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Five Million Pounds of Meat Can’t Be Wrong, or Can It?

Five Million Pounds of Meat Can’t Be Wrong, or Can It?

The truly shocking thing about the latest and exceptionally massive recall involving Huntington Meat Packing Inc. out of California (read the details here) is not the fact that more than five million pounds of beef and veal were recalled, nor is it that “the company made the products under unsanitary conditions failing to take the steps it had determined were necessary to produce safe products,” and it is not even the mere fact that the recall involves immeasurable amounts of potentially tainted and/or compromised meat that was sold over the last 12 months and has likely been consumed ages ago. No, the truly shocking aspect of all of this is that within a week, this seeming act of gross negligence will be all but forgotten.

We live in an amnesiac food culture tempered by our selective memory and insatiable desire for cheap and delicious meat. Sure, someone’s feet will be held to the fire for this oversight, at least long enough to satisfy our muted outrage over five million pounds of substandard meat that has infiltrated hotels, restaurants and institutions around the state of California. However, we (those of us who are hungry carnivores) turn a blind eye to the hazards and apparent disregard to human and animal health and graciously allow Huntington and nameless others to feed us table scraps of our own undoing. There is so much wrong with this picture that a few pointed rants and diatribes will be a disservice to a widely systemic problem, where nearly everyone who pays, and is paid, is severely implicated. But again, the truly shocking thing is that, as shocked as we may be, we ultimately forget the disgust, the outrage and the betrayal. I certainly am not intentionally taking a sanctimonious stand on this one. Ask me about this recall in a few weeks and I will likely have forgotten as well.

As widely systemic as the problem may be, and as unfixable as it may appear, there is one sure fire solution; don’t buy the stuff and don’t support negligent factory farms. I am not saying don’t buy meat (I know better than that, as is evidenced by the “food libel” suit filed against the ever-powerful Oprah Winfrey for expressing doubt and concern about the safety of eating meat) I am simply saying know where your meat is coming from, and if you don’t have that luxury–abstain. Think of the act of eating meat as a type of carnality (this shouldn’t be too difficult as they share the same Latin root). In this day and age we hopefully practice a fair amount of caution and consideration when getting sexually intimate with another. Ideally, we educate ourselves in an effort to avoid bodily harm as well as sticky entanglements and needless drama. Maybe we should apply a sort of “carne knowledge” to buying and eating meat. Knowing as much as possible about where our meat came from, how the animal was treated, and how our meal was handled from slaughter to plate. If these questions cannot be answered with reasonable confidence, then maybe we could skip the burger and take the culinary equivalent of a cold shower. All in all, it might be a whole lot easier than remembering, and fretting over the numerous recalls to come.

How do all of these successive recalls sit with you? Have they changed the way we eat? Have you given up or just decided to let fate be your guide? Is the food industry changeable?

Read more: Eating for Health, Following Food, Food, Healthy Schools, News & Issues, , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

171 comments

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8:29PM PST on Nov 30, 2010

The more we educate, the less meat we eat. Learning how nasty meat is on every level whether it be environmental pollution - 25% of GHG's, ethical reasons - the treatment of all CAFO animals is flat out inhumane, or moral - how can tons of antibiotics and hormones be recommended for animals with a clear conscience? Then all these antibiotics and hormones (sludge) circulate through the animal, the air, water, and land, and end up on our plates. Cheap is vile, unhealthful, unethical, and destructive. Do away with the phony baloney and go organic and ethical if one must eat food with a face. The cheap meat will come back not just to haunt you but to kill us all via environmental pollution. Cheap meat is the most costly food you can but.

7:22AM PST on Nov 30, 2010

This reminds me of the following piece of graffiti: 'Eat shit! Billions of flies can't be wrong!'

7:21AM PST on Nov 30, 2010

Yuk!

7:21AM PST on Nov 30, 2010

Yuk!

2:10PM PST on Mar 13, 2010

I am glad that I don't like meat.

3:03AM PST on Mar 11, 2010

Despite the common thought that vegetarians are sickly and malnourished, the truth is that vegetarians are the healthiest people on the planet.Most of us would never even consider the fact, but a diet that includes meat and other animal byproducts leaves a huge footprint on our one and only Earth.
acecard

1:20PM PST on Mar 9, 2010

Alright Bill you got me....I'm going veggie.

3:42PM PST on Mar 5, 2010

I had to stop eating factory farmed meat years ago because they give them so many antibiotics and my doctor already over prescribed me so many antibiotics that I have to abstain from them at all costs. I used to eat a lot more meat but as my education grows I am getting away from it. It is harder for me to digest. I didn't even hear about this recall until this article. Bless the poor animals that are victims of factory farming.

5:42AM PST on Feb 27, 2010

A promotion for vegetarianism? Actually the meat industry as it is examined in the light of the day is one of the best promotions for vegetarianism/veganism - pesticides, antibiotics, factory farms, slaughterhouses, mad cow, fecal coliform, clogged arteries, global warming, polluted streams and oceans, deforestation, overgrazing, wild horse and predator controls, diabetes, water shortages, premature aging, world hunger.......

12:34AM PST on Feb 27, 2010

Yuk, thanks

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