Mark Fiore's hilarious take on the recent Mad Cow mess. (Warning Flash
January 6, 2004 12:13 AM   Subscribe

Mark Fiore's hilarious take on the recent Mad Cow mess. (Warning Flash) You can find more or Mark's work here. Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, recently chimes in on Mad Cow.
posted by skallas (31 comments total)
 
Scary quote from last article.
In the past week much has been made of the "firewall" now protecting American cattle from infection with mad cow disease — the ban on feeding rendered cattle meat or beef byproducts to cattle that was imposed by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997. That ban has been cited again and again by Agriculture Department and industry spokesmen as some sort of guarantee that mad cow has not taken hold in the United States. Unfortunately, this firewall may have gaps big enough to let a herd of steer wander through it.

First, the current ban still allows the feeding of cattle blood to young calves — a practice that Stanley Prusiner, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine for his work on the proteins that cause mad cow disease, calls "a really stupid idea." More important, the ban on feed has hardly been enforced. A 2001 study by the Government Accounting Office found that one-fifth of American feed and rendering companies that handle prohibited material had no systems in place to prevent the contamination of cattle feed. According to the report, more than a quarter of feed manufacturers in Colorado, one of the top beef-producing states, were not even aware of the F.D.A. measures to prevent mad cow disease, four years after their introduction.
posted by skallas at 12:15 AM on January 6, 2004


I haven't eaten ground beef since I read his book. Chilling read.
posted by hoskala at 1:59 AM on January 6, 2004


hoskala, congtratulations, you've done the right thing. As for the rest of you, if you're worried about mad cow, stop eating meat. If you insist on eating meat, shut up and accept the consequences. Don't expect the government to come in and save you. It's like smoking. Your choice.
posted by Faze at 6:09 AM on January 6, 2004


Or, at least, go organic. Since I started reducing my meat consumption and only buying organic/free-range meat and poultry (and wild fish/seafood), I've been pleasantly surprised by the flavor and quality. The higher cost is a relatively small price to pay for the increase in quality, the peace of mind, and the knowledge that I'm helping to bring down the greedy bastards who are feeding chickenshit to cattle and making money by risking our safety.
posted by stonerose at 6:32 AM on January 6, 2004


American-style factory produced meat is nasty-assed stuff - good enough if one doesn't mind meat with hormones, antibiotics, and a light misting of shit and E-coli, as well as an occasional bit of a limb or digit lost by the sweatshop labor of the workers who are paid, really, quite poorly at one of the seven or so factories which do the bulk of meat packing in the US.

And the cows? Suffice it to say that if I were a cow........well, I'd be pretty mad too!

Now, to combat this new health threat, we have a USDA "firewall" staffed by lobbyists and PR people from the Cattleman's Association (who are busily digging firebreaks by scratching away at the dirt around the nation's cattle pens with their wooden coffee-stirrers) and the valiant statistical work of the Harvard Center For Risk Analysis - which assures us that, despite the fact that it's calculations cannot actually be formally validated, we should feel perfectly safe chomping on our miraculous fast food burgers which, as Eric Schlosser has detailed in all the process' glory, have been boiled till they are colorless and tasteless gray lumps and then resurrected with colors, flavors and odors, and juices which render them meatier than meat itself !

Soylent Green was a feeble imagining of the future we now inhabit. Crowd-scooping trucks are like, so feeble. Duh. Like, why scoop rioting crowds demonstrating for real food? Food's no problem in this American utopia where advertising flacks and flavorists can convince the people that they really want to eat shit, because shit-eating is the American way and - besides - that shit tastes and smells shittier than shit itself. Like, whenever I pass an open Burger King kiosk in a bus or train station (I never actually walk in through the doors of such a place to smell those smells) I can barely restrain my arms from jerking, convulsively, into zombie-marching form as my legs bear me, shuffling woodenly, towards that counter with those shitburgers which smell like a meaty, charbroiled shaft of light from heaven on high.

I ate some ribs last week, for the first time in - oh, I'd say - fifteen years. Cow ribs, I'd say. They were damn good. And think of this, gentle Metafilter reader - If I developed some gnasty teeth gnashing, drooling, twitchy version of Kreutzfeld-Jacob disease, how the hell would you be able to tell the difference?
posted by troutfishing at 7:11 AM on January 6, 2004


If you shop at the sort of place that has organic and free range meats, you can also find out from them if they single-source their hamburger -- or better yet, and more typically for these places, grind it in house from real cuts of meat. Never buy hamburger that's distributed to stores already in the styrene/cellophane wrap; you have no idea how many sources it involves and the likelihood of some sort of contamination is hugely increased, and the process by which such meat is taken off the bone greatly increases the chances of spinal material being included.

I'd also recommend not buying meat at any place that doesn't have a fully staffed meat department, including a manager who can tell you exactly what their buying practices and preparation for sale are. If you can't find anyone on the spot who will talk with you in a knowledgeable and forthright way, turn around and walk out of the store.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:16 AM on January 6, 2004


Cow ribs, I'd say.

Trout: Unless they were specifically labeled as "beef ribs" then more than likely it was pork ribs. In most of the US (except perhaps Texas) the generic term "ribs" usually implies pork ribs.

Of course, can Mad Pig disease be far behind?
posted by Ynoxas at 7:36 AM on January 6, 2004


Never buy hamburger that's distributed to stores already in the styrene/cellophane wrap...

Are you saying that Laura lies? Say it ain't so!
posted by grabbingsand at 8:15 AM on January 6, 2004


Unfortunately, refraining from eating beef doesn't seem to particularly lower your risk. This frightening LAT article shows lots of far-less-regulated ways that cow parts are used.
posted by Vidiot at 8:15 AM on January 6, 2004


Jello. Yum.
posted by dabitch at 8:21 AM on January 6, 2004


if you're worried about mad cow, stop eating meat. If you insist on eating meat, shut up and accept the consequences.

Strange, I chicken, lamb and pork (and sometimes even beef) from my local organic farm and I'm not in the least bit worried about getting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. "Stop eating meat" is an extreme solution to the problem, and is the kind of viewpoint, which, frankly, gives credence to the stereotype of vegetarians as 'crackpots'. Lamb and pork are not going to infect me with 'mad cow', and last time I checked they were both types of meat.
posted by anastasiav at 8:49 AM on January 6, 2004


Cow I: Say, you hear about this Mad Cow Disease?
Cow II: Yep.
Cow I: You worried about it?
Cow II: Nope.
Cow I: (puzzled) Why not?
Cow II: Because I'm a squirrel.
posted by norm at 8:59 AM on January 6, 2004


Cow I: Say, you hear about this Mad Cow Disease?
Cow II: Yep.
Cow I: You worried about it?
Cow II: Nope.
Cow I: (puzzled) Why not?
Cow II: Because I'm a squirrel.
Cow I: Like hell you are. You're a nut. I'm a squirrel.
Cow II: Fuck you. I am SO a squirrel. Hey, where do you think this conveyor belt is going?



Ynoxas - I don't eat meat much. I wondered this at the time but assumed - for some random reason - that the ribs were cow and not pig. I just assumed that the meat industry wouldn't waste them. I doubt they do. But now that you mention it, cow ribs would be kind of big on the platter. Imposing even.

Mad Pig Disease? I like it! I think that was kind of discussed a few days ago on this thread.
posted by troutfishing at 9:11 AM on January 6, 2004


If you insist on eating meat, shut up and accept the consequences. Don't expect the government to come in and save you.

If you insist on driving, shut up and accept the consequences. Don't expect the government to try and regulate auto safety or traffic laws to save you. Take your auto-related health problems like a man.

It's like smoking. Your choice.

Most every activity is a choice. Some provide more utility than others. Eating meat provides nutrients to your body whatever other choices are available.
posted by McBain at 9:41 AM on January 6, 2004


"Stop eating meat" is an extreme solution to the problem, and is the kind of viewpoint, which, frankly, gives credence to the stereotype of vegetarians as 'crackpots'.

Yep, we were the 'crackpots' who said the USDA was full of shit all these years and pointed out how the agency's core mission - flawed to begin with - was compromised by industry infiltration. But nowadays, "It certainly doesn't take a raging vegan to figure out that USDA guidelines fall somewhere short of safe and sound domestic policy." Nope, now the Wall Street Journal says the new mad cow precautions are not nearly enough to eradicate risk of spreading bse BusinessWeek offers that Despite USDA reassurances, America's beef supply -- and its citizens -- are at risk. Non-raging-vegan sources in the heart of cow country are editorializing that "Ann Veneman's subservience to the agribusiness interests she once served as a lobbyist is no longer merely troublesome. It's dangerous." And Marion Nestle says that consumers should "express their distress about the current meat situation and just say no." Crackpots all!

That said, Faze's post was a little crackpot-esque in its seeming intolerance. And we do need to have reasonable discussions about this. No one's (at least no one I know is) seriously betting that large numbers of people will stop eating meat altogether because of this, even if another couple mad cows are found. But what seems inevitable is that as the troubling facts about meat (both in terms of safety and obvious cruelty) become better known thanks to this coverage, Americans will continue to eat less and less incrementally, and the industry will continue to be squeezed and buffeted to the point of losing its stranglehold over our public health.
posted by soyjoy at 9:51 AM on January 6, 2004


Eating meat provides nutrients to your body whatever other choices are available -- McBain
Meat is the world's most optional food. It's a lot easier to live without meat than without a car, or without clothing, or without a job. Meat is simply totally unecessary to the human diet. You can live a long, healthy and happy life without ever eating meat, just as you can enjoy a spectacular athletic career without wearing Nike sneakers. It's your choice.
posted by Faze at 9:58 AM on January 6, 2004


"recent mad cow mess"? Wow, what a big mess it was. Made messy by the "sky is falling" Chicken Littles of the world.

Speaking of chicken, 1000 people die each year with acute salmonellosis, no more eggs or chicken for me.
posted by tomplus2 at 10:18 AM on January 6, 2004


Me either, pal. Good point.
posted by soyjoy at 10:47 AM on January 6, 2004


"Did you know . . .
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5,000 deaths, 325,000 hospitalizations and 76 million illnesses are caused by food poisoning annually.

Did you know . . .
There are two categories of foodborne disease, food poisoning, caused by toxins produced by microorganisms before eating, and food infection, caused by growth of the microorganism in the human body after the contaminated food has been eaten.

Did you know . . .
Botulism is the most severe type of food poisoning; it is usually fatal, and occurs following the consumption of food containing the exotoxin produced by the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum."

Here's the CDC on food-borne diseases
posted by troutfishing at 11:10 AM on January 6, 2004


Discussing whether or not we should be eating meat has little relevance for me. Mad cows or no, the quality of the food chain for human consumption in the US is at an all time low. Thankfully, we are seeing some improvement, although perhaps not for the average consumer. Sub-par production of the four classsic food groups needs to be addressed across the board. I'd no sooner eat an industrial burger than I would a tomato that has the flavor and texture of plastic wrap. Today I had pork ribs for lunch, from an organically raised pig, cooked in my own oven with braised kale on the side. All was delicious. For Christmas dinner, we ate Spiral-cut Honey Baked Ham™ at my sister's house. It was the first time I ever really noticed how bad a ham (knowing how sinple and basic a ham is) could be.
posted by Dick Paris at 11:22 AM on January 6, 2004


...and 3,000 people die each year as a result of choking. No more eating for me (or chewing on pen caps).
posted by tomplus2 at 11:26 AM on January 6, 2004


Faze, it's a bit ridiculous to take the government's responsibility in this out of the equation by stating that the simple answer is to stop eating meat. The government agencies are there to supposedly protect us from this type of thing, to regulate the safety of food. What if suddenly a virus was discoverd that attached itself to the proteins in soy beans and spread through the soil? Just stop eating soybeans then, or demand that the agency my tax dollars fund to monitor food actually monitor the safety of it?

It's also a bit ridiculous to equate eating meat with smoking. They are both choices, but that is where the similarity ends.
posted by archimago at 11:31 AM on January 6, 2004


archimago, I appreciate your comment. But meat-eating is no different from any other risky behavior -- and worse than some, in that makes you an agent in the suffering and death of animals. Why make something suffer if you can avoid it? And avoiding meat is the easiest thing in the world. The difference between tainted meat and tainted soy is that we all more or less acknowledge that the human race must begin weaning itself from meat, just as we know that it must begin weaning itself from the all-gasoline engine. Anything the pushes us a little further in that direction is not all bad.
posted by Faze at 12:05 PM on January 6, 2004


Faze, I don't disagree with you on a philisophical level. I used to be a veggie, for a long time, and I started eating meat again about 3 years ago. I stopped many years ago after reading The Jungle. I was just picking bones with your statements because the linked article is about how the govt. can test and prevent the spread of mad cow but is refusing to, not about the glories of being a vegan. At least in my world view, the govt is there to ensure my safety, especially if it is taxing my income to pay for agencies that are supposed to be monitoring the safety of what food is sold to me. You have to admit that if tainted soy was discovered, you would expect the USDA to monitor it instead of telling people to eat sandstone. I fully expect to one day go back to being a veggie. Right now I am enjoying the benefits of being a carnivore, but I don't see it lasting much longer.

I really do believe that things like mad cow are a wake-up call to humanity. We become complacent, which leads to wanting more, which leads to more industry. The bigger we get the harder it is to keep an eye on all the small details. I've also been reading Caleb Carr's Killing Time, which just has me mistrustful of every little thing in the world!
posted by archimago at 12:20 PM on January 6, 2004


From the Wyoming Funeral Directors Association website.

"And CJD is hard to kill?
Yes, the organism is not destroyed by formaldehyde, phenol, gluteraldehyde, alcohol, dry heat, boiling, hydrogen peroxide, ultraviolet radiation, or standard gravity sterilization.
(...)
Finally, it has been shown that the disease organism has long-term survivability. It is still viable and can be transmitted after an inactive period of a year or more."
posted by CrazyJub at 5:37 PM on January 6, 2004


archimago - tainted soy HAS been discovered, in a sense:

"the findings of soy-induced BDNF reduction in male rat brain regions that are central to the onset of dementia, in addition to previous findings, [2] appear to provide compelling evidence of a possible causal mechanism that might explain the soy-dementia correlation reported by White et al. [1] Obviously further research is necessary before a clear picture emerges regarding the effects of long-term soy consumption on the brain. But in the meantime, my inclination is to play it safe and avoid soy."
posted by troutfishing at 8:10 PM on January 6, 2004


the soy-dementia correlation

trout, I realize you're being flip, but even so it's really reaching to compare that controversy to BSE. First, there's already a known, much stronger correlation between meat consumption and other brain-degenerative diseases. But second, it seems like the more relevant question here might be the Mad-Cow-in-US / CJD-death-clusters correlation, no?
posted by soyjoy at 8:53 PM on January 6, 2004


soyjoy - yes. But - are you being a littlr sensitive about this for your joy of soy? I like soy too. But I've witnessed Alzheimer's in motion, and I wouldn't want to inflict it on anyone. The soy-dementia research seemed unescapable to me. Not CJD, but still pretty bad.

I'm avoiding both soy and meat at the moment. Tilipia is good, though.
posted by troutfishing at 10:48 PM on January 6, 2004


troutfishing, come on. On threads we've both been on, I've made it clear that despite my ill-chosen username, I'm not a soy partisan, and especially object to the ongoing GMOfication of all soy crops in America. I try not to eat too much soy (especially tofu, which really seems to be the focus of concern, and as a processed food, is already somewhat suspect), and certainly watch carefully the intake of my youngest child.

But even were the analogy between CJD and "soy-dementia" solid, it's only a distraction: The question at hand is whether abstaining from meat is a valid and/or workable response to the US Mad Cow crisis. Thus I think the ongoing, developing subject of US Mad Cow / CJD-death correlation might be more germane.
posted by soyjoy at 6:57 AM on January 7, 2004


soyjoy - OK. I hope I didn't offend you there. I brought up the soy-dementia issue because I was shocked by the actual depth of research on the issue. The correlation between saturated and unsaturated trans fats and Alzheimer's isn't surprising to me - our brains have few defenses against oxidative and other sorts of damage. The saturated and trans fats are much longer chain fats which our bodies break down slowly. Thus they drift around wreaking Free-Radical havoc. The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are produced in barbecuing meat are deadly for similar reasons.

Abstaining from meat? - It seems a fine idea to me. So what to eat? Tilapia are hardy and easy to farm raise, their meat l lean. I ate some Tilapia tonight, unhealthily blackened. It was delicious.
posted by troutfishing at 7:44 PM on January 7, 2004


No offense taken. As to what to eat, there's plenty without touching animal protein - peoples the world over have come up with an astounding variety of nutritious plant-based dishes that a lot of us (even "cosmopolitan" vegetarians) are still just now encountering. But of course if everyone who was eating beef switched to tilapia, that alone would turn the meat-eating imperative on its head. In Philly we have an innovative urban farm that's growing tilapia and basil in conjunction with each other.

BTW, the guy that was in charge of the farm as of that article is now our town's official consumer advocate. He's a good guy... for a fish-killer, of course....
posted by soyjoy at 7:02 AM on January 8, 2004


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