LSFE: Where’s the Beef…Coming from?

I’m a little bit late on this one but it’s taken me a while to figure out how to discuss the details. The issue of E.coli has had a resurgence as of late because of the multitude of cases and documentation related to the beef industry of America. Yet most of us still take major risks everyday. Why? Well how many people do you know who have suffered from E.coli? I can’t name a single one. Which makes it easy to believe that “it couldn’t happen to me”.

This New York Times article from a few weeks back does a good job of explaining one of the major pieces of the problem. The story is told through the unfortunate case of a young girl paralyzed by one single frozen hamburger patty. It is pretty gruesome but as always, I prefer to let you do the reading as to not simply restate what was written. But a few of the major points are crucial to realize.

The scary thing, this article only scrapes the surface of the problem. The frozen patties, among other ground beef options in stores, are not what their labels may have you believe. Scraps or trimmings coming from multiple cows from multiple plants are blended together bringing along the high risk of contamination from contact with feces and bacteria. And even worse, the regulations and testings are not sufficient to overcome these issues. In fact most retailers don’t ever test their beef before grinding (believe it or not Costco is one of the best retailers for testing policies).

But if you go beyond this article and dig a little deeper the problem becomes even more appalling. How many times have you seen signs at your local store’s meat section that says “vegetarian diet” in association with beef. Think about that for a second. How sad is it that now stores and vendors get credit for not having meat in their herbivore’s diet! And no, this doesn’t mean grass fed. This means corn. The route of most of our agricultural and food industry problems. So how does corn relate to E.coli?

Since we have started feeding our cattle corn in their feed, the problem has expanded immensely. With the non-natural diet wreaking havoc on the cow’s digestive system, more and more antibiotics are required. This has created strains of antibiotic resistant E.coli making it more and more complicated to treat the effects of contracting this deadly bacteria. Not only antibiotic resistant, these new strains have developed under acidic conditions (the stomach of cow’s is acidic when being fed corn) making them perfect to grow and proliferate in our systems. The long and the short of it…as long as we feed the cows corn, the longer the manufactures will have to take drastic steps to avoid cases like the one in the article. One of those methods is to use bleach. Yes thats right, use bleach on the meat itself!

So does this mean we should avoid beef altogether? Well just like anything, it’s about making the good decisions as much as you can. Maybe eat less beef but when you do treat yourself to the grass fed variety. It’s a bit pricier but trust me the flavor is better and the insurance of quality is well worth it.

For more information I encourage everyone once again to read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore Dilemna and also see Food Inc.



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