You are what you eat, so it is said. In that light I would like to propose a series of studies that might be of interest. For the majority of Americans who eat meat, said meat is usually the product of American agra-business conglomerates who generally treat the food animals with the same disregard that they show the consumer. The animals are often piled into cramped and minimally sanitary conditions and slaughtered with little regard to the suffering of the animals. Now I'm not going to argue the merits, morality or limitations of eating meat. What I am going to propose is that if meat is going to be consumed, that we should study the potential human health affects of inhuman treatment of food animals. If not for purely humane reasons might there not be practical reasons for treating the animals well. Ok Pliny, what they heck are you driving at? Simply this; is it possible that animals that are poorly treated produce meat that contains higher than normal concentrations of stress hormones? If that is true, is the consumption of those hormones a potential health risk?
Ok, we know that animals produce stress hormones when stressed (duh). Cortisol is one such hormone. Excessive cortisol is harmful to humans. It leads to central obesity, hypertension, poor wound healing and a myriad of other problems with prolonged exposure. We have seen a change in the pattern of obesity in the US. This could be from a number of factors. Could one such factor be exogenous cortisol present in food? (answer: unknown).
One might argue that such hormones would be digested. But keep in mind that oral administration is a common route for steroid therapies. Plus in many cases it is the break down products derived from metabolism of a substance that may be harmful.
I suspect that this might be studied in stages. Stage one: compare assays of tissue hormone levels from two animal cohorts. One might be a selection of range feed animals vs the typical agra-business processing. If tissue levels were similar, then the experiment might be over. But if not, then additional studies might be indicated. The first might be too study the bioavailability of the hormones when subjected to digestive enzymes say. Later studies might examine matched populations who consume range feed animals vs more factory processed meats.
I'm not saying that this would show any health risks but it seems like it might be time to consider the impact of the food animal's health and treatment to the ultimate health of the consumer.