Due to harmful bacteria that slipped into some part of a Tyson processing plantís operations, ground meat from more than 331 cows will end up in the garbage. The company is recalling 131,300 pounds of ground beef after Ohio Department of Health inspectors found E. coli O157:H7 in a sample.
The figure of 331 trashed cows is based on an industry average of 596 pounds of red meat and trim left after a cow is slaughtered and unusable bits are cut away. Subtract 27 pounds of variety meat (tongue, heart, liver, tripe, brains, and sweetbread). Then take off another 146 pounds of fat, bone and miscellaneous loss. That leaves approximately 396 pounds of meat per cow. Divide 131,300 by 396, and that gives 331.57 cows.
That is an inexact figure, of course. Only the ground beef is being thrown out. The organ meats were sold separately. The hide likely went off to a tanner. Some of the meat was eaten and made four siblings in Butler County, Ohio, sick. Two children needed medical attention. The 9-year-old ended up in the hospital for 10 days.†That led to the recall.
The family purchased the ground beef from a Kroger supermarket so all meat with the same code is being recalled. Full details are on the Tyson Web site.
The Real Cost of a Recall
Discarding 131,300 pounds of meat sounds minor compared to some earlier recalls, but the real cost is more than anonymous packages in a supermarket. Live cattle were removed from pastures, transported in cattle liners, crowded into manure-covered feedlots, fattened on antibiotic-laced grain (for which their four stomachs were not designed), then subjected to the terror of the slaughterhouse.
When the USDA assesses the average cost of production, they include: pasture (owned or rented), public grazing land (which belongs to all taxpayers), hay (and all associated costs to harvest and/or buy it), machinery (purchase, fuel, supplies, repairs), veterinary and medicine, marketing, holding facilities, feed storage facilities, tractors, vehicles, equipment, breeding animals, taxes and insurance. Add pay for farm owners and any employees along the production cycle. Don’t forget the cost of transportation, feedlot fattening, slaughtering, butchering, packaging, transporting again, and selling.
Whatever percentage of each of these can be attributed to those 331 cows, it was wasted. Energy and resources were trashed, as they are every time meat is recalled.
So are the animals, whose lives count for nothing when their meat is discarded. Somehow that gets lost when the recall focuses only on so many pounds of ground beef or ground turkey. On the other hand, the real cost gets lost long before they end up as contaminated meat.
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