Irradiate My Safety

Herd About It?

by Ana Grarian

The American Meat Institute (AMI) is urging the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to move forward with the rule making process regarding its petition to allow electron beam irradiation (e-beam) to be applied to the surface of beef carcasses as a processing aid, and that the agency treat this process no differently than it treats any other processing aid, AMI Executive Vice President James Hodges noted, adding that AMI has provided the necessary research and rationale to support our request.

The Humane Society of the United States and a coalition of environmental and public health organizations filed a legal petition with the Environmental Protection Agency seeking to regulate air pollution from factory farms. The 69-page petition provides detailed scientific and legal information about the significant emissions of methane and nitrous oxide two greenhouse gases as well as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia from factory farms, and how all of these pollutants have been shown to have negative effects on human health and welfare, including adverse effects on climate and the environment in the United States.

I was struck by these two articles in the October 2009 Animal Ag E-letter by the Illinois Farm Bureau.

The American Meat Institute wants to irradiate our meat to make it safer? Really? Wow. I really want my meat to be safe without irradiation. I don’t think I can actually conceive of the idea that irradiated meat is safe. Safe from what? Improper handling of livestock coming into slaughter houses? Improper handling of carcasses and meat products going through the slaughter house? Livestock with guts containing high levels of antibiotic resistant e-coli due to crowded feedlot pens, insufficient manure handling, low level feeding of antibiotics, the feeding of animal and slaughter house waste back to livestock? Is there some way that our meat could be safe without irradiation? Like maybe correcting the above practices?

Could correcting the conveyor belt/assembly line processes of raising livestock, milking cows and processing food also correct the problems of air pollution from factory farms? To quote a real(?)maverick – “you betcha’!”. And in all fairness to the farm immortalized in her ill back dropped speech – that wasn’t the kind of high volume slaughter house I’m talking about. Somehow I don’t think the guy who is putting turkeys into that decapitator one by one has a compatriot in another shed irradiating holiday poultry.
From what I could determine by a web search the farm in question (Triple D) is an organic poultry farm producing less than 400 turkeys and having about the same number of laying hens. Though they do produce thousands of meat birds and chicks. Now I can’t vouch for their handling or feeding practices as I have never been there but they sure don’t seem to be a ConAgra kind of operation.

(And isn’t that a weird statement in itself? ConAgra / con-agra / against-agriculture?/ against-agrarianism?)

What’s interesting is that it seems Triple D’s smaller operations in eggs and turkeys are what is keeping them afloat financially. You can check Triple D out on their website

http://www.alaskatripled.com/about_us.html

All in all I’d rather eat less meat, pay a little more for it and not have it irradiated or washed with ammonia.

And speaking of ammonia. There’s an old county saying “Smell that fresh country air! Just don’t step in it!”. Yep, raising livestock means manure and manure smells. It’s the ammonia and other volatile chemicals in manure and urine that we find offensive. Perhaps because at high concentrations they can cause effects such as eye, nose and throat irritation, headache, nausea, sore throat, diarrhea, heart palpitations, drowsiness and mood alterations (Minnesota Dept. of Health 2001)

The thing is, just like using ammonia to clean your bathroom, it’s the concentrations that count. Stepping into a closed shower stall with an open bottle of household ammonia might get you woozy or worse. Using a solution in a room with an open door provides adequate ventilation. CAFO’s running thousands of cattle on very small acreage can produce enough noxious gasses to create the above symptoms in neighbors several miles away. Add to that the fact that the air also contains significant numbers of antibiotic resistant bacteria into those irritated eye, nosal and throat passages.

Keep it clean folks. From the farm to the table. Oh – if you haven’t watched FOOD Inc. yet – it is now available on Netflix.