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October 4, 2009 7:51 AM   Subscribe

One hamburger sent a 23 year-old woman into a coma for nine weeks. When she awoke, she could no longer walk. A lengthy expose in the NYTimes follows the secretive chain of events bringing E. coli into her life. Contemporary carnivores read at your own risk...

The author, a modern-day Upton Sinclair, seems to have been on the food beat as of late.
posted by pjenks (157 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
The expose is behind a login window, but from the blurb:

Tracing her burger shows why eating ground beef is still a gamble

hmmm...

Tracing her burger shows why eating uncooked ground beef is still a gamble

FTFY
posted by scrutiny at 7:55 AM on October 4, 2009


If you had actually logged in, you would have read this:
In the wake of the outbreak, the U.S.D.A. reminded consumers on its Web site that hamburgers had to be cooked to 160 degrees to be sure any E. coli is killed and urged them to use a thermometer to check the temperature. This reinforced Sharon Smith’s concern that she had sickened her daughter by not cooking the hamburger thoroughly.

But the pathogen is so powerful that her illness could have started with just a few cells left on a counter. “In a warm kitchen, E. coli cells will double every 45 minutes,” said Dr. Mansour Samadpour, a microbiologist who runs IEH Laboratories in Seattle, one of the meat industry’s largest testing firms.

With help from his laboratories, The Times prepared three pounds of ground beef dosed with a strain of E. coli that is nonharmful but acts in many ways like O157:H7. Although the safety instructions on the package were followed, E. coli remained on the cutting board even after it was washed with soap. A towel picked up large amounts of bacteria from the meat.
posted by rolandcrosby at 7:59 AM on October 4, 2009 [12 favorites]


This is why I grind my own meat.
posted by Hickeystudio at 8:00 AM on October 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: This is why I grind my own meat.

/like a moth drawn to a flame, I couldn't resist...
posted by spoobnooble at 8:02 AM on October 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


The convulsions grew so relentless that doctors had to put her in a coma for nine weeks.

To control Ms. Smith’s seizures, doctors put her in a coma and flew her to the Mayo Clinic, where doctors worked to save her.

As an indictment of Cargill's (and other meat industry suppliers') poor practices, this article is great.

As an example of an FPP with misleading information and editorializing, this post is great.

One of those two things is a compliment.
posted by hippybear at 8:02 AM on October 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Blaming the consumer for not practicing clean room grade hygiene when prepping hamburgers as justification for becoming a parapalegic is part of the core problem with the American food supply.

Remember when there wasn't listeria in the lunchmeat?

Remember when you could make a Caesar salad with raw eggs and not get salmonella?

Remember when the supply chains for our food supply weren't so long and convoluted that if there was an e-coli outbreak in cookie dough, they could actually track the contaminant down?
posted by Lord_Pall at 8:03 AM on October 4, 2009 [55 favorites]


Also I don't think “a modern-day Upton Sinclair” is the kind of phrase that you get to just throw around to indicate that an author happens to write about industrial agriculture.
posted by rolandcrosby at 8:03 AM on October 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


ZOMBIELAND!
posted by kbanas at 8:04 AM on October 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you don't know how to get around the NYT login wall by now...

false false
posted by hippybear at 8:04 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Contemporary carnivores read at your own risk...

That's it, I'm moving to a strict vegan diet because there is absolutely no way to get E. coli from veggies.
posted by NoMich at 8:06 AM on October 4, 2009 [24 favorites]


E. coli in lettuce, e. coli in spinach, radishes, sprouts ... contemporary vegetarians eat at your own risk.

Who is safe? Breatharians, that's who.
posted by adipocere at 8:06 AM on October 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


+1 Lord_Pall
posted by JHarris at 8:13 AM on October 4, 2009


Breatharians, as long as they keep their mouths closed, that is. It's a safe life, but short.
posted by chavenet at 8:16 AM on October 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


Dr. Kenneth Petersen, an assistant administrator with the department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said that the department could mandate testing, but that it needed to consider the impact on companies as well as consumers. “I have to look at the entire industry, not just what is best for public health,” Dr. Petersen said

I just hope this death from food stuff doesn't turn us into a bunch of sissies who end up putting what's best for public health above corporate profit.
posted by Karmadillo at 8:17 AM on October 4, 2009 [24 favorites]


Remember when there wasn't listeria in the lunchmeat?

Remember when you could make a Caesar salad with raw eggs and not get salmonella?


It is not possible to remember these times. Because they did not exist.
posted by srboisvert at 8:17 AM on October 4, 2009 [24 favorites]


Who is safe? Breatharians, that's who.

Don't forget the sungazers.
posted by TedW at 8:17 AM on October 4, 2009


Remember when corporately bought politicians, mostly Republican but not exclusively, hadn't completely crippled consumer protections in the name of "cutting red tape"?
posted by octothorpe at 8:26 AM on October 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Remember when there wasn't listeria in the lunchmeat?

Remember when you could make a Caesar salad with raw eggs and not get salmonella?

It is not possible to remember these times. Because they did not exist.


The point here is that our chances of coming into contact with these pathogens is greater than before due to the highly processed nature of a lot of our food and the supply chain.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:28 AM on October 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Ground beef is usually not simply a chunk of meat run through a grinder. Instead, records and interviews show, a single portion of hamburger meat is often an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of cows and even from different slaughterhouses. These cuts of meat are particularly vulnerable to E. coli contamination, food experts and officials say. Despite this, there is no federal requirement for grinders to test their ingredients for the pathogen.

The frozen hamburgers that the Smiths ate, which were made by the food giant Cargill, were labeled “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties.” Yet confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.

posted by KokuRyu at 8:30 AM on October 4, 2009 [14 favorites]


Luckily, Wegmans sells irradiated ground beef.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:30 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


You guys know that no amount of cooking or cleaning will prevent you from getting mad cow disease, right?
posted by DU at 8:31 AM on October 4, 2009


You guys know that no amount of cooking or cleaning will prevent you from getting mad cow disease, right?

Considering the incredibly low incidence of mad cow disease in humans, I'm more afraid of being killed by any idiot on the road when I go out in my car than contracting that particular malady.
posted by hippybear at 8:37 AM on October 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


It is not possible to remember these times. Because they did not exist.

Salmonella - Didn't used to be endemic to chicken's ovaries. It was an external contaminant, caused by the act of laying the egg. With proper washing the exterior of the egg could be disinfected. Nowadays the salmonella exists within the shell. This was not always the case. The migration into the chicken's reproductive tract is a recent occurrence/

Moreso, it's an accepted evil but it's not necessary. Finland has a food system that does not tolerate outbreaks of salmonella or e-coli and has managed to keep it under control. Outbreaks are aggressively handled, leaving a food supply that's actually safe to eat. Example, Reactions. They do not accept contaminated food as a necessary evil or something that is the fault of the consumer. It is a failure by the people who deal with the animals and prepare the food.

Listeria - Same thing. This is a preparation failure, not something endemic to Lunch Meats. Improper cleaning, maintenance, or just lax standards. The default state for a prepared meat or sausage should not be one of contamination. It's the same as e-coli in the cookie dough. There's no excuse for that sort of contamination, and no logical reason that it should be contaminated.
posted by Lord_Pall at 8:40 AM on October 4, 2009 [62 favorites]


What's the problem here, folks? Hamburgers = cow patties.

Oh, I see.
posted by storybored at 8:41 AM on October 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Blaming the consumer for not practicing clean room grade hygiene when prepping hamburgers as justification for becoming a parapalegic is part of the core problem with the American food supply.

Damn right -- one of the things that pisses me off about food recalls is nobody (including the media) asks the right questions about how the contamination got there. The average American just shrugs and assumes that E. coli just occurs naturally on tomatoes and in meat tissue. But somehow I bet they prefer occasional fecal contamination as long as they get big savings on $1.50/lb meat, so maybe this is a losing battle.

FWIW, my wife and I distrust the U.S. meat supply so much that we haven't bought supermarket ground beef in 8 years now. And I speak as someone who hasn't even read Fast Food Nation and regularly buys Doritos and other garbage food.
posted by crapmatic at 8:44 AM on October 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm no vegetarian, but I'm getting more and more fervent in my interest in avoiding eating industrially processed meat. At home I have found it very easy to disconnect from the industrial meat supply chain by buying locally-raised and -processed meat, eggs, etc.

Eating out, though, means accepting that all or part of the ingredients are going to come out of the supply chain described in the article, unfortunately. High-end restaurants (or at least the higher end restaurants that I tend to eat at) usually make a point of advertising that their meat comes from smaller-scale producers, but most of the cheaper places that I can afford to eat at routinely can't afford to do that (or aren't interested in doing so).

I do think that the industrial meat industry is being its own worst enemy in this. It reminds me of US auto companies fighting fuel economy requirements tooth and nail, while foreign companies stepped up and out-engineered them. You'd think that they might find it more profitable over the long-run to spend more on meat safety and less on recalls and lawsuits, no?
posted by Forktine at 8:53 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Considering the incredibly low incidence of mad cow disease in humans,

That's not my point. Everyone here is rushing to stand up for poor little Big Meat and start blaming the victim for failing to, I don't know what, have a microbiology lab? But even if you do Everything You Are Supposed To you aren't protected from mad cow. And while the incidence may be low, that isn't because our food system is designed to prevent it.
posted by DU at 8:56 AM on October 4, 2009


my wife and I distrust the U.S. meat supply so much that we haven't bought supermarket ground beef in 8 years now.

Why not simply give up eating meat altogether? It's so, so freakin' simple, and it solves such a multitude of nutritional, environmental, health and economic problems, for individuals and societies that it deserves to be called a panacea. People who continue to eat meat in the face of all the evidence against it are like people who continue to smoke cigarettes or fly in jet planes -- you sort of have no moral authority to mouth off on health and environmental issues. When you've stopped eating meat, then you can call me about global warming.
posted by Faze at 8:56 AM on October 4, 2009 [9 favorites]


I don't understand how my dog can eat fresh shit off the ground, and he's perfectly fine, and yet human beings, if they eat a few stray bits of e-coli that stuck to a butcher's block, end up sick and paralyzed.
posted by jayder at 8:59 AM on October 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Good luck with that, Faze.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:04 AM on October 4, 2009 [11 favorites]


If there's an upside to Ms. Smith's illness, it's that she lives in Minnesota:
Contaminated peanuts? Forty-two Minnesotans were reported sick compared with three Kentuckians. Jalapeño peppers last year? Thirty-one in Minnesota and two in Kentucky became ill. The different numbers arise because health officials in Kentucky and many other states fail to investigate many complaints of food-related sickness while those in Minnesota do so diligently, safeguarding not only Minnesotans but much of the rest of the country, as well.
posted by peeedro at 9:05 AM on October 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Everyone here is rushing to stand up for poor little Big Meat and start blaming the victim for failing to, I don't know what, have a microbiology lab?"

Umm, who? I believe one person here said that contamination has always been at least a small risk in food supplies, but overwhelmingly the attitude is against Big Meat. Unless I'm missing something?
posted by dozo at 9:06 AM on October 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: When you've stopped eating meat, then you can call me about global warming.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:10 AM on October 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm no vegetarian, but I'm getting more and more fervent in my interest in avoiding eating industrially processed meat.

In a sad twist, the woman in the article, Stephanie Smith, ate a mostly vegetarian diet. She's probably having to deal with a lot of self blame.

I don't understand how my dog can eat fresh shit off the ground, and he's perfectly fine, and yet human beings, if they eat a few stray bits of e-coli that stuck to a butcher's block, end up sick and paralyzed.

From what I understand, there are few differences between humans and dogs. For example, we can eat chocolate, they can't.

Did anyone else eat the hamburgers that Smith's family cooked? If so, did they get sick? If yes, why didn't they get as sick?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:12 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't understand how my dog can eat fresh shit off the ground, and he's perfectly fine, and yet human beings, if they eat a few stray bits of e-coli that stuck to a butcher's block, end up sick and paralyzed.

Different digestive systems; the dog's is optimized for carrion and other things that don't work so well for our more omnivorish systems. So the dog has a super acidic stomach with long retention times, and then the food gets shot out through the (comparatively short) intestines very quickly.

Dogs having evolved to eat trash, scraps, carrion, and poop makes them a perfect match for humans (similar to pigs and chickens) -- our extras and leftovers, plus foraging, provide them with what they need, without directly competing with us for our food supply.
posted by Forktine at 9:13 AM on October 4, 2009 [15 favorites]


I don't know who you all are referring to as "defending Big Meat" here. There was a quote from the USDA, saying that people should cook their meat to 160F. Does that count as blaming the victim? It's not like encouraging people to follow better food handling processes (soap? how is soap going to kill anything?) precludes improvements on the supply-side of things.
posted by kiltedtaco at 9:13 AM on October 4, 2009


What's worse is I don't think we're talking about the gentle, familiar old-fashioned E.Coli some of us remember from our childhoods; we're talking about new E.Coli that has been getting steadily deadlier and harder to treat since the 1970s.
posted by Phanx at 9:14 AM on October 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Part of the reason I'm so in favor of improvements on the supply side is that I love rare-cooked and even raw meat, like steak tartar. Cooking everything to 160F is probably safer, but doesn't always provide a very delightful eating experience.
posted by Forktine at 9:17 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]



Why not simply give up eating meat altogether? It's so, so freakin' simple, and it solves such a multitude of nutritional, environmental, health and economic problems, for individuals and societies that it deserves to be called a panacea. People who continue to eat meat in the face of all the evidence against it are like people who continue to smoke cigarettes or fly in jet planes -- you sort of have no moral authority to mouth off on health and environmental issues. When you've stopped eating meat, then you can call me about global warming.


Not that you don't have a point, but this is a really sanctimonious way to go about dealing with people's beliefs and preferences. It's basically the non-theistic version of a Baptist gleefully telling a Unitarian that he'll end up in hell. This "in for a pound or else" approach will win you no converts, or converts you probably don't want.

Also, yes, giving up meat has some intrinsic advantages. But meat doesn't have to be as bad as it is (that is, as bad as it is in factory farming settings). It is always more resource-intensive than, say, kale, yes, but when have humans ever liked doing the things that are of maximum instrinsic good from a faraway perspective. Anyway. Separate discussion.

The outrage here isn't about the intrinsic negative qualities of meat, it's outrage over the fact that the United States Government allows big companies to sell meat which must be treated as if it is full of poison in order that it be consumed safely. 160 degrees? On a scale of "rare" to "well done", that is roughly "cooked to hell".

The fact that many old and persisting food cultures - Ethiopian, French, Japanese, etc - have delighted in raw meat should show us that a very high risk of infection isn't intrinsic to meat, but rather intrinsic to lax, badly-conceived policies, probably sustained with no little intervention by big meat lobbyists w/ Swiss Chalet gravy stains on their plackets. Good grief.
posted by voronoi at 9:17 AM on October 4, 2009 [65 favorites]


Why not simply give up eating meat altogether?

Because that isn't healthy, fun or convenient.

When you've stopped eating meat, then you can call me about global warming.

And you'll excuse me if I feel I don't need your permission to be concerned about global warming just because I haven't adopted your pet cause.
posted by spaltavian at 9:21 AM on October 4, 2009 [17 favorites]


If only we didn't have such a nanny state, the free market would have solved this problem long ago.

/lolbertarian
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:23 AM on October 4, 2009


"I'm moving to a strict vegan diet because there is absolutely no way to get E. coli from veggies."

Often, perhaps always, when there's an e. coli problem with veggies, the meat industry is to blame. One example from Spinach E. coli linked to cattle: Manure on pasture had same strain as bacteria in outbreak:

The pasture is part of an unidentified beef cattle ranch that also leases its fields to spinach growers.

posted by shetterly at 9:24 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Contemporary carnivores

You mean omnivores. Few if any people eat meat exclusively. Unless you were using "carnivore" as a political term of art. Which is obnoxious.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:29 AM on October 4, 2009 [9 favorites]


Metafilter needs a sarcasm tag, badly. Say italics + a caustic green?
posted by Decimask at 9:31 AM on October 4, 2009


Why? Do people post much sarcasm here? I hadn't noticed.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:34 AM on October 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Related AskMetafilter question: In this New York Times article about E. coli in processed hamburger meats, the reporter interviewed employees and unearthed documents to get his scoop. How does an investigative journalist accomplish these feats? How does a reporter get people to divulge critical information?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:37 AM on October 4, 2009


There's also the possibility of eating meat in moderation; less demand for meat means less production means less incentive to produce meat using the sort of processes that aid and abet the spread of E. coli, salmonella etc.

But that would mean talking about moderation, and that's just not sexy enough. So the conversation devolves into PETA vs. let's have a steak at every meal.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:40 AM on October 4, 2009 [9 favorites]


There was a quote from the USDA, saying that people should cook their meat to 160F. Does that count as blaming the victim? It's not like encouraging people to follow better food handling processes (soap? how is soap going to kill anything?) precludes improvements on the supply-side of things.

Have you ever had a steak cooked to 160F?

I'll give you a hint: it sucks
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:44 AM on October 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Contemporary carnivores read at your own risk

Blanket warnings like this are unnecessary.


Never buy meat from a discount store or a low-end supermarket. I would never buy a product from Cargill. That's always going to be a crap-shoot.

Buy from a real butcher, a higher-end supermarket like Hay Day, King's or Whole Foods.
posted by Zambrano at 9:45 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


have no moral authority to mouth off on health and environmental issues. When you've stopped eating meat, then you can call me about global warming.

Oooh can I play?

"Until you stop using consumer products, you cant complain about global capitalism"

"Until you stop paying taxes, you cant complain about the war"

"Until you stop using electricity, you can't complain about global warming"

I think these even give more credit to your analogy than it deserves; I mean, meat and global warming? Really? I doubt skipping your daily cheeseburger will have much effect if everybody in China buys a car (for one e.g. of a more important factor). Anyway, hopefully you can see the logical fallacy in saying that participation in X activity, if it in any small way contributes to Y problem, precludes you from opposing Y problem.

As is adequately explained above, the problems in safety and environmental harm come from industrial agriculture, not meat per se. I'd bet that the guy who buys steaks and chicken from his local CSA has a better environmental impact than the vegetarian who buys his spinach in a bag at Pathmark, where they've been trucked in from god knows where and coated with god knows what chemicals.

Of course, the obvious problem here is that many poor people don't have access to nice CSAs. Thus cheap meat is an obvious source of (poor) nutrition. The problem is the costs are actually much higher when you take in to account all the externalities of industrial agriculture-- environmental degradation both in production and transport, health and safety risks. Big factory farms took a huge hit when gas prices were soaring, as the inefficiencies in their transport model came to the fore. In these terms, the solution seems obvious: make them pay for all the hidden costs. Taxes on agricultural runoff, higher safety requirements enforced by REAL fines, taxes per mile food is transported. And most importantly, ending subsidies or at least redistributing them in such a way that encourages a saner food distribution chain. Of course, since this is America, that would be NAZI COMMUNISM.

You don't need to give up delicious delicious steak to be a good environmentalist.
posted by ScotchRox at 9:51 AM on October 4, 2009 [13 favorites]


"The fact that many old and persisting food cultures - Ethiopian, French, Japanese, etc - have delighted in raw meat should show us that a very high risk of infection isn't intrinsic to meat, but rather intrinsic to lax, badly-conceived policies, probably sustained with no little intervention by big meat lobbyists w/ Swiss Chalet gravy stains on their plackets."

Or they are just accepting of a base level of FBI sickness the way Canadians are accepting of the risk of dieing every time they ride in an automobile; something that kills way more Canadians annually than FBI. Even now life threatening food poisoning is almost always something that we only hear about on the news. And lots of people enjoy pink hamburgers. And the Japanese eat Fugu.
posted by Mitheral at 9:52 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Never buy meat from a discount store or a low-end supermarket.

Or if you must (as some people are constrained by their budgets) then stay well clear of anything processed to hell and back -- pies, sausages, reconstituted meat products, etc.

Unless you enjoy the tasty flavour of bull's windpipes and chicken's anuses, that is. In which case, go right ahead.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:59 AM on October 4, 2009


> Who is safe? Breatharians, that's who.

They know how to filter carbon monoxide without harm? Cool, sign me up.
posted by ardgedee at 10:01 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


The retail giant Costco is one of the few big producers that tests trimmings for E. coli before grinding, a practice it adopted after a New York woman was sickened in 1998 by its hamburger meat, prompting a recall.

Craig Wilson, Costco’s food safety director, said the company decided it could not rely on its suppliers alone. “It’s incumbent upon us,” he said. “If you say, ‘Craig, this is what we’ve done,’ I should be able to go, ‘Cool, I believe you.’ But I’m going to check.”

Costco said it had found E. coli in foreign and domestic beef trimmings and pressured suppliers to fix the problem. But even Costco, with its huge buying power, said it had met resistance from some big slaughterhouses. “Tyson will not supply us,” Mr. Wilson said. “They don’t want us to test.”


Costco, I <3 you.

Comrade "Executive Member" Robot
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:03 AM on October 4, 2009 [27 favorites]


Finland has a food system that does not tolerate outbreaks of salmonella or e-coli and has managed to keep it under control.

Same in Sweden and Norway. The Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control (SMI) considers Salmonella to be non-existent in food produced in Sweden.
posted by effbot at 10:04 AM on October 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, if you want to know just how goddamn corrupt the USDA has been, historically, I'd recommend Vicious Circles: The Mafia in the Marketplace. It'll also disabuse anyone of the notion of "the good old days" of food existing years ago. Its like Fast Food Nation, if the Gambinos were intentionally mislabelling and reselling spoiled meat. ew.
posted by ScotchRox at 10:05 AM on October 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Considering that the content of the U.S. food supply - lots of cheap red meat, nutritionally-void grain products, saturated fat and high-fructose corn syrup -- is a primary reason why many Americans are diabetic, hypertensive, atherosclerotic meatballs by the time they're 50, I'd say the safety of that food supply is a comparatively minor issue.

I think the periodic scares about food safety here are just that: scares. From a bacterial-load standpoint, our food is a lot safer than what can be found most everywhere else in the world. To wit: travel pretty much anywhere outside of the U.S. other than Western Europe or similar highly-developed places, and you're bound to get sick.
posted by killdevil at 10:10 AM on October 4, 2009


Just because we've only recently (since the 1970s) begun tracking and recording many new classes of foodborne pathogens doesn't mean they're actually on the rise. Given the massive increase of agricultural production and consumption, it's pretty clear that incidence levels are falling, even as the absolute numbers slowly increase. It's just the access to news that keeps putting these incidents in front of us that creates the sense that it's an epidemic, like school violence or town hall protesters.

In fact, produce and "multi-ingredient" processed foods (like hyper-processed soy products!) are to blame for more of the incidence of foodborne pathogen outbreaks and illnesses than meats. (CSPI pdf) Anecdotes are useful. Data is better.

People talking about the halcyon Golden Age bear the burden of demonstrating that their chosen era was actually better and not just more ignorant of the cause of disease. Then, you've got to prove that foodborne pathogens are more harmful than a non-industrialized agricultural system, without which some portion of the planet's population would likely starve to death, and a far greater number would be inadequately nourished. That's the precautionary principle at work: the burden falls on the advocate of change.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:10 AM on October 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Eating local or high end (localharvest.org and eatwild.com) are good solutions...it is difficult to track, but there haven't been any publicity-washed cases of food poisoning from non-industrial grass-fed beef. But it is much more expensive. My brother (a butcher for a small gourmet grocery chain in northern California) has a few rules for meat that he tells his customers. The two that I remember most are: never buy ground meat, and never buy stew meat. Buy a chuck roast, and have the meat counter grind it (or get your own grinder). Same with stew meat. He also says you should avoid any "prepared" meat if it was prepared off-site, but he would say that, being a butcher and all.

And for the love of all that is, never buy those tubes of ground, or any prepared patties. Any heavily packaged industrial-friendly meat is least common denominator stuff, made with leftover mash and little oversight.

Cheap beef is a coin toss. Even if it doesn't kill you it could make you ill. And it tastes freaking awful.
posted by blixco at 10:13 AM on October 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


MeatFilter
posted by oaf at 10:14 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Have you ever had a steak cooked to 160F?

Ok, just for you I'll copy the USDA's guidelines in full, so that there's no more confusion:

* Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts, and chops may be cooked to 145 °F.
* All cuts of pork, 160 °F.
* Ground beef, veal and lamb to 160 °F.
* All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.

These numbers have been argued about previously on the blue. They might be overly cautious, but they're certainly not unreasonable (the steak temperature is somewhere around medium/medium-well). Above all, they're not part of a plot to let Big Meat sell Poisoned Beef. I'd be cooking to these temperatures even if it was my next-door neighbor's E. Coli-free grass-fed sustainable carbon-neutral zero-waste non-GM USDA-prime beef tenderloin steaks.

Ok, maybe I'd only go to 140 if it was that good.
posted by kiltedtaco at 10:16 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mitheral: Or they are just accepting of a base level of FBI sickness the way Canadians are accepting of the risk of dieing every time they ride in an automobile; something that kills way more Canadians annually than FBI. Even now life threatening food poisoning is almost always something that we only hear about on the news. And lots of people enjoy pink hamburgers. And the Japanese eat Fugu.

Well, notice that I said that meat doesn't have an intrinsic "very high" risk. I never said it didn't have any risk at all.

I like this "there's risk in everything! live a little!" argument because it's so brash and plucky, but there's a less exciting argument to be made, the "let's acknowledge that facing some risks doesn't meant we can't minimize some others". Or in other words "just because we all face slow deaths doesn't mean we have to eat steaks imbued with shit".
posted by voronoi at 10:17 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have found it very easy to disconnect from the industrial meat supply chain by buying locally-raised and -processed meat

Oh my God! You leave my dog alone!
posted by anniecat at 10:24 AM on October 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Sorry, I just read the article and I still want a hamburger.
posted by tybstar at 10:30 AM on October 4, 2009


A couple of other issues:

For every newly converted vegetarian, four poor humans start earning enough money to put beef on the table. In the past three decades, the earth's dominant carnivores have tripled our average per capita consumption; in the next four decades global meat production will double to 465 million tons.

Are Meat Eaters Starving the Poor?
world meat production has risen fivefold since 1970-but most of the increase has been in the "poor" countries. China’s meat consumption, for example, doubled in the 1990s because China’s family incomes have soared. Even in "vegetarian" India, three-fourths of the Hindus say they will eat meat (but not beef) when they can afford it.

Modern crop yields are not only the highest in history, but also the most sustainable. Modern farmers have conservation tillage, which eliminates "bare-earth" farming techniques like plowing. It cuts soil erosion by up to 90 percent, often with higher yields because it can double the soil moisture available to the crop plants.

[...]if corporations didn’t take 80 million tons of natural nitrogen from the air each year to fertilize crops, we’d need the organic N from 9 billion cattle instead of the 1.2 billion the world has now. Growing feed for that massive number of cattle might force us to plow down another 30 to 50 billion acres of wildlands.

If corporations didn’t make pesticides, we’d lose half of our crop production to pests and have to clear billions more acres of wildlands for cropland.

we should not allow the world’s current food situation to persist. Most of the world’s poorly fed people are hungry because we haven’t yet extended high-yield farming and high-paying off-farm jobs to the whole globe. Some 800 million people are not getting adequate nutrition consistently.
Long live industrial agriculture! Canonize Monsanto!
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:34 AM on October 4, 2009


It's much better to learn to cook cheaper cuts of meat from a great butcher than it is to buy from a less trustworthy supplier. Hanger and skirt steak are fantastic and cheap. Ox-tail stew, brisket, beef soup (with shank) are all pretty affordable too. For the same price, you can probably get the best ground beef (organic, grass-fed, whatever) and make meatballs, meatloaf, or burgers with a lot of spices and it will also be delicious.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:36 AM on October 4, 2009


You don't need to give up delicious delicious steak to be a good environmentalist.

Can you explain how your vision for how an all or mostly local distribution system for meat might be implemented? How it would differ from the current industrial system?

Most of all, how do you deal with the fact that the amount of resources required to raise a cow to slaughtering age would not decrease significantly? Cows still need to eat a lot, and if demand for meat remains the same, a lot of the negative effects of meat production will stick around; see this article for a good run-down of the issues and how they might be dealt with (notice that moving livestock to an entirely pasture-fed diet would result in 50% reduction in fossil fuel consumption per kcal of meat protein produced, changing the energy ratio between input fossil fuel and output calories to something like 20:1). The story is similar for most of the other issues.

So yeah, maybe you don't need to give up delicious, delicious steak entirely to be a good environmentalist, but you sure do need to have your facts straight.
posted by invitapriore at 10:42 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are Meat Eaters Starving the Poor?

Let's see, what else is on offer at thefreemanonline.org? ("The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), one of the oldest free-market organizations in the United States, was founded in 1946 by Leonard E. Read to study and advance the freedom philosophy. FEE’s mission is to offer the most consistent case for the 'first principles' of freedom: the sanctity of private property, individual liberty, the rule of law, the free market, and the moral superiority of individual choice and responsibility over coercion.")

-- Why Socialism Failed

-- Mr. Obama, Tear Down This Wall!

-- John Maynard Keynes: The Damage Still Done by a Defunct Economist

-- Why the Government Fails to Maintain Anything
posted by blucevalo at 10:43 AM on October 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


The lethal form of E. coli didn't exist in cows before 1980. It's a direct result of feeding cows corn and grain instead of grass, which is their natural diet. From Michael Pollan's An Omnivore's Dilemma:

"Jim Russell, a USDA microbiologist on the faculty at Cornell, has found that switching a cow's diet from corn to grass or hay for a few days prior to slaughter reduces the population of E. coli 0157:H7 in the animal's gut by as much as 80 percent. But such a solution (Grass?!) is considered wildly impractical by the cattle industry and (therefore) by the USDA. Their preferred solution for dealing with bacterial contamination is irradiation -- essentially, to try to sterilize the manure getting into the meat."

I'm surprised the Times story didn't mention that. It did implicate Uruguay, though, where all the cows eat grass.
posted by judlew at 10:45 AM on October 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


You don't need to give up delicious delicious steak to be a good environmentalist.

Not to nitpick, but even if someone did lots of good environmental things (recycle, no car, no air travel, small apartment), but still ate a typical American diet, they would probably still have an unsustainable carbon footprint.

I think it might be hard to be a good environmentalist without at least giving up delicious, delicious steak sometimes.
posted by snofoam at 10:52 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not to nitpick, but even if someone did lots of good environmental things (recycle, no car, no air travel, small apartment), but still ate a typical American diet, they would probably still have an unsustainable carbon footprint.

Not to nitpick but is this based on anything other than your own conjecture or is there actual evidence to back this up?

Note: I don't mean to sound as snarky as the above actually sounds.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 11:00 AM on October 4, 2009


The part of the story I found most outrageous was the part about how the slaughterhouses block testing to cover their own asses. The government needs to come down hard on this.



Many big slaughterhouses will sell only to grinders who agree not to test their shipments for E. coli, according to officials at two large grinding companies. Slaughterhouses fear that one grinder’s discovery of E. coli will set off a recall of ingredients they sold to others....

Craig Wilson, Costco’s food safety director, said ....... “Tyson will not supply us,” Mr. Wilson said. “They don’t want us to test.”

...The food safety officer at American Foodservice, which grinds 365 million pounds of hamburger a year, said it stopped testing trimmings a decade ago because of resistance from slaughterhouses. “They would not sell to us,” said Timothy P. Biela...."


posted by CunningLinguist at 11:01 AM on October 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Let's see, what else is on offer at thefreemanonline.org?

What an ingenious way to avoid addressing the substance of an argument! You'd think that someone would have thought of that. What shall we call it? How about something related to attacking the speaker rather than the speech? Let's put it in Latin, so it sounds smarter...
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:02 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


And what an incredibly clever way to illustrate your apothegm that "Anecdotes are useful, facts are better."
posted by blucevalo at 11:09 AM on October 4, 2009


Not to nitpick but is this based on anything other than your own conjecture or is there actual evidence to back this up?

Carbon-footprint and water-use-wise, I've heard very similar statistics from many different sources. For instance: Want To Reduce Your Food-related Carbon Footprint? What You Eat Is More Important Than Where It Came From

Unfortunately, rice farming has an even higher carbon footprint than beef, because methane is a much worse greenhouse gas than CO2.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:09 AM on October 4, 2009


Not to nitpick but is this based on anything other than your own conjecture or is there actual evidence to back this up?

Well, looking up our meat consumption, which was apparently about 220+ lbs per capita in the US, versus the world, which is about 40 lbs per capita (including the US and other developed countries), this is likely to be unsustainable. There are different figures, but between the fossil fuels used to feed the animals and the greenhouse gasses they emit from digestion (farting), there's no way we could deal with it if everyone was consuming at our levels. Likewise, we wouldn't have the grain to raise that much meat, or the space to do it without razing all the forests.

It's not that hard to figure out.
posted by snofoam at 11:10 AM on October 4, 2009


Then, you've got to prove that foodborne pathogens are more harmful than a non-industrialized agricultural system, without which some portion of the planet's population would likely starve to death, and a far greater number would be inadequately nourished. That's the precautionary principle at work: the burden falls on the advocate of change.

Industrial agriculture was the change, and the burden of proof remains with them.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:17 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can you explain how your vision for how an all or mostly local distribution system for meat might be implemented? How it would differ from the current industrial system?

Structure incentives so that consumer prices more accurately account for the externalities of industrial agriculture. Like I said above. Read the post. Heavily processed food would no longer be so cheap as to overcome the "ick" factor, and more sustainable methods would be more competitive.

So yeah, maybe you don't need to give up delicious, delicious steak entirely to be a good environmentalist, but you sure do need to have your facts straight.

er, what facts precisely did I have incorrect? I'm aware that Americans eat far too much meat. My comment, and this discussion as a whole, is about quality of meat consumed, not quantity.

Of course, you provide little in the way of solutions in your comment, which boils down to "we eat too much meat and it's unsustainable." Yup, sure, I agree.

If you're actually interested in my answer on the (related, but separate) issue of quantity of meat consumed, I'd say you need to reduce demand, particularly for shitty (LITERALLY!!) meat.

Perhaps requiring better labeling would help. "Contains X% anus" might dissuade some consumers; or maybe an educational campaign on good diet. Combined with the above incentives, you could probably bring down consumption a bit.

Beyond that, I don't know what else you can do, short of passing laws that uncomfortably restrict people's right to choose their own diets.
posted by ScotchRox at 11:20 AM on October 4, 2009


Yeah, alarmism not quite justified.

You can die from food-borne illness living as a hunter-gatherer too. Many did, often young.

The problems are systemic and structural as well as local and contingent.

I remember reading about a family that fled NYC after 9/11 out of fear of further terrorism, to a nice Colorado suburb, only to be killed while driving down the Colorado interstate when a bridge beam fell and crushed their minivan.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:20 AM on October 4, 2009


Industrial agriculture was the change, and the burden of proof remains with them.

Say what? We're running the precautionary principle backward, now? Industrial agriculture supports the current world population. The same cannot be said for labor-intensive farming practices.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:21 AM on October 4, 2009


I remember reading about a family that fled NYC after 9/11 out of fear of further terrorism, to a nice Colorado suburb, only to be killed while driving down the Colorado interstate when a bridge beam fell and crushed their minivan.

So the point is ..... don't drive along interstates in Colorado while eating a hamburger? Or what?
posted by blucevalo at 11:24 AM on October 4, 2009


Beyond that, I don't know what else you can do, short of passing laws that uncomfortably restrict people's right to choose their own diets.

Well, maybe our government could introduce more effective safety standards that reduce the likelihood that our food will make us ill.

I feel like if we didn't have sell by dates on milk already, it would be impossible to get it implemented these days.
posted by snofoam at 11:27 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Well, notice that I said that meat doesn't have an intrinsic 'very high' risk. I never said it didn't have any risk at all.

"I like this 'there's risk in everything! live a little!' argument because it's so brash and plucky, but there's a less exciting argument to be made, the 'let's acknowledge that facing some risks doesn't meant we can't minimize some others'. Or in other words 'just because we all face slow deaths doesn't mean we have to eat steaks imbued with shit'."


Sorry, I didn't make my point very clear. What I was meaning to illustrate is despite historically large population groups eating raw or partially cooked meat doesn't mean there isn't a dangerous bacteria load in that meat that would have been killed by cooking. 5-20 people per 100,000 dieing every year is deemed an acceptable trade off for many activities and that may be in the case in the cultures that eat raw meat.
posted by Mitheral at 11:33 AM on October 4, 2009


Instead, records and interviews show, a single portion of hamburger meat is often an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of cows and even from different slaughterhouses. These cuts of meat are particularly vulnerable to E. coli contamination, food experts and officials say.

Buy some cheap high risk assets and bundle them with enough low risk assets, so you can sell the whole package forward as a low risk asset. Where have we heard this before? Did it wendell or not?
posted by Free word order! at 11:34 AM on October 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Modern farming is the most sustainable in history? That's crap. Yes, plow farming can lead to soil erosion - in some environments. That's why people in those regions have historically used non-plow techniques, like mound-planting or swidden planting. But it has been sustainably and profitably done for 1000s of years in other environments, and is far more sustainable than no-plow farming because the plowing and crop rotation (which is what predated the modern techniques) were not only better for soil health, but also disrupted weed growth, so that farmers needed both less fertilizer and less pesticide on their fields. Modern farming techniques also tend to require more water than some traditional techniques. (Though not more than traditional European plowing, but that was never developed to save water; instead they had all sorts of techniques to get rid of excess water in their fields).

Modern farming is the most productive that we have ever had per labour hour, but that does not mean that this extremely high productivity is at all sustainable. It's damaging to its immediate environment, and its highly dependent on fossil fuels for both energy and the necessary chemical additives.

Considering the ills of unemployment in both developing and developed societies, why are we priviledging the most labour-efficient over more fuel-efficient, land-efficient, water-efficient and less polluting methods?
posted by jb at 11:37 AM on October 4, 2009 [6 favorites]




jb: "Considering the ills of unemployment in both developing and developed societies, why are we priviledging the most labour-efficient over more fuel-efficient, land-efficient, water-efficient and less polluting methods?"

Because farm labour is very dangerous, boring and physically demanding.
posted by Mitheral at 11:44 AM on October 4, 2009


Luckily, Wegmans sells irradiated ground beef.

Wegmans? Are you sure you're not eating dogs that have worn overcoats and hats?

Some people here seem to want to have the quality and safety conversation without addressing quantity, but really, at these levels, they are inextricably bound. I don't believe much from Big Meat (is that what we're calling them? Really?) but I do believe that they cannot grass-feed the entire current stock of American cattle. Maybe people would be more receptive to quality arguments if they weren't already repressing a half dozen different facts about what they're eating and where it comes from.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:45 AM on October 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, rice farming has an even higher carbon footprint than beef, because methane is a much worse greenhouse gas than CO2.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:09 PM on October 4 [+] [!]


I would recommend reading down into the comments section of that "article" before you treat it like the results of scientific research. It sounds like the guy who wrote that just spent an afternoon googling stuff and multiplying a few numbers.
Andrew wrote:
Dear DJ,

You are clearly trying to provide good accurate info here so I commend you. However you have admitted in he discussion that you got your rice production figures out by a factor of 1000 (since the data was in THOUSANDS of CWT not just CWT - as pointed out by "Matt"). So please could you correct your headline figure for Rice of 276 and maybe put a range based on the other calcs you have done (eg 0.25-2). There are a number of articles out there on the web that use your article as a source eg http://www.loleegreen.com/2009/04/food-for-thought-carbon-footprint-of-rice/ all of which just glibly pass on this error that rice emissons are higher than beef pound for pound when actually the opposite is true. Thank you in advance. Regards
Reply to this

1. 7/5/2009 6:50 PM DJ wrote:
Andrew,

I have acknowledged that my figure was in error. However, I cannot "correct" it because I can't pin down an accurate number. As best I can determine at this time, CO2 emissions for rice are somewhere between ,5 and 36 pounds per pound-- an absurdly large range, much of which is still greater than beef.

I have contacted several experts, all of whom acknowledge the discrepancy in the available figures, but none of whom have yet been able to provide a resolution for that disrepancy. As soon as I get an answer (assuming I'm comfortable with its factuality), I will post it and correct my earlier posts. I will also do my best to track down those who have quoted me and advise them of the correct figures.

As far as I'm concerned, for the time being-- and for longer than I had hoped now-- there are no correct figures. I hope to find a solution soon.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:48 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


snofoam: you're not supposed to feed gasoline to the cows.
posted by jock@law at 11:48 AM on October 4, 2009


Beyond that, I don't know what else you can do, short of passing laws that uncomfortably restrict people's right to choose their own diets.

Well, maybe our government could introduce more effective safety standards that reduce the likelihood that our food will make us ill.


Jeez. Do people only read the last line of each post or what? That is precisely the point I've been advocating for improving food QUALITY. The quote you pulled refers to reducing the overly large QUANTITY of meat that Americans consume.

It may be my fault for being unclear; I hadn't eaten today so far. Now that I've had my quintuple-bacon-veal-burger with pate and baconaise, I'll be more on point.
posted by ScotchRox at 12:03 PM on October 4, 2009


I would recommend reading down into the comments section of that "article" before you treat it like the results of scientific research.

Well, that guy made the point quickly and clearly. If you want, you can look here or here for more scientific studies of the same question. Science and Geophysical Research Letters have more heft but they're behind a paywall for most people, so I went with the blog post. As the original author notes, this is still a question being researched, and there are certainly some possible scenarios where rice is better than beef. However, the likelihood points towards rice as the bigger greenhouse gas risk.

That said, if we continue to apply scientific and industrial methods to agricultural production, we may well be able to cut emissions and water usage for both rice and beef. If we give up on science and go back to the "tried and true" ways our ancestors "tried and died from," we can't expect different results.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:16 PM on October 4, 2009


That article was a giant shit sandwich.
posted by benzenedream at 12:23 PM on October 4, 2009


higher carbon footprint ... because methane is a much worse greenhouse gas than CO2.

Side note: here's a good example of why "carbon footprint" isn't exactly the greatest term.

Amusing Anecdote: My local-university-food-service-management-company has recently been advertising their "Low-carbon Diet" options. It makes me wonder what exactly they're replacing the carbon in the food with. Silicon?
posted by kiltedtaco at 12:23 PM on October 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


The frozen hamburgers that the Smiths ate, which were made by the food giant Cargill, were labeled “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties.” Yet confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.

This is why I only eat local, grass fed beef, ground or otherwise, and I only buy it once or twice a month. If you buy local, you do know where it comes from. I know not everyone lives near cattle farming, but you can at least buy from single sources, though not if you're buying from the supermarket.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:44 PM on October 4, 2009


I eat meat, but I sorta consider myself semi-environmentally-friendly too. I rectify these two things by the fact that I'm 45 years old and have chosen not to have any children, and since I'm 100% faithful to my significant other and she can no longer have children, I will not be increasing the energy-demand load on the planet through reproduction. That, I feel, gives me the moral standing to eat whatever meat I want, seeing as my non-existent children and their children and THEIR children, etc, etc, will not be eating any meat or using any electricity or fuel. That's my sacrifice for 'the cause' and I bet that in the long term, eradicating entire generations of human beings, by not bringing them into existence in the first place, is better for the environment than me giving up meat.
posted by jamstigator at 12:49 PM on October 4, 2009


145F is NOT medium-well. Medium-well would be 165F. Well-done is 170F. Medium is 160F, 145F is considered medium-rare, 140F is rare. At 145F the steak should be very pink and juicy in the center. The whole point with steak is to make sure all of the outside surfaces are seared at a very high temperature and the interior of the steak should be pretty much uncooked. Bacteria don't tend to penetrate very far into beef that is not ground. Ground beef, however can be pretty dangerous. I try to avoid ground beef whenever possible, and when I do eat it I try to stick to ground beef that's all from one animal, and then I make someone else eat some first and wait to see if they get sick.
posted by signalnine at 12:50 PM on October 4, 2009


Because farm labour is very dangerous, boring and physically demanding.

Well, I don't think it's so much a dichotomy, or false dichotomy. We can use modern methods when available, but we do have to take into account energy inputs and the long-term viability of what we're doing. If we're irreparably destroying the topsoil and soil nutrients in a region with over-use and no rotation, then we're cheating ourselves of future output from that soil, which should be considered its own resource.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:50 PM on October 4, 2009


I'm surprised no-one has mentioned Food Inc.
posted by binturong at 12:52 PM on October 4, 2009


It seems like the answer is pretty simple- if Cargill performs their testing post-mixing the meat from their suppliers, then Cargill must explicitly and exclusively bear the liability for poisoning their customers. Assigning liability to them this way will force them to do adequate testing of their product, otherwise they'll go out of business.
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:56 PM on October 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how my dog can eat fresh shit off the ground, and he's perfectly fine, and yet human beings, if they eat a few stray bits of e-coli that stuck to a butcher's block, end up sick and paralyzed.

This is because dogs actually have five stomachs!

That's right. And one of them is full of cat litter.

Two of them are made of polyurethane!

One of them is full of root beer, but it's not really used.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:59 PM on October 4, 2009 [14 favorites]


There's also the possibility of eating meat in moderation;

I was a vegetarian for almost fifteen years. I talked to literally hundreds of people about food and diet in that time. I freely admit, I was evangelical about it for the first three months, but after that, I merely answered questions from those who asked. And let me tell you: every single person I talked to about meat -- and I mean without exception -- said some variation of, "Well, I don't eat much meat." People who were veg except for the turkey at Thanksgiving and Xmas, people who ate red meat at twenty-one meals a week -- didn't matter. I submit that everyone who eats meat thinks he eats meat in moderation.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:00 PM on October 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Never buy meat from a discount store or a low-end supermarket. I would never buy a product from Cargill. That's always going to be a crap-shoot. Buy from a real butcher, a higher-end supermarket like Hay Day, King's or Whole Foods.

You do realise that this sort of choice is a luxury, yes? More than 10% of American families live in poverty. When you are trying to feed a family of four below the poverty line, the choice is not between King's and the butcher; it's between $1.99 ground beef and running out of money before the end of the month.

The solution to this problem is not for middle class America to park their Prius at Whole Foods, OK?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:10 PM on October 4, 2009 [14 favorites]


One of them is full of root beer, but it's not really used.

No, one of them is full of grass and bugs they pick up in the backyard.
posted by blucevalo at 1:13 PM on October 4, 2009


snofoam: you're not supposed to feed gasoline to the cows.

no doubt. and if god wanted cows to eat corn and chicken shit, he would have created man.
posted by snofoam at 1:25 PM on October 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


145F is NOT medium-well. Medium-well would be 165F. Well-done is 170F.

Killing live bacteria is one problem in food safety. Unfortunately dead bacteria can also kill you by leaving heat-stable toxins (endotoxins) in the food is not handled or stored properly. These can be fairly heat stable - it can take 2 hours at 570 F to destroy some endotoxins.
posted by benzenedream at 1:36 PM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can die from food-borne illness living as a hunter-gatherer too.

Indeed. You can die from a prion-based illness contracted from eating squirrel brains, for example.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:37 PM on October 4, 2009


Killing live bacteria is one problem in food safety. Unfortunately dead bacteria can also kill you by leaving heat-stable toxins (endotoxins) in the food is not handled or stored properly. These can be fairly heat stable - it can take 2 hours at 570 F to destroy some endotoxins.

I don't know about you, but I'm not gonna be autoclaving my ribeyes anytime soon.
posted by signalnine at 2:04 PM on October 4, 2009


Unless you enjoy the tasty flavour of bull's windpipes and chicken's anuses, that is. In which case, go right ahead.

Hey, protein is protein, as should be well known to someone from a country where they make kidney pie and blood pudding.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:16 PM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think this guy's angling for a position at the SEC.
posted by carping demon at 2:18 PM on October 4, 2009


You do realise that this sort of choice is a luxury, yes? More than 10% of American families live in poverty. When you are trying to feed a family of four below the poverty line, the choice is not between King's and the butcher; it's between $1.99 ground beef and running out of money before the end of the month.
So much for the argument that industrialized agriculture allows poor people to afford meat. If that's really the case, they surely are doing an hell of a job, if more than 30 million people have "a choice" between malnutrition and running the risk of industrially induced mutated bacteria infection. Not to mention health care, yet bovines in their short lives probably get more medical attention then you.

What a clusterfuck of a system.
posted by elpapacito at 2:32 PM on October 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


windpipe, thinly sliced, lightly battered and deep fried, beats onion rings and calamari every time.
posted by dirty lies at 2:43 PM on October 4, 2009


Never buy meat from a discount store or a low-end supermarket. I would never buy a product from Cargill. That's always going to be a crap-shoot.

Buy from a real butcher, a higher-end supermarket like Hay Day, King's or Whole Foods.


Have you seen the documentary "Food, Inc."? The odds are that whether you knew it or not, you were eating meat processed or produced by Cargill. Even if you did not: the "variety" of choices of meat producers in the US is five. If you think any of the other factory-farm meat producers are in any better shape than Cargill, I think you'll be sorely disappointed to learn that they are not.

What I want to know is: what will it take to get a public statement out of Cargill, et al? They have never, not once, ever made any public statements in response to a multitude of these kind of investigative stories. It's pretty clear that their processes are leading to this repeated occurence of a variety of serious infectious diseases in our food supply, and they've never had to take any responsibility for it. This is unacceptable.

I'm not some kind of food nazi, I just don't like that these hugely profitable companies can completely own the food production and distribution process and not have to ever answer to criticism about their obvious shortcomings in their methods.

ad
posted by adamd1 at 3:00 PM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here is something I don't understand:
Unwritten agreements between some companies appear to stand in the way of ingredient testing. Many big slaughterhouses will sell only to grinders who agree not to test their shipments for E. coli, according to officials at two large grinding companies. Slaughterhouses fear that one grinder’s discovery of E. coli will set off a recall of ingredients they sold to others.
We often hear stories of enormous retailers using their enormous relevance to cram special considerations down their suppliers' throats. Wal-Mart is the poster child for this sort of power, but supermarkets in general have lorded their position over their suppliers for a long time, even going so far as to charge them for the privilege of occupying shelf space in some cases.So why would an enormous and powerful company like Cargill (Wikipedia claims it's the largest privately held firm in the US) kowtow to its suppliers in this way? Why aren't companies in Cargill's position the ones dictating the testing policies? Cargill buys meat from a zillion different sources; why isn't their relationship with their suppliers more along the lines of "You will test your meat and you will somehow do it cheap. We will test your meat too. If you don't like it, too bad; you need us more than we need you."
posted by Western Infidels at 3:25 PM on October 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


er, what facts precisely did I have incorrect? I'm aware that Americans eat far too much meat. My comment, and this discussion as a whole, is about quality of meat consumed, not quantity.

Of course, you provide little in the way of solutions in your comment, which boils down to "we eat too much meat and it's unsustainable." Yup, sure, I agree.


That's fair, sorry for that accusation. I read your post with the assumption that your solution would work assuming current levels of meat consumption.

The problem is that any solution comes down to choosing which of two colossal forces you want to attempt to staunch: the huge demand for meat, or the market incentives that have produced the current industrial system. Those two depend on each other, but to attempt to deal with the former requires dealing with people, while the latter requires dealing with huge organizations through the medium of policy. Given the power of agricultural lobbyists, I think that trying to encourage (drastically) reduced meat consumption is probably the best avenue for improving the situation. I'm honestly fairly pessimistic about the future of food distribution and I think it will only change in the aftermath of some catastrophe, but I'm not omniscient, so I mostly just deal with that fear by hoping that I'm wrong.

I do think that drastically reducing one's meat consumption is probably the most effective step a person can take in terms of attempting to diminish his or her environmental impact, however miniscule one person's contribution might be. The current system of livestock production is a threat on both global and local levels, and the localities it affects are some of the most ecologically important– water supplies and our favorite, the rainforest (though soy production threatens the region too, it should be noted).
posted by invitapriore at 3:29 PM on October 4, 2009


Comparisons with steak are probably unhelpful. A pound of porterhouse has nothing like the surface area of a pound of ground chuck. You can keep eating your steaks rare.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:35 PM on October 4, 2009


higher carbon footprint ... because methane is a much worse greenhouse gas than CO2.

Side note: here's a good example of why "carbon footprint" isn't exactly the greatest term.


Side note two: methane is CH4, so when talking about "carbon footprint" methane counts just as much as CO2.

"Carbon footprint" is ignoring other greenhouse gases, though, like nitrous oxide (produced naturally in wetlands) and industrial gases like sulfur hexafluoride. So you were sort of right, just wrong about methane.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:55 PM on October 4, 2009


I rectify these two things by the fact that I'm 45 years old and have chosen not to have any children, and since I'm 100% faithful to my significant other and she can no longer have children, I will not be increasing the energy-demand load on the planet through reproduction. That, I feel, gives me the moral standing to eat whatever meat I want . . .

Sure. And to justify that incredibly patronizing tone why don't you go a step further and choose other people's children as that meat, thus further reducing your "energy-demand load". CWAA.
posted by The Bellman at 4:01 PM on October 4, 2009


The article is a great argument for us locavores. I am sure this hamburger was cheaper than the price of buying a locally grown piece of sirloin and grinding it at home, but the long term cost speaks for itself. It is hard to believe we are willing to sacrifice a livable lifestyle, a lower carbon footprint, basic humanity to workers and animals, and all the other costs we pay for our industrialized food system. I like to vote with my dollar the other way.
posted by bearwife at 4:05 PM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


"In all, the ingredients for Ms. Smith’s burger cost Cargill about $1 a pound, company records show, or about 30 cents less than industry experts say it would cost for ground beef made from whole cuts of meat."

For a 1/3-pound hamburger patty, this is 33¢ versus 43¢. That difference is less than the cost of a bun, not to mention the pop that often accompanies a burger. The savings for Cargill may be huge, but those 10¢ are trivial in the context of a meal.
posted by parudox at 4:05 PM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does it bother anybody else that they labled the burgers as containing nothing but beef, but put a whole lot of other stuff in there?
posted by borges at 4:12 PM on October 4, 2009


The listed ingredients revealed little of how the meat was made. There was just one meat product listed: “Beef.”

Emphasis mine. So they probably listed the bread crumbs and spices, but probably not the ammonia.
posted by parudox at 4:23 PM on October 4, 2009


The moral of the story is: everything will kill you, so just do whatever the hell you want.
posted by jonmc at 4:38 PM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Western Infidels: Why aren't companies in Cargill's position the ones dictating the testing policies? Cargill buys meat from a zillion different sources; why isn't their relationship with their suppliers more along the lines of "You will test your meat and you will somehow do it cheap. We will test your meat too. If you don't like it, too bad; you need us more than we need you."

They don't think it will increase their profit, and they're probably right. Walmart bullies its suppliers so it can save money and undercut competitors, and Cargill may very well do the same. But Cargill has no serious profit motive to hold suppliers to high food safety standards. At the very least, not one they can see.

It's also more than just about testing. Dealing with known contamination in the production line must surely be expensive, so forcing testing means forcing expensive clean-up and disposal of production. There's no magic bullet for preventing the initial contamination, either -- companies like Cargill would have to restructure their entire meat operations to avoid an unacceptably high rate of contamination. Until there's a food safety agency with teeth and without a contradictory mandate to support industry, Cargill will do no such thing.
posted by parudox at 4:47 PM on October 4, 2009


> Say what? We're running the precautionary principle backward, now? Industrial agriculture supports the current world population. The same cannot be said for labor-intensive farming practices.

No, you're selectively ignoring it. The food processing industry gets to just change shit (or add shit, as it were) but we have to come up with a reason for changing it back.

If you're concerned about the rest of the world, you can sell the shitty beef to them. Meanwhile, I demand decent stuff for myself.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:36 PM on October 4, 2009


I do wish articles like this (but more importantly ads for dodgy, spray-on disinfectants) would stop using the term "e. coli". E. coli is the most common bacteria in the world, wherever humans are. It's everywhere, on everything, in everything. It's only a few strains of said coli we need to worry about (like the one in this article), and I just hate those disinfectant/air freshener/pine-o-clean ads that go on about e. coli. I can't help feel it's contributing to a hygiene-related siege mentality in the west.

Sorry, bit of a derail.
posted by smoke at 5:47 PM on October 4, 2009


Remember when you could make a Caesar salad with raw eggs and not get salmonella?

It is not possible to remember these times. Because they did not exist.


Are you on crack? I make stuff with raw eggs all the time--chiefly mayonnaise and Caesar dressing--and have never had salmonella.

They might be overly cautious, but they're certainly not unreasonable (the steak temperature is somewhere around medium/medium-well).

Cooking a steak beyond medium-rare is completely unreasonable.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:00 PM on October 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


>I submit that everyone who eats meat thinks he eats meat in moderation.

Well, see, the unsexy part is when you actually have to plan and impose a sort of meat budget: you have to decide how much you're going to eat, keep track of how much you eat, and stick to that amount. Just as people (in theory) save in order to go on a trip or buy holiday presents, they have to eat tofu or peanut butter for dinner in order to pig out on Thanksgiving.

According to these people, per capita meat consumption in the U.S. per diem would be (if I'm doing the math right) about 9 ounces. Staying within the recommended amounts for a man of my age would put that at 6 ounces a day, which would cut my demand for meat by a third; substituting a non-meat protein for one serving (3 ounces), two-thirds. Of course, that requires some discipline...
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:06 PM on October 4, 2009


Meat consumption in the USA is 220lbs per capita? I am indeed a meat-eater. But to eat one's own body weight in meat is just sick.


Perhaps requiring better labeling would help. "Contains X% anus" might dissuade some consumers

So I'm in the Asian Supermarket the other day. Scouting around for lunch. And as I'm browsing the deli section I come across three interesting packages: "Misc Food," which turned out to be chicken feet; "Pork Bung," which upon closer inspection did indeed appear to be exactly what it proclaimed; and "Pig Uterus," which I didn't feel a great need to inspect closely.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:19 PM on October 4, 2009


Considering the incredibly low incidence of mad cow disease in humans,

For some value of "incredibly low," that is:

The U.S. government's monitoring system for cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal human brain illness, could be missing tens of thousands of victims, scientists and consumer advocates have told United Press International.

A form of the disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or vCJD can be caused by, among other things, eating beef contaminated with mad cow disease -- but the critics assert without a better tracking system it might be impossible to determine whether any vCJD cases are due to mad cow or obtain an accurate picture of the prevalence of the disorder in the United States...

Spontaneously-occurring or sporadic CJD is a rare disorder. Only about 300 cases appear nationwide each year, but several studies have suggested the disorder might be more common than thought and as many as tens of thousands of cases might be going unrecognized.

Clusters of vCJD have been reported in various areas of the United States -- Pennsylvania in 1993, Florida in 1994, Oregon in 1996, New York in 1999-2000 and Texas in 1996...Although in some instances, a mad cow link was suspected, all of the cases ultimately were classified as sporadic. Still, new research, released last December, indicates the mad cow pathogen can cause both sporadic CJD and the variant form.

"Now people are beginning to realize that because something looks like sporadic CJD they can't necessarily conclude that it's not linked to (mad cow disease)," said Laura Manuelidis, section chief of surgery in the neuropathology department at Yale University, who conducted a 1989 study that found 13 percent of Alzheimer's patients actually had CJD.

Several studies, including the one by Manuelidis, have found autopsies reveal 3-percent-to-13-percent of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia actually suffered from CJD. Those numbers might sound low, but there are 4-million Alzheimer's cases and hundreds of thousands of dementia cases in the United States. A small percentage of those cases could add up to 120,000 or more CJD victims going undetected and not included in official statistics.


Any kind of certainty about the level of mad cow disease in the larger population is speculative at best.
posted by mediareport at 7:31 PM on October 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


But to eat one's own body weight in meat is just sick.

Sounds like a lot, but it comes out to less than one 10 ounce steak per day, and nothing else. Definitely more than I can afford to eat, but eating about a single animal's weight in food a year doesn't seem that bonkers.
posted by floam at 7:34 PM on October 4, 2009


Who the fuck eats 10oz of steak a day? Can you imagine how godawful horrendous your shit would be from that much meat? Thanks, but no thanks. You can have your 10oz and mine.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:24 PM on October 4, 2009


Remember when you could make a Caesar salad with raw eggs and not get salmonella?

It is not possible to remember these times. Because they did not exist.

Are you on crack? I make stuff with raw eggs all the time--chiefly mayonnaise and Caesar dressing--and have never had salmonella.


But some people got salmonella in the 1950s and in the 1940s and in the 1930s, and before that they couldn't test for salmonella, but a lot of people got "gastritis" and "food poisoning."

I think the point is that it's a bit of the luck of the draw now, and it was a bit of the luck of the draw 50 years ago and 75 years ago.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:38 PM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mediareport, I'm looking at Laura Manuelidis' current research page (with lots of links to older work) and seeing lots of things that make me think that the United Press article is whipping her (subtle and nuanced) work into a uniform foam and putting a dollop of it on top of whatever has replaced TERROR TERROR TERROR! in the news.

Her actual work looks pretty interesting. She also has a link to her poetry.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:12 PM on October 4, 2009


I'm kind of amazed by that per-capita meat eating statistic. (And, from this graphic, the US isn't even at the top of the meat eating hill, amazingly.)

I feel like I eat a fair bit of meat, more than in moderation, probably. Because I buy my meat in bulk, I can estimate with some limited exactness how much meat I eat at home -- something like 120 pounds a year, I think. But a lot of that is fat and bones that might get cooked, but that I don't actually eat, so the actual total might be more like 100 pounds, or even a fair bit less.

Then there's the meat that I eat elsewhere -- probably the equivalent of three hamburgers a week. Let's be pessimistic and call that 1.5 pounds, so that conceivably could be as much as 75 pounds a year.

So unless I'm forgetting something, my actual consumption -- as a person who likes eating meat, and eats it often -- is well under the national average. What are people eating? Bacon pop tarts on the hour, every hour? How on earth do people actually eat that much?

Or are those statistics counting meat that is used in other ways (trimmings, dog food, chicken feed, etc)?

(Regarding the discussion of meat's global ecological impact, and the current trends in meat eating, Mark Bittman had a really fascinating article last year (link) on the subject; if it wasn't the subject of an FPP it certainly deserved to be.)
posted by Forktine at 9:18 PM on October 4, 2009


Killing live bacteria is one problem in food safety. Unfortunately dead bacteria can also kill you by leaving heat-stable toxins (endotoxins) in the food is not handled or stored properly.

Endotoxin, aka lipopolysaccharide are indeed a hazard - if your making biotech drugs in a Gram negative bacteria. (Interesting Trivia: The testing reagent for endotoxin is prepared from the blood of the horseshoe crab on an outpatient basis.)

If they were a food borne toxin the kilogram or so of E. coli currently living in your intestines would have killed you long ago.

Enterotoxins, like Shigella toxin, are heat stable.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:31 PM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Considering the ills of unemployment in both developing and developed societies, why are we priviledging the most labour-efficient over more fuel-efficient, land-efficient, water-efficient and less polluting methods?
posted by jb at 11:37 AM on October 4

Just good old fashioned greed, I'd say. The rich getting richer.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:22 PM on October 4, 2009


"Who the fuck eats 10oz of steak a day? Can you imagine how godawful horrendous your shit would be from that much meat? Thanks, but no thanks. You can have your 10oz and mine."

I know you said steak but 10 oz of meat protein spread out across a day isn't that much really. That's three breakfast sausages and a Royale with Cheese. Or a couple breakfast sausages and a chicken Caesar. Or a tuna sandwich and a small steak. Or a single breakfast sausage and a double burger.

There have been days when I was working hard, say stacking bales, when I've consumed 2-3X that amount easy. Eggs with either bacon, sausage or steak for breakfast (along with toast, grapefruit/orange, and hash browns); couple sandwiches for lunch at least one of which would contain meat either tun/salmon or cold cuts; and then steak or meat loaf or shepherds pie or hamburgers or chicken or fish or whatever along with vegetables, potatoes/rice/bread, salad and or fruit. It's important to get enough fibre of course.
posted by Mitheral at 12:21 AM on October 5, 2009


All this stuff needs is honest labeling. Force places to put estimates on meat products for home or restaurant consumption. Tell people how many animals are involved in an average serving and what parts might be included.

"Hmm. It looks like I'm nibbling on anywhere from 40 to 60 chicken assholes right now. And my darling child? I'm hand-feeding her some reconstituted pig dick. Fantastico."
posted by pracowity at 4:44 AM on October 5, 2009


All this stuff needs is honest labeling. Force places to put estimates on meat products for home or restaurant consumption. Tell people how many animals are involved in an average serving and what parts might be included.

Those of us who grew up in farm communities are well aware of this, though, and the majority of us eat meat with pleasure. The idea that "meat-eaters don't know where their meat comes from and if they did they'd stop" is very urban-centric.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:34 AM on October 5, 2009


Those of us who grew up in farm communities are well aware of this, though, and the majority of us eat meat with pleasure. The idea that "meat-eaters don't know where their meat comes from and if they did they'd stop" is very urban-centric.

The point is that if package labels have to admit they "contain meat from hundreds of cows from a half-dozen slaughterhouses", that will make it easier for consumers to choose the product that "contains meat from a single cow from a single slaughterhouse", and so will spur the industry to develop more of the latter kind of product.
posted by parudox at 9:35 AM on October 5, 2009


I take it all back. Denmark eats obscene amounts of meat. Americans are damn near vegan by comparison.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:20 AM on October 5, 2009


Medium is 160F, 145F is considered medium-rare, 140F is rare.

These numbers are very, very wrong. 180F is not well-done; it is when collagen begins to convert into gelatin... well past the point of being well-done. If your chicken or roast is 180F you can throw it out and get delivery. 160F is well-done with all pinkness eliminated, and what is typically aimed for for pork/poultry... and not beef. (Frankly I do them to 140-150 depending on the cut, dry pork/chicken is not for me.)

Of course, the entire concept of stabbing a steak with a digital thermometer while it cooks is absurd. If you can't eat a rare steak safely, you are buying the wrong meat.
posted by mek at 2:02 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why not simply give up eating meat altogether? It's so, so freakin' simple, and it solves such a multitude of nutritional, environmental, health and economic problems, for individuals and societies that it deserves to be called a panacea. People who continue to eat meat in the face of all the evidence against it are like people who continue to smoke cigarettes or fly in jet planes -- you sort of have no moral authority to mouth off on health and environmental issues. When you've stopped eating meat, then you can call me about global warming.

Faze, I am totally and 100% behind you up until that last little bit and I wish you hadn't said it. People just need to try their best. I wear leather shoes and have lapsed from veganism to vegetarianism - a spectacular failure to adhere to my own ethical system, I fully admit - but I am still trying my best. If you must remain a carnivore, just try having a vegetarian meal a couple of times a week. Not everything needs to have some kind of flesh in it. You'll help your wallet and your waistline most directly (I am given to understand that meat in the US is ridiculously expensive), and you'll indirectly be minimizing your negative contributions to the environment, same way you would if you changed your light bulbs.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:46 PM on October 5, 2009


Who is safe? Breatharians, that's who.

It seems breatharians love hamburgers:

Wiley Brooks is a purported breatharian, and founder of the "Breatharian Institute of America". (...) He told Colors magazine in 2003 that he periodically breaks his fasting with a cheeseburger and a cola, explaining that when he's surrounded by junk culture and junk food, consuming them adds balance. On his website, Brooks explains that his future followers must first prepare by combining the junk food diet with the meditative incantation of five magic "fifth-dimensional" words which appear on his website. In the "Question and Answer" section of his website, Brooks explains that the "Double Quarter-Pounder with Cheese" meal from McDonald's possesses a special "base frequency" and that he thus recommends it as occasional food for beginning breatharians."

"DO YOU KNOW THE BASE FREQUENCY OF THE DOUBLE-QUARTER-POUNDER WITH CHEESE MEAL FROM MCDONALD AND DIET COKE?"

"Do the meditation excersize before drinking lots of diet coke in the 20 oz and 1 liter sizes (with caffeine) in the plastic bottles only. Along with a double-quarter-pounder/with cheese meal at McDonald's only. "
posted by iviken at 3:02 PM on October 5, 2009


I am still waiting for someone objective to put a Breatharian on camera for 24 hours a day for, oh let's say ten days. If they're still alive, then the movement has some credibility. If not, lock 'em all up in the looney bin until their mental illness is cured.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:48 PM on October 5, 2009


I'm just here to remind you all that Sweden is a salmonella-free country. So all y'all can stop yammering about how food poisoning is just there and always has been while all the Swedes I know devour delicious raw egg delicacies. My favorite was kladdkaka, a woefully undercooked gooey chocolate cake. A booklet I got from the Sweden egg board has a great recipe for a raw egg smoothie...
posted by melissam at 7:42 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Canadian eggs were salmonella-free for the longest time. I've no idea if they still are, but they certainly were a couple decades ago.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:59 PM on October 5, 2009


They are, as is our chicken. Our pork is also free of trichinosis, so feel free to keep it pink.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:11 PM on October 5, 2009


Well there you have it, then. Raw eggs and bacon for everyone!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:17 PM on October 5, 2009


I've made Caesar with a raw egg once a week for most of my life, with no ill effects. Delicious Canadian Caesar.
posted by mek at 10:20 PM on October 5, 2009


"DO YOU KNOW THE BASE FREQUENCY OF THE DOUBLE-QUARTER-POUNDER WITH CHEESE MEAL FROM MCDONALD AND DIET COKE?"

(note to non-American readers: That would be the Royale with cheese meal.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:28 AM on October 6, 2009


I live in cattle country. We can/have/try to buy only locally grass-fed beef and poultry, and I grind my own. It's not easy without a deep freezer, but I've had too many power outages to make the "buy a cow" mistake again. But, of late, most of my friends have become either vegetarians, vegans or vegi-quarians (they eat fish). I don't eat pork or Big Poultry chickens. But I love a good steak, and lamb is about my favorite meat ever. My favorite Lebanese dish uses raw lamb, a thing that is almost inconceivable these days. Only...I don't much care for red meat when it is cooked. Especially cooked to the level where it's considered "safe".

Since I do almost all of the menu planning and shopping, I've noticed that our menus are becoming progressively more vegetarian, much to the consternation of my husband; who was raised on a cattle ranch, and believes that cow may be one of the major food groups.

I'm sad by how disgraceful the food supply in this country has become. It's tragic that dollars trump lives, that profits trump people. When spinach can kill you, and a hamburger paralyze you, but the food producers are resisting testing because it might cut into their quarterlies...well...that's some fucked up shit right there.

Me, I need some good vegetarian cook books.
posted by dejah420 at 3:15 PM on October 6, 2009


It's tragic that dollars trump lives, that profits trump people.

Isn't that the nation's mantra, though? If not originally, it has certainly become so over the past thirty or forty years.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:14 PM on October 6, 2009


"DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY CALL THE BASE FREQUENCY OF THE DOUBLE-QUARTER-POUNDER WITH CHEESE MEAL FROM MCDONALD AND DIET COKE IN FRANCE?"
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:47 PM on October 6, 2009


At the risk of introducing something bordering on science into the discussion, I thought it interesting that no red meat products (unless you count fish, specifically tuna, as meat) made it into the top 10 food poisoning risks in the US.
posted by Forktine at 2:16 AM on October 7, 2009


That's because they only considered foods under FDA supervision, which meat is not (the USDA takes care of that). They mention that meat is still the foremost cause of food poisoning.
posted by invitapriore at 1:57 PM on October 7, 2009


Here's a thought. The paraplegia that followed the food poisoning was actually caused by the 9 weeks of induced coma, during which time the woman's muscles wasted from disuse! Even astronauts exposed to microgravity yet active, for nine weeks, return to earth unable to walk or even stand up at first. In fact NASA has claimed debilitation of flight crews from disuse atrophy is the BIGGEST OBSTACLE TO MANNED EXPLORATION IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM. Do you know what that means? The damned doctors caused her paralysis by rendering her unconscious for nine weeks! And they can't do anything about the problems they caused! Is this a surprise? No. This sort of iatrogenic problem was the reason for the Hippocratic Oath! The same thing is what paralyzed Christopher Reeves, where his being bed-ridden and unmoving for more than 2 months following his nervous system trauma, allowed for advance of disuse atrophy that left him paralyzed. Here's the joke. This sort of paralysis is reversible, but its reverse is not possible using standard approaches to physical therapy involving resistance exercises. Instead electrochemistry is called for, something about which the doctors know nothing. Tragic, yes. Forgivable? Never. Neuroscience is as backwards now as it was a century ago.
posted by Veridicality at 2:28 PM on October 7, 2009


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