What’s the Beef?


by Ana Grarian

Following is a quote from the NY Times on Sunday Oct. 4th 2009. The front page story is about a woman who is suffering the effects of a reaction to e-coli contamination in ground beef. I was completely thrown by the description of how ground beef is produced in the US.

“The frozen hamburgers that the Smiths ate, which were made by the food giant Cargill, were labeled American Chefs Selection Angus Beef Patties. Yet confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.

As a kid ground beef was ground IN the supermarket or butcher shop. Sometimes my mother would choose a piece of beef and have the butcher grind it for her. Other times she would choose the pre-ground beef that was made from the trimmings when the butcher cut up a side of beef IN THAT STORE.

Now I knew that ground beef today was more likely to have been ground in some huge meat packing plant where whole cows would be fed into the machine. I did not realize that ground beef was being made from scraps from slaughter houses in several different states and countries!

Using a combination of sources a practice followed by most large producers of fresh and packaged hamburger allowed Cargill to spend about 25 percent less than it would have for cuts of whole meat. ”

What the heck? Can someone please tell me how shipping scraps of meat around the world, grinding them, and them shipping them back out around the world can be cheaper than grinding and packageing at each slaughterhouse and shipping more locally? Someone obviously gets better shipping rates than I can find.

Could it be because instead of using “trimmings” they are actually using scraps and scrapings? A mash(?). Give me a break! Are they sweeping the floor? (wait don’t answer that!) We’ve heard this kind of thing before about hot dogs, but at least they are precooked. We’re talking about supposedly fresh ground beef here!

YUCK! Does anybody seriously want to eat this stuff?

As a farmer I am IRATE that the greedy, criminal business practices of corporations like CARGILL and Archer Daniels Midland are ruining a source of quality food. Not only are their practices of RAISING livestock hurting the animals, people and the nutritional quality of the meat, but so are their BUTCHERING and PROCESSING practices.

And don’t think that going vegetarian or vegan is going to save you. Here is a list of the top 10 food poisoning risks as reported by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group that tracks food safety issues.

1. Leafy greens 363 outbreaks; 13,568 cases

2. Eggs 352 outbreaks; 11,164 cases

3. Tuna 268 outbreaks; 2,341 cases

4. Oysters: 132 outbreaks; 3,409 cases.

5. Potatoes: 108 outbreaks; 3,659 cases.

6. Cheese: 83 outbreaks; 2,761 cases.

7. Ice cream: 74 outbreaks; 2,594 cases.

8. Tomatoes: 31 outbreaks; 3,292 cases.

9. Sprouts: 31 outbreaks; 2,022 cases.

10. Berries: 25 outbreaks; 3,397 cases.

Read more in the NY Times Tues. Oct. 13th issue or go to the Center for Science in the Public Iinterest website or to MakeOurFoodSafe.org. Then tell your grocer, your Congressman, your Senator and your State Representatives that you want SAFE, CLEAN, HEALTHY food produced in a humane manner.

Then find yourself a source of locally grown and packaged meat for your next meal. This isn’t the way farming is supposed to be people, and it’s not farmers who are profiting from these abysmal practices.

Wendell Berry wrote “Eating is an agricultural act”. We are not passive consumers of food but co-creators of the system that feed us. Our food dollars can go to nourish a food system that will nourish us.

Is food the smartist place to economize?

(Paraphrased from In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan)