The Kansas City Star, in a yearlong investigation, found that the beef industry is increasingly relying on a mechanical process to tenderize meat, exposing Americans to higher risk of E. coli poisoning. The industry then resists labeling such products, leaving consumers in the dark.

The result: Beef in America is plentiful and affordable, spun out in enormous quantities at high speeds, but it’s a bonanza with hidden dangers. Industry officials contend beef is safer than it’s ever been.

via Beef’s Raw Edges.

Ever read The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair? It details the lives of meat packers and the unsanitary and inhumane conditions under which they had to make a  living. Ironically, during the time it was published in 1906, the political climate was similar to the one we live in now.  Workers, particularly immigrants, lived in extremely poor conditions and worked in dangerous environments with no protections. Survival of the fittest was the dominant philosophy of the day. Though the socialist Sinclair was mainly trying to highlight the plight of immigrant workers and wage slavery, readers were most horrified by the filth in which their food was being produced. Public outcry led to the Meat Inspection Act and the eventual creation of the Food and Drug Administration. 

As Right to Work laws are spread like wildfire through the country, our food safety and security is in jeopardy, unions are in danger of extinction, and Big Business is populating the government with yes men and cronies. Regulation of industry has long been an uphill battle even without Citizens United to help the cause of the powerful along. Social Darwinism is making a comeback, this time preached from the mouths of evangelicals who sound more like prosperity coaches than mouthpieces for a poor, liberal revolutionary such as Jesus Christ. Ayn Rand acolytes such as Paul Ryan decry regulation as stifling the creative process and innovative spirit of  our godlike wealth-creators. Undermining the rights of workers and opposition to even the most reasonable regulations has a pretty predictable outcome (just look at history), but  reason is in short supply these days. 

Before you eat another medium rare steak, read this important investigative report. Everyone knows that meat is often contaminated with all sorts of nasty bugs, but they are usually just on the surface of a steak. Searing the outer layer kills harmful pathogens, making a rare steak safe to eat. However, many meat processing facilities regularly use mechanical tenderizers and injections of solutions to make the meat more tender. Unfortunately this drives surface bacteria into the center of the meat, which means it must be fully cooked to be safe for consumption.  Such treated meat is not required to be labeled. Restaurants, grocery stores  nursing homes, and other facilities may not even know they are serving potentially deadly food.

From The Kansas City Star:

The Star examined the largest beef packers including the big four— Tyson Foods of Arkansas, Cargill Meat Solutions of Wichita, National Beef of Kansas City and JBS USA Beef of Greeley, Colo. — as well as the network of feedlots, processing plants, animal drug companies and lobbyists who make up the behemoth known as Big Beef.

What The Star found is an increasingly concentrated industry that mass-produces beef at high speeds in mega-factories that dot the Midwest, where Kansas City serves as the “buckle” of the beef belt. It’s a factory food process churning out cheaper and some say tougher cuts of meat that can cause health problems. The Star’s other key findings:

•  Large beef plants, based on volume alone, contribute disproportionately to the incidence of meat-borne pathogens.

•  Big Beef and other processors are co-mingling ground beef from many different cattle, some from outside the United States, adding to the difficulty for health officials to track contaminated products to their source. The industry also has resisted labeling some products, including mechanically tenderized meat, to warn consumers and restaurants to cook it thoroughly.

•  Big Beef is injecting millions of dollars of growth hormones and antibiotics into cattle, partly to fatten them quickly for market. But many experts believe that years of overuse and misuse of such drugs contributes to antibiotic-resistant pathogens in humans, meaning illnesses once treated with a regimen of antibiotics are much harder to control.

•  Big Beef is using its political pull, public relations campaigns and the supportive science it sponsors to influence federal dietary guidelines and recast steaks and burgers as health foods people can eat every day. It even persuaded the American Heart Association to certify beef as “heart healthy.”

Big Beef, industry critics contend, has grown too big for Big Government to lasso.

Indeed, the U.S. beef industry is twice as concentrated as it was when President Teddy Roosevelt took on and beat the old Armour, Swift, Cudahy and Morris beef trust in the early 1900s. The big four packers today slaughter 87 percent of all heifers and steers.

The biggest bacterial culprit for tainted meat is E. coli, with serotype O157:H7, an enterohemorrhagic strain, being the most deadly. This potentially fatal infection causes severe diarrhea and may permanently destroy kidney function, especially in young children and the elderly. A woman in this article lost her colon to the infection, forcing her to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of her life. Where does E. coli contamination come from? SHIT. Food inspectors at a Tyson plant referenced “massive fecal contamination; multiple carcasses with varying degrees of fecal contamination; periods of very significant fecal, ingesta and abscess contamination.” I’m getting hungry…

To recap: Meat processing plants, which are pretty poorly overseen due to the sheer enormity of operations, regularly process contaminated meat. This tainted meat is made even more dangerous by machines poking holes into it, driving poopy shit to the center of the meat, where bacteria love to breed in the anaerobic darkness. Since there is no labeling required on such meat, people can cook up a normally safe medium rare steak, eat basically a shit-stuffed meat bag, and lose their colon, kidneys, or life due to ignorance of how their meat was produced. It’s a jungle out there, folks, over a century after the unsanitary practices of Big Meat were first exposed.

If this isn’t enough to make you want to go survivalist and grow your own food, check out this Pro Publica article that outlines how the government is letting industry contaminate our drinking water!

5 thoughts on “Beef’s Raw Edges, Kansas City Star Investigative Report. A Side of E.Coli With Your Steak?

  1. Amaya, thanks for reprinting this. I saw a portion of the piece this morning, but it is more troubling to see the full story. It is a very good analogy to the time of “The Jungle” as today does seem to be back to a bad future. And, my reference to Rick Santorum as William Jennings Bryan makes even more sense. Many who support the mantra of no or less regulation do not realize the vital role regulation plays to keep us safer and things more fair. Thanks for shining a spotlight as you always do. BTG

    1. There are SO many stories out there about contaminated food and water. I don’t see how anyone could be against inspections and labeling. Thanks for reading:)

      1. You reminded of the time the US Marines kept complaining of the water at Camp Lajeune. There were not believed until they served the water in clear glasses and said you drink it to the legislators in attendance.

  2. Most excellent piece. When the mouthpieces talk of getting rid of regulations for food, water, and air, all I can do is to wish with all my being that they, the Mitt Romneys, Eric Cantors, Mitch McConnells and Paul Ryans of the world would drink some of the tainted water, or better yet, feast on a S–t sandwich, as you describe.

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