Friday, January 16, 2009

Meat Processors Look for Ways to Keep Ground Beef Safe (BUT THEY CAN'T FIND ANY)

Knowing these facts, I don't understand why any right thinking person would eat ground animal flesh.
Bold type was added for emphasis, by me.

Reprinted without permission from

LEXINGTON, Neb. — In the last decade, Tyson Fresh Meats has transformed its slaughterhouse here to combat a potentially deadly type of food poisoning, adding huge chambers to scald carcasses and wash them in acid, steam vacuums to suck away microbes and elaborate gear to test hundreds of meat samples a day.

In all, the beef industry says it spends upward of $350 million a year to keep harmful pathogens out of the meat it sells to the public. But even as expenditures keep rising, the industry appears to be losing ground.

Late last month, the Agriculture Department announced its 20th recall of beef this year because of contamination with a toxic strain of the bacterium E. coli. That is only one recall shy of a record set in 2000 and matched in 2002.

No one knows for sure what is causing the jump in recalls, though theories abound, from the cyclical nature of pathogens to changes in cattle-feeding practices caused by the popularity of ethanol.

This much is clear: Fifteen years after an outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants made people aware that hamburgers could kill them, the American beef industry is still searching for a practical method to prevent the toxic E. coli strain from contaminating ground beef.

“If you gave me a million, zillion dollars and said give me a plant that doesn’t have E. coli, I couldn’t do it,” said Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “It’s not about the will. It’s about the ability.”

What makes this year’s spate of recalls so surprising is that it comes after several years in which the number of recalls dropped sharply, to eight in 2006 and five in 2005. And it includes not just small and midsize firms with less rigorous food-safety protocols — like Topps Meat of New Jersey, which recalled 21.7 million pounds of frozen hamburger because of potential E. coli contamination — but also large companies that have spent tens of millions of dollars to prevent E. coli contamination. Topps closed its doors on Oct. 5, and declared bankruptcy late last month.

Tyson Fresh Meats, for one, has had two relatively minor recalls this year; there were no reported illnesses. Cargill Meat Solutions, which has won plaudits for its efforts to combat E. coli, has had two recalls, including one in October affecting about 845,000 pounds of ground beef that had made more than a dozen people sick.

The Agriculture Department issued new guidelines in October urging the meat industry to adopt the latest technology to combat harmful forms of E. coli — essentially the measures that Tyson already has in place. But department officials acknowledge that short of irradiating the meat, there is no magic bullet to prevent E. coli contamination.

The big challenge for them is you are dealing with people and biological systems,” said Kenneth E. Petersen, assistant administrator for field operations for the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. “To execute the program consistently every hour of every day they operate, that’s the challenge. They do a pretty good job at it. You can’t take your eye off the ball for any period of time or you get into trouble.”

The federal government says it believes that exposing meat to radiation is a safe and effective way to kill E. coli and other pathogens. But meat companies have been hesitant to use irradiation because of fears that it would make meat more expensive, change the taste and color, and provoke consumer opposition.

Escherichia coli bacteria are commonly found in the lower digestive tract of humans and animals, and they are usually harmless. But one strain, E. coli 0157:H7, produces a toxin that can make people sick, typically after eating ground beef or produce that has been contaminated by cattle feces.

It is difficult to say whether the amount of E. coli in ground beef has increased this year, since the number of recalls is an imperfect measure. Limited sampling by the Agriculture Department has found a slight increase in the level of E. coli 0157:H7 this year over recent years, though it remains lower than it was five or six years ago.

But some meat industry officials say they are sure that more E. coli is turning up in cattle this year. That impression is shared by William Marler, a lawyer in Seattle who specializes in food-borne illness and who has seen a marked increase in clients who say they became sick from eating E. coli-contaminated meat.

“This is real stuff,” he said. “It is a fundamentally different year than ’06, ’05, ’04 and ’03.”

As part of its efforts to eradicate E. coli, the meat industry is experimenting with vaccines, antibiotics and feed additives that may reduce the level of E. coli 0157:H7 in cattle intestines. But so far, those are not commercially available. To date, nearly all of the efforts to curb E. coli have focused on interventions at slaughterhouses and at grinding plants that produce ground beef

Dean A. Danilson is in charge of Tyson’s food safety.

Hamburger meat poses an elevated risk of illness because grinding can mix live E. coli bacteria throughout the meat, and consumers often undercook their hamburgers. Steaks pose less of a risk because any E. coli on the surface are likely to be killed during cooking.

Mohammad Koohmaraie, director of the Agriculture Department’s U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska, said his research had determined that most E. coli contamination came from the hides of cattle, which became matted with mud and manure in feed lots. As a result, his research has focused on ways to reduce the likelihood that manure from the hides comes in contact with a carcass during slaughter and subsequent handling.

“If you don’t do a good job of removing the hide, a whole bunch of it gets on the carcass,” Mr. Koohmaraie said. “If you do a good job, just a little bit to none gets on the carcass.”

His research, for instance, found that spraying the hides of cattle with a chemical wash immediately after they are killed drastically reduces the incidence of E. coli 0157:H7. JBS Swift & Company and Cargill are now using hide-washing procedures, which can cost several million dollars to install.

Dean A. Danilson, Tyson’s vice president for food safety and quality assurance, said that his company might install hide-washing equipment as it built new plants or retrofitted old ones. In the meantime, in the rear of the Lexington plant, a former combine factory converted to a slaughterhouse, an employee in rain gear hoses down cattle in a pen before they are slaughtered to rinse away manure and limit the amount of dust when the hide is removed.

“Keeping the dust down, knocking some of the caked-on mud and things off, any little bit helps,” Mr. Danilson said.

It is the first of many steps that Tyson employs to reduce the chances that pathogens like E. coli survive processing. Once the animal is killed, the hide is removed, first by knives and then by machines, in a manner intended to keep it away from the exposed carcass, starting near the anus and hind legs.

After each cut is made to remove the hide, a worker follows behind with a steam vacuum to kill and suck away microbes. The carcass, pulled along on an overhead rail, is then sent into a cabinet with pivoting nozzles that soak it with water at about 185 degrees.

After the head is removed and before the animal is gutted, the carcass is sprayed with a mild acid wash, again to reduce the level of microbes. Besides removing the hide, one of the most critical steps to prevent E. coli 0157:H7 comes when the animal is eviscerated and its internal organs are removed.

The workers who remove the organs are careful not to cut the bowel, which could spread manure, and a worker looks over the internal organs to make sure the intestines are intact. The carcasses are then sawed in half, and the cut line is steam vacuumed.

In one of the most important interventions, the split carcasses are sent into a 30-foot-long, hissing stainless-steel cabinet, where rows of nozzles spray them with steam for at least 13 seconds before they enter a second chamber that douses them with a disinfectant for at least 15 seconds.

The last step comes after the carcasses have been cut into steaks and roasts and leftover scraps, with the latter tossed into 2,000-pound bins for grinding into hamburger meat. Workers are assigned to cut at least 60 four-inch by one-half-inch strips from each lot of trimmings; a lot is five 2,000-pound bins.

Those samples are then ferried to a laboratory, where they are mixed with solution that encourages E. coli 0157:H7 to grow. After incubating for eight hours, the samples are tested, and if positive for the germ, that lot is diverted from being used as ground beef. Instead, it is used in cooked products or otherwise processed to kill the microbes.

“I wish I had a silver bullet. We have done a lot, and it’s a continuing ongoing process to look for more,” Mr. Danilson said. But he acknowledged that it was impossible to create a perfect system for stopping E. coli 0157:H7. “Taking a dirty animal and turning it into food — from the time of the cave man, that has not been an easy process.”


Isle Dance said...

I'm so glad you posted this. It's amazing, how even if one takes the ethical/health factors out of the equation when it comes to eating vegan, you eventually look back at this and go, "Oh my! I used to eat these very (animal) beings all the time and not think twice!" And then you think, "How can people not see all of this?!" It truly can be a "decide the behavior and the feelings will come" decision, to go vegan. I am so grateful to finally be on this side of the equation. And it wasn't even hard to do!!! (A shocker to me!) Posts like yours help me see so many angles I think are so important to see.

Zucchini Breath said...

The reason it's harder to control the bacteria now is because of all the antibiotics. Bacteria grows resistant.

If you eat meat, eat eggs or drink milk, YOU are on antibiotics.

Thanks for your comment Isle Dance! I keep hoping my BF will come around... It is great to finally be off the fence after spending my whole life knowing it was wrong, but not quite knowing what to do about it.

I found it interesting that this article was originally posted in a PRO MEAT website. They must have a hard time trying to talk this shit up, ya know?

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The Philosophy of Animal Rights by Tom Regan

The other animals humans eat, use in science, hunt, trap, and exploit in a variety of ways, have a life of their own that is of importance to them apart from their utility to us. They are not only in the world, they are aware of it. What happens to them matters to them. Each has a life that fares better or worse for the one whose life it is.

That life includes a variety of biological, individual, and social needs. The satisfaction of these needs is a source of pleasure, their frustration or abuse, a source of pain. In these fundamental ways, the nonhuman animals in labs and on farms, for example, are the same as human beings. And so it is that the ethics of our dealings with them, and with one another, must acknowledge the same fundamental moral principles.

At its deepest level, human ethics is based on the independent value of the individual: The moral worth of any one human being is not to be measured by how useful that person is in advancing the interest of other human beings. To treat human beings in ways that do not honor their independent value is to violate that most basic of human rights: the right of each person to be treated with respect.

The philosophy of animal rights demands only that logic be respected. For any argument that plausibly explains the independent value of human beings implies that other animals have this same value, and have it equally. And any argument that plausibly explains the right of humans to be treated with respect, also implies that these other animals have this same right, and have it equally, too.

It is true, therefore, that women do not exist to serve men, blacks to serve whites, the poor to serve the rich, or the weak to serve the strong. The philosophy of animal rights not only accepts these truths, it insists upon and justifies them.

But this philosophy goes further. By insisting upon and justifying the independent value and rights of other animals, it gives scientifically informed and morally impartial reasons for denying that these animals exist to serve us.

Once this truth is acknowledged, it is easy to understand why the philosophy of animal rights is uncompromising in its response to each and every injustice other animals are made to suffer.

It is not larger, cleaner cages that justice demands in the case of animals used in science, for example, but empty cages: not "traditional" animal agriculture, but a complete end to all commerce in the flesh of dead animals; not "more humane" hunting and trapping, but the total eradication of these barbarous practices.

For when an injustice is absolute, one must oppose it absolutely. It was not "reformed" slavery that justice demanded, not "reformed" child labor, not "reformed" subjugation of women. In each of these cases, abolition was the only moral answer. Merely to reform injustice is to prolong injustice.

The philosophy of animal rights demands this same answer - abolition - in response to the unjust exploitation of other animals. It is not the details of unjust exploitation that must be changed. It is the unjust exploitation itself that must be ended, whether on the farm, in the lab, or among the wild, for example. The philosophy of animal rights asks for nothing more, but neither will it be satisfied with anything less.

Haiku Disclaimer

This works for me now
Find your own path and never
Take advice from fools

Insprirational Vegan Quotes

1. Animals that live in the wild kill other animals in order to eat. If I also lived in the wild would it still be inhumane to kill an animal to eat?? What about if I raised chickens in my backyard and cultivated their eggs for my breakfast omelet, is this inhumane?
A: Because animal flesh and products are not needed for human nutrition killing and eating them is inhumane in any circumstances. No kind of slavery is humane no matter how well the slave is treated. You can't respect someone and then exploit her for her eggs/milk/honey.

2. Do animal rights moralists take into consideration the domestication of animals i.e. history of farming, farming as the back bone to the establishment of the first civilizations. There’s not much literature about the reasons animals have become a central part of human life?
A: History is no excuse to continue to exploit non humans. Animals are not needed for human nutrition. That is a myth perpetuated by industries which make money exploiting non human animals.

3. Is domestication against animals rights? If so, does that make having a dog or cat or horse inhumane?
A: At this time there are a lot of domesticated animals that need tending. Most domesticated animals are just that. They would not exist as we know them if not for domestication. Breeding animals for pets or for food is unnecessary and inhumane. Adopt animals, have them spayed or neutered. Give them a comfortable home where they can live out their lives without being exploited. With time the numbers of "non-food" and "food" animals will go down and eventually there will be no more domesticated food animals or pets.

Ethical veganism results in a profound revolution within the individual; a complete rejection of the paradigm of oppression and violence that she has been taught from childhood to accept as the natural order. It changes her life and the lives of those with whom she shares this vision of nonviolence. Ethical veganism is anything but passive; on the contrary, it is the active refusal to cooperate with injustice. ~Gary L. Francione

Merely by ceasing to eat meat

Merely by practicing restraint
We have the power to end a painful industry

We do not have to bear arms to end this evil
We do not have to contribute money
We do not have to sit in jail or go to
meetings or demonstrations or
engage in acts of civil disobedience
Most often, the act of repairing the world,
of healing mortal wounds,
is left to heroes and tzaddikim (holy people)
Saints and people of unusual discipline
But here is an action every mortal can
perform--surely it is not too difficult! ~Roberta Kalechofsky of Jews for Animal Rights

The ten commandments of Mother Earth

1. Thou shall love and honor the Earth for it blesses thy life and governs thy survival.
2. Thou shall keep each day sacred to the Earth and celebrate the turning of its seasons.
3. Thou shall not hold thyself above other living things nor drive them to extinction.
4. Thou shall give thanks for thy food, to the creatures and plants that nourish thee.
5. Thou shall educate thy offspring for multitudes of people are a blessing unto the Earth when we live in harmony.
6. Thou shall not kill, nor waste Earth's riches upon weapons of war.
7. Thou shall not pursue profit at the Earth's expense but strive to restore its damaged majesty.
8. Thou shall not hide from thyself or others the consequences of thy actions upon the Earth.
9. Thou shall not steal from future generations by impoverishing or poisoning the Earth.
10. Thou shall consume material goods in moderation so all may share the Earth's bounty. ~Ernest Callenbach

"This is what passes for "food" in America today: A collection of nutritionally-obliterated, hormonally-enhanced, chemically-adulterated shapes of refined whatever, all hyped up to make them seem like real food when in fact they're just agricultural byproducts devoid of any real nutrition." ~Mike Adams

"I like not eating animals. Animals are our friends and we shouldn't eat them. Animals need us to take care of them and save them. My mom cooks us vegetables and pretend hamburgers and hotdogs and chicken nuggets and they are healthy for you and taste good! I told all my friends 'you should NOT eat animals!' I hit my friend Levi because he was eating a ham sandwich and wouldn't stop. Then mom said that Levi is an animal too and we have to be nice to all animals even if they eat other animals. I said sorry to Levi, but I wish he would not eat animals anymore. I also like not eating animals because my mom says it helps the earth, like recycling." ~Jacob, 6 yrs old

You see, in life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know. Knowing is not enough! You must take action.~Anthony Robbins

It only takes a spark
~Daniel Andreas San Diego

Some people are still going to want to eat meat. We do agree though that vegetarianism is a healthier diet.
~David Stroud (of the American Meat Institute)

For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts ;

even one thing befall them: as the one dies, so dies the other. They have all one breath; so that a man has no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows that the spirit of man goes upward, and the spirit of the beast goes downward to the earth? ~Ecclesiastes iii., 19, 20, 21.

There is no such thing as cruelty free slaughter or humane killing.
No slave is happy no matter what the owner tells you.
Go Vegan NOW!
Do it for the cows that have their babies taken away again and again for milk production.
Do it for the chickens who are de-beaked for egg production.
Do it for the pigs who have to nurse their babies on concrete floors.
Do it for the millions of humans who don't know any better.
Do it for the planet.
Do it for your health.

Do it because there is NO SUCH THING as humane slaughter.~
Judith Barnes

Auschwitz begins whenever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they're only animals.

~Theodor Adorno

If only I could so live and so serve the world that after me there should never again be birds in cages.
~Isak Dinesen (pen name of Karen Blixen), author (1885-1962)

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
~Anne Frank

If "rights" exist at all— and both feeling and usage indubitably prove that they do exist —they cannot be consistency awarded to men and denied to animals, since the same sense of justice and compassion apply in both cases.
~Henry Salt, 1892

You ask people why they have deer heads on the wall. They always say, Because it's such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother's attractive, but I have photographs of her.
~Ellen DeGeneres

A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.
~Leo Tolstoy

Raw foods create living bodies, and cooked foods create dying bodies
~Sabrina Aird, Grass Root co-owner

You say it’s my personal choice, it’s not a personal choice when you’re ruining my planet and you’re eating my friends
~ Dave Warwak

The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites, or women created for men.
~ Alice Walker

Thou Shalt Not Kill
~ The Christian Bible

If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy; if the world were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I wake up each morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it very hard to plan the day.
~E. B. White

Don’t want to ruin the oceans? Go vegan.
Don’t like the environmental problems of the soy industry? Go vegan.
Don’t like monoculture? Go vegan.
Don’t like the environmental problems of the petroleum industry? Go vegan.
Don’t like greenhouse gas emission? Go vegan.
Don’t like animal exploitation and cruelty? Go vegan.
Want environmental sustainability? Go vegan.
Want to feed the hungry? Go vegan.
Want to save water? Go vegan.
Want to cut air and water pollution? Go vegan.
Want to slow global warming? Go vegan.
Want to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, obesity, and cancer? Go vegan.
There is no absolutely single personal change that the average person can make that has a better impact on the environment than going vegan.
~Dan Cudahy

Honey is not vegan. It is an animal product, it came from the inside of an animal that produced it, not for you to sweeten your tea, but for a baby bee to live and grow on. Using honey or products made with beeswax are not on the vegan menu.

What is it that should trace the insuperable line? ...The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

~Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)

Can you really ask what reason Pythagoras had for abstaining from flesh? For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of soul or mind the first man did so, touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, he who set forth tables of dead, stale bodies and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived.

How could his eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with the sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds?

It is certainly not lions and wolves that we eat out of self-defense; on the contrary, we ignore these and slaughter harmless,tame creatures without stings or teeth to harm us, creatures that, I swear, Nature appears to have produced for the sake of their beauty and grace.

But nothing abashed us, not the flower-like like tinting of the flesh, not the persuasiveness of the harmonious voice, not the cleanliness of their habits or the unusual intelligence that may be found in the poor wretches.

No, for the sake of a little flesh we deprive them of sun, of light, of the duration of life to which they are entitled by birth and being.~Plutarch

I abhor vivisection. It should at least be curbed. Better, it should be abolished. I know of no achievement through vivisection, no scientific discovery, that could not have been obtained without such barbarism and cruelty. The whole thing is evil.~Charles Mayo (founder of the Mayo Clinic)

Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places.~Leonardo Da Vinci