Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What's in your burger?

A post on another blog got an interesting discussion going on the safety of ground beef. Seemed like a good topic for today.

Several years ago, I read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. It covered several aspects of the fast food industry, but the most appaling to me by far was the American slaughter houses, and what, exactly, goes into your meat.

After collecting ground beef samples from meat processing plants around the country in 1996, the USDA determined that 7.5% of the beef samples were contaminated with Salmonella, 11.7% were contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, 30% were contaminated with Staphylococcus Aureus, and 53.3% were contaminated with Clostridium perfringens5.

By far, the most prevalent, and the scariest contamination is e-coli. E-coli gets into the meat by contamination of the meat by fecal matter. Poop. Crap. In the meat. It is on the hides of the cattle, and can be spilled from the intestines. The companies use ammonia to get rid of it, assuming of course that it is caught. Yum. Ammonia. Sounds like a tasty treat to me!

Cooking ground beef to 160 degrees is supposed to kill e-coli right? Well yes. However, studies are showing that kitchen cross contamination is a serious problem, when even soap and hot water failed to get rid of all traces of the bacteria.

And I can't get over the fact that there is poop. In your meat.

Last year the New York Times ran an article on just how much of a problem it is. It is interesting, and scary reading.

My solution? Ditch red meat, or at least most of it. In the long run I want to ditch all meat outside of fish. I don't have an issue with eggs and milk, mostly because I find them useful and easier to again, in the long run, switch to a friendlier option. Unfortunately, my husband and children are not really on board with dumping meat entirely. Our red meat consumption however, is down dramatically. On the rare occasions we do eat ground beef, I buy cuts of steak and we grind it ourselves. At least I know what cow parts are making it in. I am not feeding my kids brain stems and ammonia soaked mash.

And looking at things from the green point of view, cattle take up an amazing amount of resources. The New York Times ran another article on the environmental impact of beef.

"Global demand for meat has multiplied in recent years, encouraged by growing affluence and nourished by the proliferation of huge, confined animal feeding operations. These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world’s tropical rain forests."

I really recommend reading that article. It is really informational.

Producing 2.2 lbs of beef generates as much greenhouse gas as driving for 3 hours. Add that one up. That doesn't take into consideration the water consumption, grain consumption, etc. Just some numbers to think about.

If everyone just cut back once a week, imagine the impact.

Project 365: Speaking of nasty things, most people are not fond of my daughter's pets. They are seriously the best small animal you can get for a kid. They are smart, friendly, and cuddly if you can get past your squeemishness. They are not mean like hamsters or fragile like guinea pigs or noisy like birds. So I am introducing everyone to Whiskers and Clove.

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