Update: The day after the Guardian ran the expose that this article is based on, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about a proposed regulation that would allow employees of meat-packing plants to take over some of the responsibilities of government inspectors. (February 21, 2018, “A Rush to Slaughter Provokes Opposition.”) This is in the name of greater “efficiency.” So workers who are butchering more than 1,000 hog per HOUR, would also be performing food safety checks. Poultry plants have already been subject to rule changes like this, and according to the Wall Street Journal, Food & Water Watch found that “30% of chicken plants using fewer federal inspectors exceeded the USDA’s threshold for salmonella contamination… compared with 13% of plants operating under the traditional system,” before rule changes.
Even as we work to improve the food supply by making people aware of unsafe and unsanitary conditions in factory farming and large-scale processing, things could be getting worse, not better! Once again, local food from trusted farmers seems to be the best, if not only, way to feel safe about what you and your family are eating.
This “dirty meat” story in today’s Guardian U.S. is really scary, but you don’t have to go vegan to avoid the horror stories and health risks of mass-produced meat.
Read this at your own risk, because it may make you hesitate to eat out, or even shop for meat at your local supermarket–unless you have a great farm-to-table restaurant that shares with you the origins of all the meats on its menu, or a local farm that will share with you the practices and facilities it uses to raise and slaughter its animals for meat.
There is a movement in the U.K. to restrict meat imports from the U.S., because reporters there have gained access to government memos outlining details of the inspection of poultry, pork, and beef processing plants. Those memos contain details that are truly horrifying.
According to this article, one poultry company, Pilgrim’s Pride, slaughters 34 MILLION animals a week! This article cites unpublished government reports saying that: “More than 16,000 non-compliance reports on Pilgrim’s Pride operations detail 36,612 individual regulatory violations – an average of 1,464 a month – at the 24 plants during a 25-month period between 2014 and 2016.”
The types of violations cited are truly horrifying. Condemned carcasses not approved for human consumption are placed in containers that are meant for edible food. Piles and piles of chicken parts left rotting on the floor are picked up and washed with chlorinated water to be packaged. Inspectors found chicken parts covered in fecal matter and had to order that they be condemned from entering the food chain. If the inspector had been looking at a different part of the huge production facility at that moment, where would those parts have ended up???
The incidents described in pork factories are also horrifying. (I am overusing that word, but it seems to fit in each instance!) Decaying pig heads and skins are blocking up drains and causing factory floors and sinks to be covered in bloody contaminated water.
A new analysis in the U.K. looks at numbers published by the CDC in the U.S. and Public Health England to show that there is much more foodborne illness, and salmonella in particular, in the U.S. than in the U.K. Now U.K. watchdog groups are afraid that a new trade deal with the U.S. that includes meat products will compromise their food supply. Let’s hope that trade pressure leads to improvements here. But even if there is improvement, it would likely not address many many practices that are unhealthy and cruel to animals.
At our farm, the chickens, pigs, and cows are all free to roam outside in organic pastures. They are offered shelter for safety in bad weather conditions, or to give birth and care for their babies. We do slaughter animals for meat, but not on a large scale. We do not hurry to unnaturally fatten them up. They eat as nature intended: grass and hay (no grains) for the cows, pecking in the pasture and the highest quality organic feed for the chickens, and the pigs forage around in the woods and the pasture, and are fed the very clean waste from our organic vegetable production, and organic feed.
The way that meat is mass-produced in this country now, even substantial improvements will not be acceptable to those of us who are concerned about our own health and nutrition, and the health and well being of animals. I have written about this before (see “Feed Lots Are Not Farms!), but this new report is full of new horrors, and new motivations to KNOW YOUR FARMER! BUY LOCAL! BUY ORGANIC!
Joanne Malino, a certified Integrative Nutrition Coach, co-founded Profeta Farms with her husband, Paul Profeta, and General Manager, John Place. Joanne helps people to optimize their health and energy by choosing the best, cleanest, most wholesome foods available. She is passionate about providing a wide variety of local, organic, great-tasting foods to the surrounding area, and educating people about the importance of knowing where their food comes from.