While mercury-laden fish may be bad, red meat is worse

I was reading the article John posted yesterday about the shocking amount of mercury in some fish.

I’m a big fish eater, and would prefer eating seafood over anything else any day of the week. Since I grew up fishing, I have a better idea about where fish are on the chart, in terms of what’s safe, what isn’t, and how many times a week or month you can eat each fish (but yeah, it’s confusing!). And I do try to balance out what makes sense and what’s too much. I’d say we eat fish once or twice per week, but I do try and make them different types of fish just to be safe.

As bad as the fish problem is, however, that only tells part of the story. It still might be safer to eat fish than red meat.  I don’t eat much red meat because many more studies show how dangerous it is to your health.  Eating red meat leads to higher rates of colon cancer, plus you have the problems related to the massive doping they do on cows. The US is much worse with allowing drugs in cows than Europe, but over here in Europe we now have the horse problem. I don’t have anything necessarily against eating horse meat but the drugs they give horses raise many question marks because they weren’t necessarily prepared with consumers in mind.

For industrial farming, there is what many consider to be a problem with antibiotics. They’re used too often on factory farms and more people are raising potential red flags about their overuse and negative health impacts on humans.

Others in the farming industry argue otherwise and claim it’s not a problem but I’d rather be on the side of caution. The unfortunate reality with factory farming is that there are so many animals packed in close quarters, failure to dope can mean costly problems for the farm. But still, when animals are doped more than the East Germany women’s Olympic swim team, I’d rather be extra cautious.

Food via Shutterstock

Food via Shutterstock

Then you have chickens, and the same massive doping problems that you have with cows become an issue. Our chickens here in France are puny compared to the jumbo American chickens, but even still, I try to limit my intake of them.

Even being a vegetarian has its risks with the chemicals used on fruits and vegetables, and the remnants of it on the skin. Realistically the only healthy option out there is pure organic vegetarian. Everything else comes with risks. No matter what we eat, we need to be balanced and we need to be paying attention to either the fish chart or something else. At least with the fish chart it’s an actual chart. With red meat or chicken, you need to do your own research.

I know for my wife and me, I’m trying to do more vegetarian dinners (organic, when possible) because it’s the safest option out there, plus there’s less fat. After winter eating, less fat is a good thing.

It’s frustrating to be a consumer who doesn’t want to die from dangerous food but for now, that’s just how it is. The best we can do is read up, try to make educated decisions and then hope for the best.

Who thought a visit to the grocery store could be so challenging?

An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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22 Responses to “While mercury-laden fish may be bad, red meat is worse”

  1. samizdat says:

    Prophylactic use of antibiotics in CAFO operations should be banned. Completely.

  2. BeccaM says:

    Actually Oscar Wilde.

  3. BeccaM says:

    During. First fish we avoided were the scavengers and bottom-feeders. Also predator fish in general.

  4. Bread & fishes?

    But, if I remember correctly, that was before the 1st coal-fired power plant went on line.

  5. Shades of Yogi Berra?

  6. Are ya sure it was chicken? Sounds ta me like something from Mars.

  7. Was that before or after they all became mercury laden?

  8. There’s nothing some people won’t will do for a buck:


  9. That’s why Chris prefers fish.

    Oh, Oh… gotta run.

  10. OtterQueen says:

    I made some chicken stock last night from a local small farm chicken. My usual practice is to refrigerate the stock over night and then skim the fat off. When I took the stock out of the fridge, I noticed it had about half the fat of the usual grocery store chicken, and it was soft as opposed to a hard plank on top of the stock. I’m no food scientist, but that just seems healthier to me. And both the stock and the chicken had a lot more flavor.

  11. karmanot says:

    It all a matter of scales.

  12. BeccaM says:

    Sadly, we have several problems here, but two are top of the list IMHO:
    – We’re heedlessly polluting the environment in which we raise our food, whether it be meat, fish, fruit, nuts, or vegetables. The inevitable result is our food has been gradually becoming more toxic, it’s just a question of which items are more toxic than others.
    – Our hominid population is well over the carrying capacity of planet Earth, and this is exacerbated by our preference for high environmental-impact foods as well as our habit of burning fossil fuels to ship them all over the globe.

    That all said though, life is a terminal condition. Maybe some of us could eke out a few more months or years by eating like a penitent, but what’s the point? In the end, we all end up dead, and in the meantime I think I’d prefer not to obsess over whether it’s okay to eat some tilapia or to have a hamburger now and then.

    I try to live by the old saying, “Moderation in everything, including moderation.”

  13. Naja pallida says:

    In the US, “organic” isn’t really a viable option for safety. “Organic” is just a marketing term, and while its use does have legal requirements, the USDA doesn’t really have the manpower or funding to adequately police it, and food producers, as they are wont to do, have whole teams of lawyers to give them any possible loophole. Such as using vaguely similar terms, to fool customers. Or they put one organic ingredient in a processed pile of crap so they can have the term ‘organic’ somewhere on the labeling.

    Even with organic produce, that doesn’t mean they don’t use fertilizers and pesticides. It just means those fertilizers and pesticides have to be derived from natural sources. So they flood fields of spinach with e.coli and salmonella laden fertilizers, and if that produce isn’t adequately cleaned we end up with something like the e.coli organic spinach recall a few years ago. There are several organic pesticides which while “natural”, typically have to be used in larger doses than non-organic pesticides, so can potentially pose a greater environmental risk.

    It’s all a damned if we do, damned if we don’t. I’ve taken to growing many things myself in my own backyard garden, but I’d need a lot more land if I was going to produce a majority of my own food.

  14. BeccaM says:

    Um, yeah. I grew up in a family that hunted and fished, and we knew there were some fish and game animals that were good to eat, some best eaten sparingly, and some that were best not caught or eaten at all. What’s so remarkable about that?

  15. I imagine that anglers would tend to be better informed on the safety of eating various species of fish and how often, yes.

  16. I wasn’t aware that adding a gene for glyphosate resistance to a plant rendered it less nutritious. You can object to that sort of thing on better grounds without the histrionic claim that its results aren’t “real food”.

  17. Ted says:

    “Since I grew up fishing, I have a better idea about where fish are on
    the chart, in terms of what’s safe, what isn’t, and how many times a
    week or month you can eat each fish (but yeah, it’s confusing!).” LOL. So growing up fishing gives you insight into food safety? Who knew.

  18. dula says:

    Lawd, what would Jesus eat?

  19. Snaggletooth says:

    “It’s frustrating to be a consumer who doesn’t want to die from dangerous food”

    Nah, whats frustrating is not being able to afford the food you should be eating and having to eat chemical laced, GMO foods because real food is 4x the price. You know your eating shit, but the only option is to simply go hungry. Sometimes I wish I could eat less, but doing physical labor and being part of the working poor, means no cushy desk jobs and a high caloric intake…

  20. silas1898 says:

    Not eating is also deadly. We’re doomed.

  21. hollywoodstein says:

    If people only knew how much our food supply, and pollutants in the air, land and water are sickening us and killing us and our kids. Much more than al quaeda.

    But no regulations, cuz Freedom!!

    And growth!
    Forever, growth.
    Because that’s a sustainable model.
    I went off the grid as much as possible about ten years ago. Grow my own, but I can afford to. We couldn’t feed 300 million that way.
    Or could we? We’ve never tried.

  22. Drew2u says:

    You’re talking ‘Industrial Farms’ and ‘Factory Farms’ which is a much different animal than actual Family Farms.

    With that said, look at the Dairy State, Wisconsin. The farmers there are in a battle over agricultural land being disposed of in place of hilltop removal of topsoil, grasses, and trees in order to get at the silica sands for fracking by the oil industry. The mining companies can cover up the sand pits with soil when they are done with it, but it’s useless for farming.

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