Monday, October 8, 2012

Too Many People Demanding Meat are to Blame for Tainted Beef

Once again beef is being recalled from many shops due to concerns with E.coli, a bacteria. In the most recent case (fall 2012) the tainted beef is coming from the XL slaughter plant in Brooks, Alberta. This plant is also known as Lakeside Packers.

Some people are blaming the cattle producers but ultimately contamination comes from processing, not the producers (the people who raise cattle). And if we go further into it, perhaps the consumers themselves have to share some of the blame.  More people = more demands = more short cuts taken.

If you have never seen a slaughterhouse I assure you it is horrific. On certain days in Brooks the whole city has the smell of the slaughterhouse. XL Foods process (kill) 4,000 animals per day. Each worker on the kill floor has one job (such as gutting the animal) that they may have only seconds to perform before sending it to the next worker).

The XL Foods plant, Lakeside Packers, has been in the news many times, including an issue of violating human rights. At that time Lakeside Packers had a different owner and workers were not allowed bathroom breaks, indeed many reported they were being forced to urinate in their pants while on the production line.

Back then fewer than 3,000 cattle were slaughtered per day, but a new owner has increased production. 

The workers at XL Foods, Lakeside Packers are reluctant to complain about safety concerns or other issues. Most are immigrants, sometimes there is a language barrier, other times they do not know who to talk to, or that there is anything wrong, but mostly it comes down to the fact that they fear for the loss of there jobs – as being immigrants finding work elsewhere can be challenging.

I use to live near Brooks and remember hearing horror stories, with production being increased I can only imagine how much worse things have become. Corners are undoubtedly being cut, and for sure this must be to blame for the current E.coli outbreak.

But do we blame the plant? Ultimately the XL Foods plant must accept responsibility but so too does the consumer. The consumer creates the demand, they are the reason for 4,000 cattle to be killed per day, and 3,000 steaks processed per minute at this plant.  Growing populations mean more demand, no wonder some producers are pumping animals with growth hormones!

Most people in North America eat 4 times as much meat as they should. A steak that feeds one person here is enough to feed a family of four in Japan.

How to Protect Yourself from Tainted Meat

Tainted meat can come from any slaughterhouse, but for sure the larger ones where things are rushed are bound to be more of a concern. With ground beef you are safer to buy it from the butchers and grocers where the beef is ground on site rather than arrives there preground.

Eat less meat, if more people would reduce the amount of meat they ate the slaughterhouses could lower their quota, putting safety quality ahead of quantity. Have two to three meatless days per week, or have smaller portions of meat when you do have it. Currently most people eat more meat than their body needs, this is also a waste of money.

Cook your meat well. Raw hamburger in particular is the most dangerous source for E.coli.

Ultimately we also need to consider the need to stop adding more people to the planet.  More people means more demands for food, and forces producers to cut corners.

We have standards for safe food handling we just have to make sure people are not burdened so much that they cannot meet those standards.

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