05 October 2009

Meat

Did you read the appalling story about meat and E. coli in yesterday's New York Times? You will never eat ground beef from the supermarket again. One of the most egregious comments was from one Dr. Kenneth Petersen of the USDA, who was quoted as follows:

Dr. Kenneth Petersen, an assistant administrator with the department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said that the department could mandate testing, but that it needed to consider the impact on companies as well as consumers. “I have to look at the entire industry, not just what is best for public health,” Dr. Petersen said.

I'm sorry, but letting corporations dance willy-nilly on the packing house floor without putting public health first is criminal and cynical. The impact on companies should not be a consideration when addressing the health and safety of the food supply for the American public. I hope that Dr. Petersen has had his head handed to him and I faxed a letter to that effect to his boss.

Ever since reading Fast Food Nation, we've tried hard to eliminate supermarket meat from our diet. In each of the past two years, we've bought about a quarter of a steer - grass fed, locally raised, artisanally butchered, excellent beef. The meat is not hugely more expensive than what comes from the supermarket - we pay one price per pound, not less for ground beef and more for filet - though we do have to lay out the cash for a lot of meat all at once, and have freezer space to hold it all.

We know where to get live chickens in our county (though we opt for the recently dead ones), and I can find humanely raised pork and lamb at the Greenmarket. And since joining the CSA a few years ago, our diet - especially in the summer/fall - has skewed towards vegetables. Meat's become an accent, an occasional meal.

I don't think humans should forgo meat - animals eat animals, after all - but I do think that it's incumbent upon us to do it as graciously as possible, and to remember what Michael Pollan said: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."



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21 comments:

YourFireAnt said...

What a good post, Maggie. You referred to the CSA ... I assume you do not mean the Confederate States of America.

T.

Imperatrix said...

Yes, I did read it. And posted it on Facebook, appending several quote, including this one: "The food safety officer at American Foodservice, which grinds 365 million pounds of hamburger a year, said it stopped testing trimmings a decade ago because of resistance from slaughterhouses. “They would not sell to us,” said Timothy P. Biela, the officer. “If I test and it’s positive, I put them in a regulatory situation. One, I have to tell the government, and two, the government will trace it back to them. So we don’t do that.”"

And the article said doing it this way saves 30 cents per pound. Sheesh! I couldn't believe how many reader comments at NYT said that this is just a reasonable risk of living in the modern world.

WHAT???!!??

Harriet said...

I was so alarmed by that story. I was a vegetarian for over 20 years but started eating some meat again a couple of years ago after I got tired of cooking separate meals for each member of my (mostly carnivorous) family. Time to start weaning the family off the meat and look for more local sources. Oh, and T, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You buy a share in a local farm and they deliver produce every so often. It's a great way to eat local, support your local farmers, try some things you may never have had before, and get in touch with seasonal eating. Highly recommended.

niobe said...

That was one scary story. If I hadn't given up beef years ago, I would certainly stop eating it now.

de said...

gag.

heidi said...

I cheered when I saw that article... not because it was some great surprise, but because it was on the front page of the f-ing sunday NYT. Those who say they *can't* give up meat, howse about giving it up 1 or 2x per week to start?

Rima said...

So you're a flexitarian! (me too :)

KC said...

Oh, man. Well, now, going back for the cheeseburger seems stupid, doesn't it? At least the children appear well.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I had the same reaction as you when I read that comment. WTF?!

Woman in a Window said...

EEK! He said WHAT? (ouch.) That's just crazy.

We had a cold cut scandal here a couple years ago and they've tightened the belt with regulations. Unfortunately all of the regulations (pre-existing the cold cut scandal) make it almost impossible to buy a side of beef from a local farmer, as my family always did when I was growing up. It would be nice, though. I'll investigate it more next year.

Mental P Mama said...

A-Men!

Angeline said...

It was just one month ago, I've abstained from meat that walks on the ground. Seafood alittle. Why the sudden change? All because of a video> I saw how meat was processed from the farm to the supermarket and of cos to our plates...
*Eeeerkkk*

Its my choice, but I'm not forcing my sudden change down anyone's throat. My family still eats meat as usual... but I'll just turn to the greens...

nonlineargirl said...

Apparently costco is the only place to buy ground beef, as they do their own inspections. (Though really I only buy beef at my local fancy-pants natural foods market, so hopefully they are looking out for me too. They are nice enough that I can ask them what they do and get a straight answer. Note to self - do that.)

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

We bought a 1/4 cow this year. I've been wanting to, and then one of the other parents at the bus stop mentioned that she grew up on a farm near here & to try to keep the farm in the family, they're doing the "meat CSA" (what do you call it when you buy a share of a cow?), so, there we go. I call the butcher tomorrow!

Now if only I could find a source for chicken...

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Oh by the way did you see Pollan's NYT piece which said eat food, mostly plants, not too much --- and cook it yourself? I liked that one.

saraht said...

The article really was appalling (but also not really that surprising on the tail of Fast Food Nation, Pollan, etc).
But did you see the cover of current New Yorker? Weird timing.

phd in yogurtry said...

I wouldn't want to forgo meat, but more and more I'm preferring beans. We eat pinto beans at least twice per week. It's the only night everybody is happy at the table. I almost never buy hamburger anymore. We are strictly ground turkey. But I do lurve me a hamburger when we go out to eat.

Mama Goose said...

Yikes. I hadn't seen the article. Thank you for posting it.

Ilina said...

We LOVE our CSA. Meat is an accent for us too. Most of our dinners are vegetarian, and no one even misses the meat. If food is fresh, healthy, and tasty, my dinner table triumvirate is complete.

wheelsonthebus said...

i agree. you knew i would.

Meagan said...

Try bison if you get the chance. I'm a total convert.
That said, beef is really not the only problem. The story you're telling is an illustration of the direction of our food and drug regulation. It's gunna bite us in the end.