Okay, so I'm on the verge of becoming a fishatarian.
I just finished reading "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. I highly, HIGHLY recommend reading this book. I'm going to share with you guys a few things that are incredibly disturbing about the meat packing industry, and... it just might put you off beef the way it has for me.
I honestly don't know if I'll be able to eat beef again, and I struggled to buy chicken yesterday. I got free range, steroid and hormone free and it made me feel a little better.
There are two things to remember when you read this.
1. The facts in this book were meticulously researched, recorded and reported. They have not been proven false despite many attacks against the author.
2. Since the publishing in this book, through the Bush administration, the conditions have worsened. This was discovered by follow up visits to the plants and allowed to happen by the Bush Administration reversing public health safety bills due to large donations to his campaign from interested parties such as The American Meat Institute and The National Restaurant Association. A quote from the book: "One of the Bush administration's first food safety decisions was to stop testing the National School Lunch Program's ground beef for Salmonella."
Okay, so here we go. I'm just going to spew out a bunch of stuff here - if you have a weak stomach you might not want to read this.
"Behind them [the medical literature on the causes of food poisoning] lies a simple explanation for why eating a hamburger can now make you seriously ill: There is shit in the meat.
"Some herds of American cattle may have been infected with E. coli decades ago. But the recent changes in how cattle are raised, slaughtered, and processed have created an ideal means for the pathogen to spread. ... The cattle now packed into feedlots get little exercise and live amid pools of manure. "You shouldn't eat dirty food and dirty water," the official told me. "But we still think we can give animals dirty food and dirty water." Feedlots have become an extremely efficient mechanism for "recirculating the manure," which is unfortunate, since E.coli can replicate in cattle troughs and survive in manure for up to 90 days.
"About 75 percent of the cattle in the US were routinely fed livestock wastes - the rendered remains of dead sheep and dead cattle - until August of '97. They were also fed millions of dead cats and dead dogs every year, purchased from animal shelters. The FDA banned such practices after evidence from Great Britain suggested that they were responsible for a widespread outbreak of ..."mad cow disease." Nevertheless, current FDA regulations allow dead pigs and dead horses to be rendered into cattle feed, along with dead poultry. ...cattle blood is still put into the feed given to American cattle. 'They're designed to eat grass and, maybe, grain. I mean, they have four stomachs for a reason - to eat products that have a high cellulose content. They are not designed to eat other animals.'
"The waste products from poultry plants, including the sawdust and old newspapers used as litter, are also being fed to cattle. ...chicken manure may contain dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, parasites such as tapeworms and Giardia lamblia, antibiotic residues, arsenic, and heavy metals.
I'm going to paraphrase here because there's too much to type. A big disease spreader in the butchering of cattle is with the removal of the innards. That's where all the nasty bacteria live, and these workers have to remove the stomach and intestines, tie them off and discard of them without spilling the contents. It takes an average worker 6 months to learn how to do it right, and the best among them can't do more than 200 in a row. Inexperienced gutters spill a lot more often. So, one mistake's consequences multiply really quickly as the carcass moves down the line - contaminated knives aren't sterilized regularly enough, and spread the disease to the next carcass it cuts.
The huge number of cattle processed in each slaughterhouse, each day (by hand) are due to the extreme demands of beef from large fast food companies such as McDonald, Burger King and Wendy's. Some plants slaughter up to 400 cattle an hour.
The estimation is that up to 50 percent of cattle in large slaughterhouses are infected by the microbe.
"Even if you assume that only 1 percent are infected, that means three or four cattle bearing the E coli microbe are eviscerated at a large slaughterhouse every hour. The odds of widespread contamination are raised exponentially when the meat is processed into ground beef.
"...the animals used to make about one-quarter of the nation's ground beef - worn-out dairy cattle - are the animals most likely to be diseased and riddled with antibiotic residues. ...Like the multiple sex partners that helped spread the AIDS epidemic, the huge admixture of animals in most American ground beef plants has played a crucial role in spreading E. coli. A single fast food hamburger now contains meat from dozens or even hundreds of different cattle.
"This is no fairy story and no joke," Upton Sinclair wrote in 1906, "the meat would be shoveled into carts, and the man who did the shoveling would not trouble to lift out a rat even when he saw one - there were things that went into the sausage in comparison with which a poisoned rat was a tidbit." Sinclair described a long list of practices in the meatpacking industry that threatened the health of consumers: the routine slaughter of diseased animals, the use of chemicals such as borax and glycerine to disguise the smell of spoiled beef, the deliberate mislabeling of canned meat, the tendency of worker to urinate and defecate on the kill floor.
"A 1992 USDA study of the Streamlined Inspection System for Cattle concluded that beef produced under the program was no dirtier than beef produced at slaughterhouses fully staffed by federal inspectors. But the accuracy of that study was thrown into doubt by the revelation that meatpacking firms had sometimes been told in advance when USDA investigators would be arriving at SIS-C slaughterhouses. The Monfort beef plant in Greeley, Colorado, was one of the original participants int he program. According to federal inspectors there, the meat produced under the SIS "had never been filthier." At SIS-C slaughterhouses, visibly diseased animals - cattle infected with measles and tapeworms, covered with abscesses - were being slaughtered. Poorly trained company inspectors were allowing the shipment of beef contaminated with fecal material, hair, insects, metal shavings, urine, and vomit.
Aside from all of that, the book discusses the high injury rate in the meatpacking industry, along with the terrible way the injuries are handled. The "fine" to the company for someone dying on the job is $441. The meatpacking industry requires individuals to sign waivers directly after being injured. If they're rushed to a hospital, they are followed by a representative. There was a woman who had both her hands crushed, and they talked her into signing the waiver with the pen in her mouth. The waiver states that they will hold the meatpacking company harmless and only see the doctors they want them to see, along with not reporting the injury, or they'll lose their jobs. They also hire a great deal of illegal immigrants, so if something goes wrong, or they get tired of the brutal conditions of the job, they can only take it so far because they're not legal to work in this country.
Seriously, go pick up the book. It'll change your life.