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Beef: Is it what's for dinner?

(article, Caroline Cummins)

We love it. We hate it. We go on the Atkins Diet and gorge on it, then we go on the restricted-calorie diet and shun it. But we can't stop thinking about beef.

Finally, a practically minded reporter has laid it all out for us. Maxine Frith, in the Independent, lists the latest on cow. Pros? Beef is rich in zinc, iron, vitamins, and (duh) protein. Cons? Beef may be connected to Alzheimer's, arthritis, bone health, cholesterol levels, and certain types of cancer. (Beef produced in Europe, Frith points out, is free of growth hormones, which are common in the U.S. and may be linked to breast cancer.) 

Meanwhile, Marian Burros has pointed out in the New York Times that meat sold in the U.S. is often pumped full of water, salt, and chemicals. When the low-fat craze came around a generation ago, American consumers began demanding low-fat meat. Now the industry, in an effort to replace the flavor and tenderness lost by breeding leaner meat, is injecting taste and mouthfeel with needles. 

"Each day," writes Burros, "it’s becoming less likely that the meat you buy in the supermarket is just meat." Injected meat adds unknown quantities of salt and chemicals to the diets of unwitting customers. It also subtracts money from their wallets: water injections make meat weigh more, and therefore cost more per pound.

And, sighs Burros, the meat still doesn't taste any better.