Meat: Getting More Than You Bargained For

you're eating shit

Before those of you who regularly read my blog start to roll your eyes thinking here goes Larry again about the hazards of meat and promoting a plant-based diet, grant me a brief moment and hear me out.

Eat meat if you must but do be aware that not all meats are alike.  It’s most likely too that most of the meat you eat has been butchered for processing by four to five firms who supply meat products in the U.S.  Eighty-percent of all the beef that crosses your family’s kitchen table or TV tray comes from either Tyson, Cargill, JBS or National Beef.    Sixty-Three percent of all chicken comes from Pilgrims Pride, Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Wayne Farms and Sanderson Farms.

Don’t let that word “farms” throw you off either.  These are not small, family-owned bucolic settings.  These are huge factory farms known as CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) where chickens, pigs and cattle live in cramped conditions, get no exercise or sunshine from being penned up and are often fed genetically modified feed like soy, corn and alfalfa rather than range grasses and plants.  In some cases cattle are fed plastic pellets that substitutes the plant-based roughage they’re denied.  To compensate for this lack of being naturally raised, these animals are given hormone shots for fast growth and injected with antibiotics to stay healthy long enough to reach the desired size for slaughter.

But a closer look at this process reveals something that no corporate media source is going to warn you about.  In her book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America, Wenonah Hauter illustrates more graphic details about what actually takes place in the process that supplies most of our beef products.

Cattle spend their last three to four months crowded together in megasize feedlots, where they wallow in their own waste.  Because they arrive at the slaughter facility covered in fecal matter, from the first step of killing the animal, throughout processing, fecal bacteria are dispersed in the meat product.  (p.122)

Compromising the meat supply even further are extremely fast slaughter lines.  Large slaughterhouses can kill and butcher four hundred cows and hour, using extremely high-speed slaughtering methods, and as a matter of course some fecal material remains on the carcasses.  Hamburger is especially vulnerable to contamination, because it is ground in enormous batches that contain parts from thousands of cows that originated in feedlots in multiple countries. (p.123)

And lastly, as if to pour salt into the wound, the large meat producing factories have lobbied Congress over the years and have successfully reduced the numbers and types of inspections the USDA used to do to prevent these kinds of practices, allowing even more opportunity for contamination.  Lobbyists for the meat industry will tell you that though there are fewer on-site inspections, they have replaced it with a suitable process known as The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system.  In a nutshell though this simply treats likelihoods of contamination by using irradiation and chemical spraying.  Catching any problems also now falls more on company paid staff rather than independent USDA inspectors.

So there you have it.  Not a long-winded pontification as I am prone to do.  Just some simple facts you may not be aware of to help you make better food choices.  If this still doesn’t persuade you to get off meat altogether then take the extra time and expense and buy your meat products from sources that you can confirm how they’re raised, butchered and processed.  There are still small family farms in most regions of the country that supply local co-ops and smaller independent grocers.  Be careful too not to be lured into the notion that just because larger commercial retailers like Wal-Mart (yes, even the mega-retailer is trying to horn in on the organic popularity) or even Whole Foods claim to sell “organic” meats, this doesn’t always mean they didn’t come from conditions much like the CAFO’s mentioned above.

Now, go ahead.   Bite into that juicy hamburger or cut of beef.

juicy fecalburger

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11 responses to “Meat: Getting More Than You Bargained For

    • I think the space program is perhaps all this technology is good for. Of course in a 100 years it may advance to a level where it may have an appeal to a wealthy doper who can fulfill his munchie fantasies

      • Forget the pizza thing, just think printed nutrients…. if we can manipulate proteins in such a way we can (eventually) stop the daily apocalypse we rain down on this planet. Battery farming is not our proudest moment and it has to be done away with.

      • Agreed, but I would be a little concerned about what’s in the cartridges of powders and oils they say will create “a perfectly nutritious meal”. Sorry, that’s just the skeptic in me John. Got any other information about this technology that might fill in those blanks?

      • Sadly none at this moment, and your skepticism is more than warranted. I’m as skeptical as they come, but i can’t help but get excited about things which might (just might) help secure a future for our brilliantly terrible species; a future which does not involve the wholesale slaughter of beasts and degradation of the planet.

      • Even if that succeeds John, and I hope it does, there is always the likelihood the the “free-marketers” with their profit motives will manipulate, exploit and monopolize this to a point where it loses its beneficial contributions to all humans. That’s my cynical side coming out. 😦

  1. We are no longer the place of safe food of any kind. The great thing is that countries are now starting to reject our food and hopefully this will induce some major changes in how corporations produce. I’m not holding my breath, but its a start.

    • There actually is a pretty significant global movement for organic foods and planting methods that is making oh so slight gains. The problem will be when the mega-companies see that they are losing market share of any size they will then hone in on these practices like they have to some degree already and make it difficult for the little guy.

  2. There goes Larry again (eyes rolling), but you are right on. If people really saw how are meat was produced (I chose not to use the word raised), they would touch a single piece of it. Les is truly more when it comes to meat in one’s diet: The Less meat, the More healthy life.

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