Why beef is losing its flavor

Feedlots have begun giving cattle a drug that causes the animal to bulk up on muscle, losing fat in the process.

By Kim Peterson Feb 14, 2013 6:04PM
Image: Close up of steak and salad -- Image Studios, UpperCut Images, Getty ImagesIf you think steaks don't taste as flavorful as they used to, you might be on to something.

Feedlots have begun giving cattle a new drug with a curious side effect: It makes steaks less flavorful and juicy, Slate reports. But the drug, Zilmax, helps cattle bulk up on muscle in the last few weeks of their lives -- which brings in more money for feedlot owners.

Zilmax was originally created to help people with asthma, Christopher Leonard writes on Slate. But animal researchers found that it makes animals produce more muscle and less fat. That means there are more pounds of beef to sell, but the meat doesn't have that glorious marbling that turns a steak into a masterpiece on the grill.

Zilmax is sold by Merck Animal Health, one of the fastest-growing units of Merck (MRK). On its website, Merck describes Zilmax as "a feed supplement that enables an animal’s natural metabolism to more efficiently convert feed energy to lean, healthy, delicious beef."

Four major meat companies control 85% of the market, Leonard writes, and they reportedly all use Zilmax now. They include Tyson Foods (TSN), JBS SA (JBSAF), Cargill and National Beef Packing Co. Cargill reportedly resisted using Zilmax for years, but finally got on board last year when everyone else was doing it.

Last year's drought made it even easier for Merck to sell Zilmax. Farmers were forced to keep herds low, in fact the size of the U.S. cattle herd fell to its smallest since 1952. But Zilmax lets a feedlot owner get more meat from the cow without having to give it any additional food and water. Leonard reported that the drug could add 33 pounds of extra meat to a cow, making the animal about $30 more valuable.

Merck Animal Health says that Zilmax doesn't cause the quality of steaks to suffer, and that people can't tell the difference between beef that has and has not been treated with the drug.

Zilmax usage has really taken off since 2011. If Merck is right, you may have not noticed a thing. But if you've wondered recently why steak suddenly seems more muscular, less fatty and a bit more bland, now you have your answer.

More on moneyNOW



Tags: Food
544Comments
Feb 14, 2013 8:59PM
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I had to add beef flavoring to my T bone steaks. :/
Feb 14, 2013 8:59PM
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This is another reason to go grass fed/finished.  I won't eat meat "grown" conventionally.  Unhealthy for me and inhumane for the cows.
Feb 14, 2013 8:56PM
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Don't blame Capitalism, get proactive and petition to have the lobbied/bribed/shady government reps holding perennial seats in the various departments of our government to include the FDA, FCC, EPA, FEMA, FBI, etc. What happened is that we removed Bush but half the staffs he hired and the systems he implemented are still running right under the nose of Obama, without him being the wiser. These FDA cats were the same who a few years ago approved the sale of CLONED meat without identifying labels. They would let these "FOOD" tycoons to sell you meat grown in a test-tube like in the movie splice-without any additional organs, let alone faces.
Feb 14, 2013 8:54PM
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that's probably why i don't get sick anymore. all those antibiotic's.
Feb 14, 2013 8:52PM
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"Merck Animal Health says that Zilmax doesn't cause the quality of steaks to suffer".

I'll be the judge of that.
Feb 14, 2013 8:50PM
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Lets face it from Chickens to Barry Bonds everyone seems to be on a steroid kick. The simple fact that our stock yards and feed lots are irradiated and pumped with steroids should scare the hell out of all of us.  If you want grass fed beef you will have to raise your own cattle..  Believe it or not Monsanto is to blame for most of this.
Feb 14, 2013 8:49PM
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this is a good reason for people to limit their meat intake and switch to beans, grains, and fish for healthier eating.  who knows what it does in a humans body after we have eaten it. it is just another chemical/drug we do not need to ingest.
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Now just what can those poor devils trapped living in big cities do about it? Nothing! Just eat the crap.

Those in smaller towns can buy meat from a local kill house or butcher shop. The cattle eat ggrass and hay, yum yum! You can grow your own chickens and prcess them. You will be amazed what REAL chicken tastes like. And then there's rabbits. You do not have to eat this crap.

Feb 14, 2013 8:46PM
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I also noticed that it is real tuff to chew and that sometimes you get a cut of meat that has a really nasty taste to it. I really don't by steak that much anymore because of those reason.

Feb 14, 2013 8:46PM
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You have to wonder if there's been a study to see if there is a link between Zilmax and body composition in humans. 

I don't eat much beef but this surely doesn't make me want to eat any more! 
Feb 14, 2013 8:44PM
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I would like to clarify a few issues.  All cattle are grass-fed during the beginnings of their lives.  Ranchers would love to be able to feed their herds more grass, but they don’t have grass.  There is a draught on the western half of the United States.  This is why herds are much smaller or non-existant.  Cattle go to feedlots to receive high nutrition feed to finish off their ‘bulking up’.  Before that animal can proceed to becoming your steak or roast, it has a waiting period and testing to make sure any chemical residue is gone from the meat.  So you are not feeding your children ‘chemicals’ when you feed them a beef product.  Less tasty?  Taste comes from the fat and marbling content of the meat.  The consumer is demanding a leaner product.  When you remove the marbling from the meat, it does tend to become less tender and flavorful.  The use at home of marinades and rubs will enhance the flavor of the meat while preserving its leaness.  It all depends on what you want to eat.  So please pray for rain so there is grass to feed the cattle.  And pray for the rancher who is working 24 hours a day, no matter what the weather,  to care for his cattle and his land.

Feb 14, 2013 8:44PM
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As usual people fall for the promise of 33 more pounds of extra meat...quantity not quality. Reminds of the SNL skit Russian brides. Media has been dumbing us hown and retailers numbing us into thinking we are getting a deal that actually compromises Mother Nature and our health.

  

Feb 14, 2013 8:42PM
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eat ,more chicken, less beef, unless you grow your own!~~
Feb 14, 2013 8:40PM
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I will continue to harvest White-tailed deer. The meat is lean and tender with no steroids or other drugs.

Add in some wild duck and pheasant or rabbit for variety and I never have to purchase these disease causing meats.

I realize the American farmer/rancher will suffer if a lot of people follow my example but better him suffering than me.

Feb 14, 2013 8:38PM
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not from a store meat wise.  We all share.  Hunters, farmers and fisherman.  It works out really well

Feb 14, 2013 8:38PM
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We quit eating red meat years ago. The surgeon  who operated on my dad when he was dying of colon cancer called my sister and I into his office and told us that this disease is predominantly a western problem because we consume so much red meat. It's unheard of in some nations where it's not part of their diet. He said It takes so much longer for your body to clear itself  from a red meat diet that it forms acids and chemicals of which I forget what he called them that over time it attacks the system with unwanted bacteria. It just stays in our colons too long. My folks ate red meat almost every day and they both died from colon cancer. The surgeon convinced us to let it alone. Now when we try it about a couple of times a year it makes us feel ill. Seems like our systems have to build some sort of resistence to it and we lose this over time from staying away from it.
Feb 14, 2013 8:38PM
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I'll stick to grass fed organic beef. Since I don't eat it everyday, I can afford better quality!
Feb 14, 2013 8:33PM
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I'd much rather pay more for cows that have been treated and fed properly than force fed, confined, drugged up cows. The trouble is that most of Americans would either balk at the price increase or literally be unable to afford beef anymore due to the fact that the amount of money we are paid doesn't match up with the cost of living. Americans love everything cheap, so they cut corners and do shady things like this so they don't have to spend more on "giving them more food and water."

Wouldn't that be weird if they did that to humans if we ran low on food? The amount of food grown isn't distributed equally among all of the countries anyways. Why don't they sell a drug like this to countries in Africa? "No, no, no! You don't need to give your people more food or water. Just give them this drug! Problem solved!"

Absolutely disgusting the way all of our meats are handled. Beef, poultry, AND fish. They're all bad.
Feb 14, 2013 8:32PM
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Now we wait to see what the side effects are on the humans consuming this crap.  I believe a lot of the illness today is from the chemicals and drugs put into the food chain through animal feed, fertilizers, pesticides, etc.  We do not have to cut down much on beef as who in the hell can afford it anymore.
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