Factory beef processing

Factory beef processing

We already know that conventionally produced foods are worse than those produced sustainably  although USDA and their agribusiness masters tell us otherwise everyday and even get laws enacted to keep consumers from knowing just how bad the food they buy really are.

Regarding beef, we already knew that hamburger contains “pink slime” (see Are Americans finally waking up to how bad their food supply is?) and many cuts of beef are injected with dubious solutions that add weight to the meat without providing any benefit other than allowing meat producers to make more money. With poultry, we already know how much fecal matter is allowable in what you buy in the grocery store.

Now, thanks to an investigation by the Kansas City Star, we have learned some more super scary things about beef. Luckily for me, since I got back from Iraq, I have not bought grocery store meats other than lamb, opting to spend a bit more and get quality locally produced grass fed and humanely slaughtered beef, pork, and chicken.

Here is the bottom line on the beef investigation. Prepare to be disgusted and you have USDA to thank for this. According to a Huffington Post article there is a food safety myth in the United States,

The beef industry was a mess, led to awful practices by the profit motives of a few major processing companies, until investigative journalist Upton Sinclair exposed many of the atrocities of the packing plants in his 1906 novel “The Jungle,” which spurred the establishment of federal meat inspections, improving safety forever. Today, beef and other meat sold in the U.S. is safer than ever.

The reality is far different. Some of the Kansas City Star findings include (full article here),

Needles inject all kinds of things into the beef, forcing E. coli away from the surface

Needles inject all kinds of things into the beef, forcing E. coli away from the surface

Federal inspection records obtained by The Star under the federal Freedom of Information Act include hundreds of references to fecal contamination problems over the last two years at four of the largest beef slaughter plants in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado. For example, at one of Tyson’s beef plants, inspectors noted: “massive fecal contamination; multiple carcasses with varying degrees of fecal contamination; periods of very significant fecal, ingesta and abscess contamination.”

Another federal inspector at Tyson found “a piece of trimmed fat approximately 14 inches long with feces the length of it,” and another noted, “fecal contamination …was so great…couldn’t keep up.”

More from the Huff Post article,

One thing that isn’t helping matters is the increasing use in the beef industry of mechanical tenderizing techniques, which use automated blades and pounders to tenderize tough beef — and drive E. coli away from the surface, where it’s most likely to be killed by cooking, and toward the center of a cut of meat.

The Star’s reporters also discovered that most cattle are fed a veritable cocktail of drugs designed to increase the efficiency of beef plants, at the possible cost of human health. About 90 percent of the cattle at major facilities are fed beta blockers that make them grow faster, but pose risks to human cardiovascular health. And the overwhelming majority of cows at large plants are given antibiotics that help them put on weight faster, but may also contribute to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans.

Costco gets their raw materials from conventional slaughter houses, let the buyer beware

Costco gets their raw materials from conventional slaughter houses, let the buyer beware

And, you may wonder, why isn’t USDA doing anything about this? That is simple. USDA is owned by agribusiness. 30% of the $71 million that land grant colleges in beef-producing states spent on beef related research was provided by beef producing companies. You think USDA researchers are going to do honest research with this cash cow?

Dream on and don’t buy conventionally produced beef. That is the moral of this story.

To add insult to injury, what is described here is perfectly legal and considered safe food by USDA, yet there are laws in almost every state that forbid a farmer from butchering his own animals and selling to consumers. He has to have an approved facility, something that is outrageously expensive and can be afforded only by the biggest producers. Yet, the crap we get in our groceries (pun intended) all come from approved meat processing facilities, blessed by USDA and FDA, who care nothing for actual food safety. The meat processors only care about profits. My advice is to do whatever it takes to buy locally from your area farmers regardless of USDA approved facilities or not. Those approvals mean absolutely nothing and may mean you are actually in danger.

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