Carbon Monoxide Keeps Supermarket Meat Red Even if It’s Spoiled
The fact is that as much as 70 percent of meat sold in stores is treated with carbon monoxide to keep the meat a deceptively fresh looking red color.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that is almost impossible to see, taste or smell. It is emitted from car exhaust pipes, gas powered lawn mowers, chimneys, gas stoves (if not used properly), unvented space heaters, & charcoal grills.
The industrialized meat industry (aka Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations – CAFO) insists that treatment with carbon monoxide, called “modified atmosphere packaging” (MAP), is necessary due to the difficulty of keeping meat at the proper temperature while in grocery store coolers.
The internal temperature of retail meat is not supposed to exceed 39° Fahrenheit (4° Celsius) at any time. An increase of just a degree or two can result in an enormous increase in bacterial growth. For example, raising the temperature from 28°F (-2° C) to 29°F (-1.5° C) can cut the shelf life of meat in half.
The problem stems from ultraviolet light from the grocery store display lights heating up the surface temperature of the meat much higher than the thermometer reading in the display case.
This occurs due to penetration of the UV light into the meat packaging similar to how our skin can burn even on a very cold day when the sun in shining.
Due to the struggles with temperature consistency, atmospheric packaging was developed. When meat is exposed to carbon monoxide, it reacts with the myoglobin in the blood giving the meat a bright red color. Fresh beef is naturally red, & as it ages, it becomes brown or grey. The carbon monoxide keeps it looking artificially fresh for up to a full year by restricting the growth of bacteria that proliferate from the increased heat of supermarket meat display cases.
True to form, the industrialized meat industry says that, unlike inhalation, carbon monoxide is not harmful when it is ingested via meat treated with atmospheric packaging.