to 14.8 percent. That’s right, the product that you are expecting to get is only 2-14% of what you really think it is!
What made up the rest of the burger you ask? Well a variety of fun and interesting tissue types were found. The tissues found other than skeletal muscle tissue aka meat, were connective tissue, blood vessels, peripheral nerve, adipose tissue, plant material, cartilage, and bone. That’s not all folks, also found in some of the burgers were intracellular parasites known as Sarcocystis. An animal is infected with Sarcocystis when it ingests material contaminated with the infected feces of another animal. Below is a fun little info graphic on the life cycle of this parasite.
How do you avoid a hamburger that is not even made of meat and that can give you parasites? Well, you can avoid eating meat for starters. But for those of us who enjoy the occasional red meat you can find a local, sustainable, farmer, who raises cattle in grass pastures and organically. Grass fed meat is healthier, less susceptible to disease, and pastured cattle are raised in a much more humane way ( via realfarmacy.com ).