Don't be alarmed, but be forewarned. Consumer Reports did a study about beef and superbugs.

MRSA and salmonella are real concerns, especially for those with weak immune systems. Here's what you should know.

What happens when you take beef purchased from 26 American cities, some of it raised conventionally and some of it raised sustainably, and test it for "superbugs"?

Consumer Reports ran just such an experiment, and we might want to pay attention to the results. First, let's get some definitions out of the way.

Here's how Merriam-Webster defines superbug:


And what is the difference between sustainably and conventionally raised beef?

  • Conventionally raised beef is from cows that are regularly dosed with antibiotics as a measure to try to prevent illness, instead of to treat it when a bacterial infection occurs.
  • Sustainably raised beef is sometimes also organic, but antibiotics definitely are not used unless a cow is truly sick with a bacterial sickness.

Here's what Consumer Reports found.

Image from USDA/Flickr.

Across 300 samples, totaling 458 pounds of beef (again, purchased from 26 American cities), antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria were found:

  • In 18% of conventionally raised beef.
  • In 9% of sustainably raised beef.

According to this study, your chances of coming across a big, bad superbug are double with conventionally raised beef. Some of us with super-strong immune systems may say, "Meh, I'll take my chances." But for some of the weakest among us with compromised immunity, this information could be crucial to limiting risk.

One organization is pushing back against the study, trying to reframe it positively.

“The real headline here is the bacteria that Consumer Reports doesn't report finding in their testing — Shiga toxin-producing E. coli."
— Betsy Booren, North American Meat Institute

In other words, a meat trade industry is saying the real headline here is that no E. coli was found. Since that was once the most common way to get sick from beef, that's definitely a good thing.

But it doesn't mean the concern about antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains isn't valid.

"In fact, the CDC estimates that each year more than 23,000 people die as a result of an infection caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria."
Consumer Reports "Beef Report"

So what do we do? Freak out? Be afraid of all beef? Nope!

The good news: There are things you can do to limit your risk.

Consider buying sustainably raised beef if you can afford it. But even if your beef is conventionally raised, being smart about how you cook it is key.

Ground beef is significantly more at risk because contaminants on the outside of beef get ground into the bulk of the meat, where it's harder to kill with heat. So burgers should always be cooked to at least 160 degrees internally (about medium).

Of course, one study does not a public safety rule make.

Hopefully more studies will follow this one soon to help consumers know for sure. But in the meantime, this knowledge, along with some helpful things to look for on packaging via Consumer Reports, can help limit your risk.

Because really, everyone just wants to enjoy their Royale With Cheese in peace.

GIF from "Pulp Fiction."

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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