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There is no doubt about it; many people love to eat red meat regardless of the pressing health and environmental concerns. In fact, in America alone over 40 million cows and steers are slaughtered each year for consumption purposes.

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There has been something occurring on the other hand, which is causing many cows to smile. More Americans are becoming allergic to red meat! This allergy is directly related to a bite from an insect called Amblyomma americanum, appropriately nick-named “The Lone Star Tick.”

Where Can The Tick Be Found?


The lone star tick can be found throughout the Eastern, South Eastern and South-Central states. The distribution, range and abundance of the lone star tick have increased over the past 20-30 years, they have been recorded in large numbers as far North as Maine and as far West as Central Texas and Oklahoma.

What Happens After You Are Bit?

While it seems insane that such a reaction could be caused by a tick bite, more people have been reporting an allergic reaction after the consumption of red meat, including: beef, venison, bison, and pork. The reaction can be so severe that the person who was bit may need to be rushed to the emergency room. The victim of the tick bite will generally see signs of the allergic reaction between 3 and 6 hours after the consumption of red meat, occasionally dairy products and in one case, twinkies. There is beef fat in twinkies, and this was enough to cause the allergic reaction.

The severity of the reaction can vary. Some people develop hives and a rash, some people have swelling and a tough time breathing while more severe cases could mean anaphylactic shock and a closed airway. Most of the tick’s victims are completely unaware of what caused the allergic reaction as they have eaten red meat their entire lives without any issues.

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What Causes The Allergic Reaction?

A type of sugar called alpha-gal that is present in beef, pork, venison etc. When it is ingested as food the body breaks it down and digests it as usual. This sugar is also present in the lone star tick, but when bitten, the tick injects this sugar directly into the bloodstream, which triggers an immune system response, and the body then treats it like an invader and develops anti-bodies to protect itself. Once the red meat is consumed, the anti-bodies that were developed will attack the alpha-gal that is present in the meat as well, thus causing the allergic reaction.

Food For Thought

I’m aware that to some people this probably seems like a well thought out plan from organizations like PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) to limit the amount of animals that are killed for food. To be honest my first thought was, “wow, Mother Nature is fighting back, with a vengeance.” This thought crossed my mind because the issue here is not only that the consumption of red meat is bad for our health but the animals that are being consumed are being mass-produced for the specific purpose of being slaughtered for consumption.

Not only is this extremely inhumane, but it is taking an astronomical toll on the environment as well. Did you know that 260 Million Acres (and counting) of US forests have been clear-cut to create land for producing feed for livestock? Did you know that 2400 gallons of water are needed to produce just one pound of meat? To learn more about the environmental concerns from mass animal production and consumption, please click here.

If this was the only symptom from the bite of the lone star tick, it would probably say something entirely different. But this bite comes with many other side effects and also has the potential to spread the bacterial infections ehrlichiosis and tularemia. The latter has the potential to be fatal.

What Can you Do To Avoid Getting Bit? 

  • Stay on paths and trails while hiking.
  • Wear long sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Use bug spray, preferably a natural one that doesn’t contain DEET.
  • Check yourself for bites after being outside for awhile, especially if in tick territory.
  • Shower right away.
  • If you are bit, keep the tick to have it tested for disease.
  • Know the symptoms and what the bite generally looks like.

Right now it is unknown how long the effects of the allergy will last, or if it can be permanent. There have been a few cases reported where the allergy dissipates over some time, but there has been no comprehensive study done to prove this.

Sources Used & Further Readings

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