CONSPIRACY TUESDAY: Hamburger

Posted: June 29, 2010 in Conspiracy
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To order a Duffy book, click on one of the covers to the left.

I don’t know how many people know it but I’m a vegetarian. I stopped eating meat three years ago after my wife did.

It wasn’t a cosmic experience and I haven’t had any great health changes. I was surprised at how much of a non issue it was. I’m kind of glad I can look my dogs and cats in the eye (literally with Wilbur) and know I’m not eating their brothers.

Since then I’ve become more interested in the idea of meat eating. I just read how soybeans produce four times the amount of protein in the same land if it was dedicated to cattle.

I’ve also looked into the business of meat. The meat companies don’t admit how they make ground beef or what’s actually in it. it doesn’t even have to be from the same slaughterhouse–they can ship scraps that have been lying around at different places, combine them and sell them to you to eat.

And people tell me veggie burgers are gross.

Is it a conspiracy? Well, if a conspiracy is a group of people getting together to manipulate other people for their own gain is a conspiracy–then i think it is a conspiracy.

It ain’t pretty. Here’s some excerpts from an article from the NY Times on hamburger. I didn’t know Cargill was the largest company in the country.

Oh, by the way, enjoy the fourth of July barbecue…

From the New York Times, Michael Moss, October 3, 2009

“Ground beef is not a completely safe product,” said Dr. Jeffrey Bender, a food safety expert at the University of Minnesota who helped develop systems for tracing E. coli contamination. He said that while outbreaks had been on the decline, “unfortunately it looks like we are going a bit in the opposite direction.”

Food scientists have registered increasing concern about the virulence of this pathogen since only a few stray cells can make someone sick, and they warn that federal guidance to cook meat thoroughly and to wash up afterward is not sufficient. A test by The Times found that the safe handling instructions are not enough to prevent the bacteria from spreading in the kitchen.

Cargill, whose $116.6 billion in revenues last year made it the country’s largest private company, declined requests to interview company officials or visit its facilities. “Cargill is not in a position to answer your specific questions, other than to state that we are committed to continuous improvement in the area of food safety,” the company said, citing continuing litigation.

The meat industry treats much of its practices and the ingredients in ground beef as trade secrets. While the Department of Agriculture has inspectors posted in plants and has access to production records, it also guards those secrets. Federal records released by the department through the Freedom of Information Act blacked out details of Cargill’s grinding operation that could be learned only through copies of the documents obtained from other sources. Those documents illustrate the restrained approach to enforcement by a department whose missions include ensuring meat safety and promoting agriculture markets.

Within weeks of the Cargill outbreak in 2007, U.S.D.A. officials swept across the country, conducting spot checks at 224 meat plants to assess their efforts to combat E. coli. Although inspectors had been monitoring these plants all along, officials found serious problems at 55 that were failing to follow their own safety plans.

“Every time we look, we find out that things are not what we hoped they would be,” said Loren D. Lange, an executive associate in the Agriculture Department’s food safety division.

In the weeks before Ms. Smith’s patty was made, federal inspectors had repeatedly found that Cargill was violating its own safety procedures in handling ground beef, but they imposed no fines or sanctions, records show. After the outbreak, the department threatened to withhold the seal of approval that declares “U.S. Inspected and Passed by the Department of Agriculture.”

In the end, though, the agency accepted Cargill’s proposal to increase its scrutiny of suppliers. That agreement came early last year after contentious negotiations, records show. When Cargill defended its safety system and initially resisted making some changes, an agency official wrote back: “How is food safety not the ultimate issue?”

The Risk

On Aug. 16, 2007, the day Ms. Smith’s hamburger was made, the No.3 grinder at the Cargill plant in Butler, Wis., started up at 6:50 a.m. The largest ingredient was beef trimmings known as “50/50” — half fat, half meat — that cost about 60 cents a pound, making them the cheapest component.

Cargill bought these trimmings — fatty edges sliced from better cuts of meat — from Greater Omaha Packing, where some 2,600 cattle are slaughtered daily and processed in a plant the size of four football fields.

As with other slaughterhouses, the potential for contamination is present every step of the way, according to workers and federal inspectors. The cattle often arrive with smears of feedlot feces that harbor the E. coli pathogen, and the hide must be removed carefully to keep it off the meat. This is especially critical for trimmings sliced from the outer surface of the carcass.

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Comments
  1. le0pard13 says:

    Tom, did you see the documentary, FOOD, INC.? I can’t recommend it enough. Just don’t watch while you’re eating, though. Thanks.

    • RD Hall says:

      Food Inc is an eye opener. It has a very interesting section on soybeans. They are not so much grown as they are engineered these days.

  2. tybes says:

    Tom, you’re conversion to the vegetarian lifestyle had nothing to do with the closing of Hughes’ Tavern, did it! Both events seem to have occurred about the same time!

    • tjs9261 says:

      hmmm…who knows? The psychological trauma of the closing had far reaching effects…as did a Hugh-burger…

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