J500 Media and the Environment

At last the truth is out by travisjbrown
February 18, 2008, 8:18 am
Filed under: Food + Health | Tags: , , , ,

Check out this story in today’s Times about the largest beef recall in history. Apparently they’re mistreating the cows. Who knew?

-Travis Brown


12 Comments so far
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And how prophetic was our reading? Thanks, Travis.

Simran Sethi

Comment by j500

I agree that mistreating animals is something that we need to move away from. But my problem with a story like this is that it makes it sound like all beef producers and slaughter houses are torturing every animal all the time.

It doesn’t give a side note about how many slaughter houses there are in the united states. How many have been under USDA investigation. Or how many have a clean and respectable business.

It may be that they are all as evil as the one in this article. But they may not be. However, a story about how well the animals are treated right before death doesn’t ever make it to the front page.

Adam B

Comment by acbowman

Sorry, it does give those statistics at the bottom. I just missed that part the first time through. I got too caught up in how the article made beef producers in general look.

I have been reading through the article a bunch of times, and it looks like this is a failing of humanity, not just companies.

It also points out a problem with government regulation. Sometimes the government isn’t regulating what it is suppose to. I think there is a false sense that things are taken care of if the government has control over something like food inspection.

What happened here is that they didn’t inspect the meat, and then fed it to kids through a federal nutrition program.

Adam B

Comment by acbowman


Thanks for posting the news…you beat me to it. Very sad, but I don’t get the sense this is more commonplace within the major corporate feedlots/meatpacking plants. One of the most disturbing passages of Fast Food Nation, of course, was the mention that the lowest grade beef often ends up in school lunches. Hopefully this recall will inspire industry reform (although I’m not sure how a meat-packing plant can ever treat an animal humanely…)

Adam, I don’t think anyone argues that blind adherence to government regulation is the answer. Government regulation is only as good as the administration in charge at the time.

It just so happens that this current administration is notorious for its close ties to industry and for appointing incompetence to government posts, so of course any current government regulation would do a “heckuva job” with its oversight.

The problem is not with the notion of having government intervene; the problem is we need people more concerened with the Greater Good rather than first and foremost thinking of industry (See Cheney’s Energy Task Force…of what little you can see of it).


Comment by rarab

Oops, correction…since I’m not able to edit my own comments, earlier I meant to say:

…I DO get the sense this is commonplace within the major corporate feedlots/meat-packing plants.


Comment by rarab

Also of interest, from the Center for Food Safety:
“The Kansas State Senate is considering a bill, SB 595, that would make it illegal for dairies to label their milk as “artificial hormone-free.” There will be a hearing on SB 595 soon. Now is the time to stop this bill!

Additionally, the broad language of SB 595 could affect other food labeling that provides you with key information on foods beyond dairy, such as “cage free” and “free range” products.

Consumers want more information about the foods they buy and feed to their families – not less. These types of labels are not “misleading,” they fill an important gap in knowledge about how our food is produced. Consumers have a right to know about the origins of their food, and producers have a right to tell them.”

And from the Kansas City Food Circle Blog:
“The following analysis of the issue is provided by Rick North of the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and Craig Volland of the KC Food Circle & Kansas Sierra Club CAFO Committee.

Rick North of the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility:
SB 595 bans two types of labels. The first is a label based on composition of the food product that can’t be confirmed through lab analysis. There is no current commercial lab test that can detect rBGH. Therefore, this would knock out labels such as rBGH-free, rBST-free, or Does not contain artificial hormones.

The current industry standard requires that farmers sign an affidavit swearing that they don’t use rBGH. The second provision in the bill knocks that out. In both instances, the bill makes an illogical leap that just because something isn’t demonstrated by a lab test or is sworn to by affidavit or other sworn statement, then its misleading. This would knock out any production-related labels, such as “Our farmers pledge not to use rBGH (rBST, artificial hormones).”

Monsanto is getting clobbered in the marketplace. Dairy after dairy is going rBGH-free, all over the country. We estimate that at least one third, and probably 40-50% of all fluid milk sold in the U.S. is rBGH-free, and its going higher all the time. This is costing Monsanto millions of dollars and they are pulling out all the stops to reverse the trend. Their strategy is simple prevent consumers from knowing whether dairy products are rBGH-free or not by censoring label information.

Whats even more incredible about this bill is that it would appear to cover ANY food, not just dairy products. This is beyond what we’ve seen in bills/rules we’ve been fighting in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. I’m not even sure it’s intended to go that far. There are all kinds of food labels that can’t be verified by lab tests state of origin, country of origin, bottled water claims (such as spring-fed or from a particular location) and (possibly) organic, to name a few.

Craig Volland:
I believe this bill would also ban the label “free range” for meats which is critically important to small farmers in Kansas who sell direct to eaters or to restaurants. That’s because it is verified to our customers by testimonial or affidavit, not certification. Also, depending on how they define “agricultural product” it could snag baked goods and jams and jellies, for example, that use some or all organically grown inputs but the processor may not, her- or himself, be certified organic.

Regardless of the science, this is, fundamentally, a consumer right- to- know issue. Also Monsanto has a long history of intimidating farmers with lawsuits (ie. Percy Schmeiser case) and
otherwise attempting to get their way through undue governmental influence. Because of their power and influence, product labeling is one of the few ways a consumer can exercise freedom of choice in this matter. Missouri growers may be seeing this shortly in the Mo. legislature.

Action against the Kansas bill must be swift because the Senate must act on it in the next week or so to abide by certain rules to get it through the Kansas House before the session ends.”

If you are inspired to act, a petition is here or you can write your legislator.

-Simran S

Comment by j500


I would agree that this administration has a number of problems. But I doubt the meat industry got this bad over only the last eight years.

Also, is it this article, or some other info that makes you feel as if this is common place in meat packing?

I am not disagreeing with you, just want more info.


Comment by acbowman


Signed and sent petition.

The more knowledgeable consumers are the better.


Comment by acbowman

So, who does all of this really affect? Small, family owned farms who can’t afford to lose millions like the giant corporations. Market goes south -> Small farms lose profits, go bankrupt -> get bought by corporations who then get bigger -> more corp shananigans -> more horrible food -> everyone is worse off.


Oh yes, for the 5 minutes that I heard JJ listening to Fox News talk about this recall story, they mentioned “Mad Cow Disease” like every 10th word. Apparently, their mission statement also includes: “always try to scare the pants off the American public by mentioning MCD whenever there is a story about cows…no matter what.”

Oh yes, it’s interesting how a couple of employees were immediately fired – where’d they go? That’s who should be interviewed. Did they receive instructions to proceed with sick animals from their superiors? Anyone want to bet these guys who got fired were just following undocumented instructions from above? We all know some companies cut corners to increase profits… perhaps this was just one more way to do that.

We should also consider that ideas of what is considered animal cruelty are not the same across all cultures. Bull fighting, for example, is a cultural tradition for some – animal cruelty to others. Employees can come from various cultural backgrounds that may or may not lead them to question animal treatment at work. Just a thought.

~ Sarah Hemme

Comment by shemme

Very interesting. Although I would hope that under USDA regs, even someone who has a passion for bull fighting isn’t stabbing the cows or steers as they enter the meat packing plants.

But yes, I also agree that stories like this make the whole meat industry look bad, including the small farmer. For many I don’t think they make the distinction.

Like so many things, and I might argue to say everything,(except maybe a mime,) it isn’t a black and white issue.


Comment by Adam Bowman


I’ll definitely take you up on your bet about the amount of damage this administration could allow in eight years. Sure, things could have been better during the Clinton era, too, but this current administration believes in even far less government oversight than its predecessor.

As for additional reading to support my claims, we’ve already read about Pollan’s experiences with meat-packing plants–and he addresses your question head on in “Omnivore’s Delimma.” I’ve also already alluded to coverage of this issue in Fast Food Nation, which I highly recommend you read if you haven’t already (and the movie is nowhere near a proper substitute).


Comment by rarab


Check out Tom Philpott’s post on Grist. It features a great quote from Upton Sinclair, the granddaddy of meat-packing mud-raking.

John K

Comment by genghiskuhn

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