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Another huge ground beef recall

Our nation's beef marketers are bound and determined to make vegans of us all.  A California meat packer, Westland/Hallmark Meat Company, just recalled 143 million pounds of beef.  Of course, most of it has already been eaten and the company won't have to take it back.

This recall is not the first ground beef recall in the recent past.  In 2007 there were 21 recalls of beef, compared with eight in 2006 and five in 2005.  We have discussed these recalls in prior blog entries; they were based on concerns over a particularly deadly strain of E. coli bacteria.  The instant recall was based on the company's use of ill cattle who were unable to walk, called "downers".  It is illegal to use "downers" in the food supply because they pose greater health concerns for the public, including concern over "mad cow disease".  The company's processing of "downers" was brought to light by an undercover video produced by the Humane Society of the U.S.; the video showed workers using fork lifts to press "downers" to walk to the slaughtering point.

The video was an embarrassment to the US Dept of Agriculture which is theoretically monitoring slaughterhouses for this kind of problem.  37 million pounds of the recalled  meat were purchased by schools and other federal government nutrition programs to make hamburgers, chili and tacos.  The video showing this widespread abuse (which the President of Hlallmark claimed "shocked and horrified" him, is widely available on YouTube and other websites.  By law, when slaughter house employees encounter a diseased animal, they are required to summon a Ag Department veterinarian (on site) to assess the animal and determine whether it can be included in the food supply.  The video depicts widespread and "egregious" abuse of this procedure.

So just how far away is your local organic meat processor?

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