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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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

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Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
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