Is it Safe to Eat Beef During the COVID-19 Outbreak?
Before we go into this blog post, we want to take a moment to recognize the severity of what is going on with COVID-19. What we are hoping to accomplish with this article is to provide some reassurance in regards to claims made that eating beef can either prevent the coronavirus or may make it worse. In a time of uncertainty, we want to bring you research to hopefully allow for some peace for you and your families. We also have provided some additional information in regard to extra precautions you can take to protect yourself as well as flatten the curve. Stay safe.
Alex & Belle
COVID-19 and Beef: Facts v. Fiction
As we try to keep ourselves busy while quarantined, Alex and I can’t help but notice social posts online that revolve around the current pandemic. In particular, I came across a tweet that maybe you all have seen! This tweet attacked the meat industry for perpetuating the current strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, and that by not consuming meat, you are better off and protecting yourself. We’ve also seen memes that argue for the opposite side and poke fun at the idea that beef cattle are vaccinated for coronavirus so by eating more beef you are immune to the virus (I really wish that one was true with the number of cheeseburgers I consume). However, neither of these scenarios are the case. Let’s dive into the truth that will stick with you.
Can Eating Beef Protect Me from Coronavirus?
Sadly no – you can be like me and eat it all you want – but that will not correlate to immunity of the virus. Cattle are vaccinated against bovine rotavirus-coronavirus, which is a completely different strain of coronavirus. Regardless, since antibiotics and vaccines are NOT transferable to humans through consumption, you will not become automatically immune to either strain of coronavirus.
That being said, there are nutritional benefits to eating beef that can help boost your immune system. For example, a serving of beef offers protein, vitamin B12, zinc, iron, along with six other essential nutrients for a healthy diet. While all of those nutrients are important, in the wake of the pandemic, zinc is what stands out to us. Zinc serves to help our bodies fight off infections and boost our immune systems. While beef is perhaps the easiest way to get your daily value of zinc, it’s not the only way. For those who do not consume beef, chicken also offers zinc although it is in a smaller amount (but hey, you could eat more of it if you like!). Finally, for our friends who are plant-based, beans, chickpeas, or lentils are recommended to help you meet your zinc needs.
Okay…So, Can Eating Beef Make Me MORE Susceptible to the Coronavirus?
Again, no. There are many reasons why this rumor exists, and I think it is important to debunk these accusations that lead to this.
Myth #1: Cows are vaccinated for coronavirus, so it is possible for the vaccine to transfer to the meat during processing, which then gets served at dinner. WRONG: Vaccinations are not present in any meat you buy. The USDA requires all animals to be administered an antibiotic or a vaccine to go through a withdrawal period before processing. This means the animal cannot be processed for a certain period of time and is routinely tested by the Food Safety and Inspection Service before processing to ensure there is no antibiotic or vaccination remaining in the animal’s system.
Myth #2: Since cows are vaccinated for coronavirus, they are more likely to perpetuate the virus and keep passing it on. WRONG: It is actually just the opposite. Coronavirus is indeed a virus that has been around for some time, but by cows having a vaccination for it, this allows the cows to stay healthy and keep it from spreading. Additionally, since the vaccination is not present in the final meat product, it cannot pass the virus to humans.
What you should be more worried about with beef is food handling and germination (but that isn’t anything new). Something I always advocate for is safe meat handling practices and safe animal handling practices. When you are working with raw meat, whether it is chicken, beef, or pork, it is critical to remember to wash your hands after you handle the product, allow the meat to have its own cutting board and knife to avoid cross-contamination, and most importantly, cook your meat thoroughly to 165 degrees (there is some variation here for steaks and roasts – see the graphic below.
Thoroughly cooking your meat is your best way to prevent any foodborne illnesses. Additionally, if you are in contact with livestock (maybe you are lucky enough to have your own or you recently visited a petting zoo!) be sure to wash your hands immediately before touching anything else.
Even though these messages seem repetitive – and I’m sure you have heard them all before – They are the barriers between you and becoming ill!
Where did COVID-19 come from then? Wasn’t it in a meat market?
At this point in time, research is currently suggesting that the COVID-19 pandemic originated in a wet market in Wuhan, China. Wet markets are best defined as markets selling fresh meat, fish, produce, and other perishable goods. In December of 2019, an outbreak of what was thought to be pneumonia occurred with a potential link to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China. On January 1st, 2020, the market was closed as a preventative measure with the first case of COVID-19 outside of China being reported on the 13th of January.
Research from China suggested that the coronavirus originated in bats but was transferred to humans through an intermediate animal. Conditions of pathogens transferring this way are perfect in wet markets so this theory makes logical sense. There is currently an ongoing study that supports a theory that the pangolin may be this unknown intermediate species that spread the virus to humans but it has yet to be peer-reviewed and there needs to be more research done.
For anybody who doesn’t know (I definitely didn’t) the pangolin is a scaled mammal that has an appearance similar to that of an ant-eater! They are protected globally as an endangered species but sadly face threats of poaching for bushmeat and their scales which are used for traditional medicine in other countries.
What do we do now?
Social distancing. Keep washing your hands. Check on your loved ones. Take good care of yourself.
The sooner we all practice these, the sooner we will see lives go back to normal. Remember, there is nothing wrong with staying informed but you deserve peace as well. Turn off the news for a bit, and give your brain a break.
Oh, and if you want some beef for dinner, eat it! There’s no harm in that.