PDA

View Full Version : Meat from a food animal with cancer: potentially gross thread



evilrooster
10-21-2013, 11:12 PM
I'm partway through a short story where a food animal (what it is is complicated and irrelevant to the story) gets cancer. When it does, the subsistence herders who live with it butcher it for what's usable: its bones, its hide, its sinews, etc.

Two questions:


What would the meat with tumors look like? I've seen gross-out photos of oozing yuck from the oh-barf-come-be-veggie sites. Are all tumors like that, or are some hard, or undifferentiated solid cells, or something else?
Assuming the tumors aren't squidgy and gross, and given that these people are living with very thin margins of survival, would they consider eating the meat? Either the stuff that didn't have visible tumors, or any inoffensive masses themselves?


Thanks for any information anyone can supply.

King Neptune
10-21-2013, 11:35 PM
I am not an expert in this field, but I have been told that cancerous chickens are common, and they are include in the food supply. I don't know about cattle, but most cattle are slaughtered before they have lived long enough for cancers to grow much.

Most cancers are specific to a species; they are genetic diseases, so they can't spread from species to species.

Australia, at least, allows cancerous cattle to be slaughtered.
http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agriculture/pests-diseases-and-weeds/animal-diseases/beef-and-dairy-cows/livestock-cancers

If you look around, then you should be able to find statements from the departments that regulate the food supplies of several countries.

Fenika
10-21-2013, 11:44 PM
Well, first you have to understand that if you eat meat in the US, you've already had meat where the *animals* had tumors. Either in certain organs (the skin being a major organ), or in the meat itself, though this is generally rare.

Frequently, a single or localized tumor is trimmed, but an animal with metastasis are totally thrown out.

So do you want the animal to have a gross looking tumor on the inside, a gross tumor on the outside (google squamous cell carcinoma +/- cattle for some real nightmares), or what? Your survivalists might have seen tumors before if they are slaughtering lots of animals, including wildlife (rarer though).

Tumors all look different, so you name it, we can get a list of possibilities (though if you want it in the meat, you are limited to tumors of the myocytes, a mutated nerve or other support structure in the meat that goes wonky. The later two being a tumor within a muscle rather than a muscle tumor.

You can look up lymphoma- those go from solid but swollen blobs, to blobs with rot in the middle (the tumor outgrows the blood supply).

Lymphoma is guaranteed to spread quickly, so most animals with that, have it systemically and look like crap.

With most tumors, even a carcass filled with them is safe to eat IF the animal is not septic (or viremic in the case of virus triggered cancers- but then the viruses can't cross to humans, so if viremic without sepsis are still okay- are you following this, it's very 'it depends'). So if not septic or wasting, you could technically eat the tumor with the animal.

And since we've grown (non-cancerous) muscle cells in a petri dish and made a hamburger, we've gotten close(r) to acceptance of eating a lump of similar cells.

The world health organization puts out a disposition guide for meat animal diseases and what they recommend doing with the meat. I suggest you find it and read up (it will also have nifty pics). Maybe someone could post the link here? It's designed for poor countries who need help deciding what to do, but it is in no way (at least it wasn't a few years ago when I used it for research) meant to be in depth or 'EAT THIS AND DIE, BUT THIS OKAY!'

Fenika
10-21-2013, 11:47 PM
I also wanted to add that extra limbs on young chickens and cattle are fairly common (bone, joints, muscle, skin and all). These are almost always trimmed and the rest used for food, UNLESS the animal is systemically ill.

wendymarlowe
10-22-2013, 08:19 AM
My only experience with this, it was a solid lump of cells which was easy to remove. (Whited out for the squeamish: I raised mice to feed my pet snake when I was a kid, and one of the mice had a significant tumor. My snake wasn't able to swallow it all the way and has no way to "back up" once he started eating, so my dad (a surgeon) and I removed the tumor to make the mouse smaller. It came right out, IIRC.

lbender
10-22-2013, 08:40 PM
Squeamish alert

I remember being at a seminar years ago where the lecturer said you could eat pus as long as you cook it well enough. I believe the same thing would apply to many cancers, although not all. If they're on subsistence level and it's a question of starve or eat, I'd say cook it and eat.

shaldna
10-23-2013, 01:53 AM
I am not an expert in this field, but I have been told that cancerous chickens are common, and they are include in the food supply. I don't know about cattle, but most cattle are slaughtered before they have lived long enough for cancers to grow much.

Most 'food chickens' are around 9-12 weeks old at slaughter, just for reference. Although they live for YEARS and grow to be complete beasties - seriously, if you ever get a chance to see a full grown adult chicken compare it to the size of the chickens you buy at the shop.

King Neptune
10-23-2013, 02:35 AM
Most 'food chickens' are around 9-12 weeks old at slaughter, just for reference. Although they live for YEARS and grow to be complete beasties - seriously, if you ever get a chance to see a full grown adult chicken compare it to the size of the chickens you buy at the shop.

Do you ever buy large chicken legs? Those come from hens that are being taken out of the egg suppliers. They may be more than two years old, which is getting on in years for chickens.

If you aren't familiar with chicken production, then try visiting a place where they are raised.

Fenika
10-23-2013, 03:34 AM
Two years is only old for a production hen, which is overbred to lay eggs.

Also, most quality meat is from younger cattle. Hamburger and other crap meat comes from cull cattle such as cull dairy. Well, some hamburger comes from premium animals, depending on whether it is worth more than odd cuts and scraps off the carcass.

We process many older cattle in the US. And old and young get cancer due to genetics and environment. It's more common with older animals of course.

Fenika
10-26-2013, 06:25 AM
Most 'food chickens' are around 9-12 weeks old at slaughter, just for reference. Although they live for YEARS and grow to be complete beasties - seriously, if you ever get a chance to see a full grown adult chicken compare it to the size of the chickens you buy at the shop.

Most the slaughterhouses I've been in are slaughtering chickens from ages of 45 days to under 60 days. Some will go a few days under 45 days too. They don't want the bigger chickens, and consumers have learned to look for the smaller birds/cuts, thus increasing demand. The difference of a weekend or a week is HUGE after 45 days. They are still in peak growth. I only see a few places doing birds over 60 days, though they are out there (I have a small sample size, but these are not small volume plants).

This will get me on a rant of wasteful practices, so I'll just say that yes, the difference in mature chicken size and slaughter chicken size is remarkable. This is also true for heritage chickens, which don't have as tight a growth curve, nor as high a feed conversion ratio. But they also have better genetics and are more likely to survive as adults and, aside from the viral cancers, they are much less likely to have any cancers.

evilrooster
10-26-2013, 10:38 AM
Thank you, everyone, for the answers. This gives me a range of options to work with.

These creatures are not intensively farmed -- the humans are nomads who follow them on their annual migrations. To be more specific: these are genetically modified descendants of whales, and the nomad society travels with the pod. When one of them dies, the nomads always butcher the corpse and use everything they can.

Given that cancer is common, they'll have traditions or rules regarding it. I think it'll be "don't eat the squidgy bits", but that solid tumors may or may not be eaten.

The death of this particular creature is important to the characters, and a turning point in the story. What of it they keep and what they return to the sea isn't hugely important, but I do want it to be plausible.

(Since these are whale relatives, I'm also suspecting that kidney failure will have made the meat salty, possibly too salty to eat.)

King Neptune
10-26-2013, 05:29 PM
Given that cancer is common, they'll have traditions or rules regarding it. I think it'll be "don't eat the squidgy bits", but that solid tumors may or may not be eaten.


You might even have some of the solid tumors considered delicacies.

Fenika
10-27-2013, 03:24 AM
One could always google Tumors as delicacies or Tumors in food or Tumors for food... I'm sure there's something. My interest in nasty, hideous tumors is over when studying them ends and frying them up begins...

Rockem Sockem Robot
10-27-2013, 08:18 PM
What would the meat with tumors look like? I've seen gross-out photos of oozing yuck from the oh-barf-come-be-veggie sites. Are all tumors like that, or are some hard, or undifferentiated solid cells, or something else?

Tumors have a variety of appearances depending on their location and stage of development. Some appear as nothing more than discoloration, some a mass of excess tissue, and I'm sure glandular tumors might seep biological fluids.


[LIST] Assuming the tumors aren't squidgy and gross, and given that these people are living with very thin margins of survival, would they consider eating the meat? Either the stuff that didn't have visible tumors, or any inoffensive masses themselves?



I have no idea what "squidgy and gross" means, but they'd be idiots to intentionally eat a diseased organism. Especially if it was visibly diseased. I have no idea what the effects of eating cancer-ridden cow are, but it's always considered unwise to consume any diseased livestock or game. And no, it's not considered safe to eat around the visibly diseased portions either.

Rockem Sockem Robot
10-27-2013, 08:37 PM
Regarding all of the comments about how safe eating most cancerous meat is, yes, that may be true the majority of the time, but without medical testing to determine the source of the cancer, there is no way to know it is safe to consume by observation alone. Not only are there several forms of cancers with varying trends of expression in the organ system they develop in, but each of those forms of cancer has multiple causes, several of which are highly environmental. If there are multiple tumors on an orgasm and it was an environmental cause, consuming any of the animal could be dangerous. In a survival situation eating a visibly diseased animal is dumb. There won't be appropriate medical care if it goes badly. That is what they teach US Army Rangers in Ranger school while instructing them on how to hunt, skin, and butcher game they catch.

imjustj
10-27-2013, 08:56 PM
I'm a bit confused -- do they discover the animal has tumours (perhaps they are visible) or do they slaughter the animal because it is ill? I think that if the animal is dying, they probably would *not* eat it, even if they were only marginally fed themselves.

On the other hand, if tumours are common and it is discovered before the animal begins to die, then I can see them consuming the meat. Even, as someone else mentioned, considering the tumour to be a delicacy. If the tumours are a delicacy, it would make sense for them to be actively checking the animals for signs.

At any rate, it is a very interesting discussion!

King Neptune
10-27-2013, 09:20 PM
I'm a bit confused -- do they discover the animal has tumours (perhaps they are visible) or do they slaughter the animal because it is ill? I think that if the animal is dying, they probably would *not* eat it, even if they were only marginally fed themselves.

On the other hand, if tumours are common and it is discovered before the animal begins to die, then I can see them consuming the meat. Even, as someone else mentioned, considering the tumour to be a delicacy. If the tumours are a delicacy, it would make sense for them to be actively checking the animals for signs.

At any rate, it is a very interesting discussion!

In the real world what you say is usually the case. Animals that are visibly sick should not be eaten, and such animals have been excluded from the food chain for a long time among ethical meat processors.

It is not rare for animals to have tumors that are discovered when the animal is cut up, or that are on parts of the body that are not usually eaten (eye cancers are fairly common in some breeds of cattle, as one example). If the animal was healthy when it entered the slaughterhouse, then parts that are not healthy are discarded (sent to the glue factory), while healthy parts enter the human food chain.

Few cancers are contagious, so there is very little danger of any health problem from eating tumors on cattle, chickens, swine, etc. Personally, I can think of better things to worry about, but I sure don't want to watch sausage being made, especially some of the lower quality brands.

Fenika
10-27-2013, 10:08 PM
I can tell you about two different types of US Slaughterhouses: The typical beef slaughter that Only slaughters cattle who have reached market weight, and the opposite extreme: Cull dairy plants. There are of course, slaughter plants that do a little of everything, or whatever comes in, or mostly beef and some odd balls, or what is called custom slaughter, which is what the owners bring in and take home for their own use.

Okay, so the beef animals typically come from a feedlot. Almost all of them have had some degree of respiratory illness (ex- 'Shipping Fever') and were treated with antibiotics (most or all, depending on the feedlot). You generally have great carcasses, with little pathology. But you can still have different diseases in otherwise healthy animals (say an abscess that was not noticed or is newly developing). Trim and eat, and no problem. You might get a cow or steer that was failing to thrive in the feedlot, or didn't recover from that shipping fever, or whatever. Sometimes these animals don't look that bad UNTIL YOU CUT THEM OPEN. They hide illness if they can, either because they are stoic or they don't want predators seeing them sick, domestic or not. It has nothing to do with ethics, necessarily (there are ethical and non-ethical producers and slaughterhouses, but that's got nothing to do with this discussion per se.) Now, can you have a baldie steer with cancer eye? Heck yes. 'Cancer eye' is technically a cancer of the tissues around the eye. Trim and eat, assuming no spread of the cancer. Got a cow with lymphoma? Usually condemned because lymphoma spreads fast. Got a healthy animal with a single lymphoma like lesion but is otherwise healthy? They might do some testing, but otherwise it is trim and pass. I was not exaggerating when I said if you've eaten meat in the US, you've had an animal with cancer at some point. Some of these cut offs for cancer in the US is more a technicality of when, visually, do we want to throw something away vs save it. It's not like a steer with one lump makes good/okay meat and a steer with two lumps has suddenly turned into a poisonous thing.

Now, a cull dairy plant? You name it, they've got it. It's really hideous. First of all, some cows come in and their feet have not been done in months (and it's VERY obvious). They have slipper feet, are in pain, and can barely walk from the pain and the mechanics of having horrible feet. Any idiot farmer can learn to do his cow's feet very nicely, but apparently many don't want to bother or their cows are 'too wild' or whatever. Anyways, lactation is very draining on the metabolism, especially for cows breed to produce, produce, produce. So the cull cows are usually skin and bones with some meat holding them together. Then there is so much pathology, the USDA inspectors are kept very busy. So focusing on the cancers, it's the same thing. Anything they can have they will. Now, any animal that is wasting away actively and rapidly such that the fat is breaking down systemically and pathologically (you can see this difference between the fat) means the carcass is getting tossed out.

I've heard that with systemically ill animals you have to cook them well to get the bacteria/virus/ AND TOXINS out of them, but I've not researched that to see if it's true. For a simple/basic/early infection, I'm sure it is, because there's no visual way to identify them in the millions of animals inspected and they go out in the food chain. I'm guessing anyone trying to survive off wild animals is just going to cook well and go for it.

GeorgeK
10-28-2013, 10:49 PM
(Since these are whale relatives, I'm also suspecting that kidney failure will have made the meat salty, possibly too salty to eat.)
Kidney failure isn't going to so much make the meat saltier as it will make the meat taste like urine. I really wouldn't imagine people wanting to eat that and if they did they'd probably do a lot of marinating and spicing. Also death from kidney failure starts out as nausea then anorexia, then increasing somnolence. It's doubtful that they'd be able to catch a cetacean dying of kidney failure. They'd just sink.

quicklime
10-29-2013, 12:56 AM
I also doubt you'd taste the increased salt; before it was easily detected by taste you'd have long passed toxic levels where electrolyte imbalance killed the animal.


I doubt subsistence hunters left a lot behind, including tumors, unless they were so obnoxious and garish the people did out of superstition and religious concerns (thinking for example of the tumors where they develop things like hair and teeth inside the tumor mass). Otherwise, its meat. And even if they know about things like papillomavirus, where the tumor is theoretically "catchy," then they likely also know cooking makes it safe.

quicklime
10-29-2013, 01:02 AM
Regarding all of the comments about how safe eating most cancerous meat is, yes, that may be true the majority of the time, but without medical testing to determine the source of the cancer, there is no way to know it is safe to consume by observation alone. Not only are there several forms of cancers with varying trends of expression in the organ system they develop in, but each of those forms of cancer has multiple causes, several of which are highly environmental. If there are multiple tumors on an orgasm and it was an environmental cause, consuming any of the animal could be dangerous. In a survival situation eating a visibly diseased animal is dumb. There won't be appropriate medical care if it goes badly. That is what they teach US Army Rangers in Ranger school while instructing them on how to hunt, skin, and butcher game they catch.


its worth noting the environmental stuff you're referring to and bioaccumulation of carcinogens is....messy. For one thing, what was enough to cause a tumor in a cow doesn't equate to "there is a tomor-worth of carcinogen X in that tumor, and you just ate it." Plus if it did, there is still questiions about its absorption, distribution, etc. within your body.

Yes, you CAN get cancers from eating things contaminated with toxins like PCBs in all likelihood, but it isn't that clean and neat. Take ten salmon from the Milwaukee river and the five with tumors will have a similar average load of toxins as the five without, in all likelihood. Those five with tumors weren't "super-poisoned," they developed cancer from the same insult as their neighbors.



All the above said, chances are ER's tribe isn't run by an anvironmental toxicologist and it isn't like they're running tissue samples through a mass spec to measure toxin types and loads. And early man probably hunted the sick over the healthy in most situations, like any predator. There's reasons NOT to, like transmission of disease, but there's a difference between rangers with MREs and rifles and folks scraping by....

King Neptune
10-29-2013, 02:29 AM
I doubt subsistence hunters left a lot behind, including tumors, unless they were so obnoxious and garish the people did out of superstition and religious concerns (thinking for example of the tumors where they develop things like hair and teeth inside the tumor mass). Otherwise, its meat. And even if they know about things like papillomavirus, where the tumor is theoretically "catchy," then they likely also know cooking makes it safe.

That's what I'm thinking too. Humans eat some pretty disgusting stuff, including carrion that is rather rotten.

Because of the timing of teeth getting smaller in evolution, it appears that humans probably initially started cooking about 1.3 to 1.5 million years ago, and they started by cooking meat. The obvious reason was that cooked meat doesn't make people sick as often as raw meat does. There was no real reason to cook vegetables, because they seldom made people sick.