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?