Industrially produced sounds clean. In many people it evokes an image of sparkling, sanitized efficiency. Food producers, fearing extinction by litigation are going to every possible expense to deliver to the world the safe, healthy products that we demand, at ever cheaper competitive prices. This industry that I have described exists only in the minds of food industry CEOs and about half of the Congressmen in Washington.
The reality of the food industry is that, while it is true they will spare no expense, the expense is not on producing ever cleaner meats for us. The expense that they gladly bear is whatever expense is necessary to get government meat inspectors out of the business of checking whether the meat that they are producing is, in fact, untainted and without disease.
In today’s New York Times we find that a pilot meat ‘inspection’ program that does not rely on inspectors to actually inspect every pork carcass that is coming off of the line has been declared a ‘success’ by meat companies and the head of the USDA. This is what the USDA inspector had to say about the same program…
Then, last year, the U.S.D.A. inspector general reported on the hazard analysis project. The findings were damning. Enforcement of food safety protocols was so lacking at the five plants participating that between 2008 and 2011, three of the five were among the 10 worst violators nationwide (of 616 pork processors).
Despite the risk of passing poisoned or diseased meats to you, dear eating public, this is why Hormel loves the new semi-automated system of checking whether or not the meat is clean and healthy:
The new inspection system allowed Hormel to increase the speed of its cut lines, just before demand for cheap pork products like Spam soared during the recession. My reporting revealed that Hormel went from processing about 7,000 hogs per shift to as many as 11,000.
Faith may be able to move mountains, but it does not produce healthy meats. Speed does not produce a perfect product, either, and contributes to missing things that would have been rejected if only we could spare the time to check them. Meat producers must know that by almost doubling the speed of the lines slaughtering meats that it makes it easier to do dirty work AND it makes it harder to find dirty meat before it is packed for shipment. For some reason, though, that doesn’t matter to the industry. It matters to you, but you are busy living your life and do not have time to keep track of how your foods are maintained safe. They know that there is a great deal of money to be made between the time that they get regulations lifted and the time that there is a public outcry at the flood of food related illnesses and ever-increasing numbers of meat recalls.
Once again, I urge you to NOT complain to your government representatives. The best way to protest against industrial corner cutting on food safety, the way food is raised, the antibiotics and hormones in it, the inhumane living conditions of our food animals is to get your meat from another source. If people buy their pork from farmers then more farmers will produce meats to sell to you directly. The distribution system makes it hard to buy this way, but it is far from impossible. I just bought a hog this week. It was raised in Kansas and spent it’s entire life roaming the lot, being fed standard hog foods and foraging when it wanted to. I paid, after processing and delivery, only six dollars per pound for the meat and lard fat. While that may seem like a great deal more than you can get breakfast sausage for, or pork shoulder, or ham, if you compare what I am getting to what you are getting then I think the price is actually reasonable. I will gladly pay it again as soon as I need to.
I now have a reliable source for beef, pork and chicken and eggs. I will not be buying any more of these things from unreliable meat producers. They do not have my best interests as their best interests. I need to eat meats and natural fats to keep me and my family healthy and I will. When they decide that inspection and slowing down is in their best financial interests then maybe some day I will come back to eating what they make. Until then, me and my appetite will help cultivate food production systems that more closely coincide.