Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Tips: Another Recall, Ground Turkey Should Be A Wake Up Call

I'm going to come straight out and say some harsh things about the state of our food system. Some of you may read this and agree with me straight out, some of you may think about what I am saying and possibly gain a new perspective, and others will simply delete this post. No matter where you fall in that spectrum I do need to clarify, I have always written Tuesday Tips from a place of integrity. More times than not they are written because I care a little too much. Tuesday Tips started because I wanted to share insight into how I live my life, I'm a bit more grounded in a non-traditional lifestyle and people started asking for my advice on products I use or how I do things. I'm simply sharing a different way.

I care a lot about our food supply and spend time expanding my knowledge from a variety of sources like articles, journals, interviews, and books. I use the knowledge I gather to help me decide how to feed my family. Then on occasion it's like BELLS AND SIRENS AND BULLHORNS AND WHISTLES are blowing, but America can't hear them. We are numb to commercials and processed food, we are numb to sustainability and agriculture, we are numb to back door deals by Big Ag and the government we believe is there to protect us. In the last decade government agencies such as the USDA and FDA have proven time and time again they are not protecting us, but rather the interests of Corporations (that is a completely different long winded post).

How can it be, how can the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Services hold off on a recall that has resulted in a loss of life? How? They were more concerned with the corporations welfare than human life. It took two weeks, to gather "iron clad" evidence before making allegations against a massive scale meat producer such as Cargill. 36 Million pounds of ground turkey were a part of the recall.

Think about that, 36 Million Pounds. That fact alone makes me sick to my stomach, that a plant can produce 36 MILLION pounds of anything. That's just not natural, no pun intended.

Facts about mass produced ground meat and this particular recall:
Bones, fat, skin, and various parts of the turkey are ground into the pink slop they label, "ground turkey".

The ground turkey was contaminated with a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella Heidelberg aka a "super bug". Super bugs are of serious concern as they are a direct result of years of mishandling of the animals that are being raised to be processed, not to mention a direct reflection of the state of the processing facility. Chemicals are used to help ward off such bacteria, but clearly this method of meat production is the problem, no matter how many solutions they are trying to put in place to avoid major wake up calls like 36 MILLION pounds of tainted meat.

A USDA official was quoted during the initial release of the recall basically stating, you can eat the tainted meat, just make sure you cook it well. REALLY? Can we cut back to multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella. Thanks USDA for having our backs.

The meat industry uses 29 million pounds of antibiotics every year, which is roughly 80% of the antibiotic consumption in the USA annually. Turkeys are given a low level dose to keep them "healthy" enough to get them through their short lives in cramped cages, where may I add they never see the light of day. What does that mean to us? Animals are fed antibiotics in their subpar grains and other waste filled feed, so pathogens become resistant to the antibiotics because they mutate in such awful conditions. Then we eat the meat, are you connecting the dots? Let's just conclude the simple fact, if an animal is consuming antibiotics and we consume the animal, we are consuming low levels of antibiotics daily (as well as growth hormones, they want the animals to get bigger faster).

Cheap meat has it's price on our bodies, on the environment, and on our food supply.

So What Do We Do NOW?
Give up mass produced meat. Maybe you don't buy ground turkey from Cargill, but if you buy ground turkey at a wholesale club or in a grocery store that would be considered a "national brand" of turkey, reconsider your options. We know what it looks like, it's pink and not quite identifiable as turkey, I like to refer to it as, slop.

Seek out locally produced meat, from small farms and cooperatives. I suggest Local Harvest as a resource, there is a "meat processors" link.

Purchase meat from a grocery store that grinds meat on site. What does that mean? The butcher actually takes the whole meat and processes it at the store where you are purchasing it. I shop at Whole Foods and if ground turkey breast is out of stock, they will make me a batch fresh on the spot. Whole Foods also has a 5 Step Animal Welfare Rating for the meat they sell. Yes, I pay more and those are a few reasons why.

In our family, we chose only to eat quality meat that is humanely raised. I ask the butcher questions, I know the butcher at my local grocery store, and I encourage you to get to know yours as well. Don't be afraid to engage the employee in the meat department where you shop. Ask your butcher about the meat they are selling. If they tell you, I have no idea, it's processed in a central facility and comes in on a truck, you can pretty much assume it's from a factory farm. What is a factory farm?

Check the label to see what you are buying. I purchase ground turkey breast, clearly marked in the butcher's case. It doesn't come prepackaged, it's lean, healthy meat. It smells good and I am not scared to take a closer look at any meat I purchase.

Concerned About Cost?
I do not have an unlimited food budget, which means a few things for us. We don't eat meat at every meal, I can almost guarantee we eat meatless dinners a few nights a week. We are flexible and eat balanced meals, even with out meat.

I buy meat when it's on sale and freeze extra. Most grocery stores offer discounts for when you buy in quantity, I like to take advantage of those types of discounts. We are also lucky enough to have our local wholesale club carry organic poultry, which is a few dollars less a pound on average vs. the market.

Last but not least, if you made it this far, a video from the Humane Society with a glimpse into the reality of Factory produced turkeys. It's not an easy thing to watch, but if you aren't convinced about the ills of our food system, give it a shot. (if you are reading this in reader, you'll have to click through to see video)


INFO:
Cargill website information on ground turkey recall (which includes brands and stores, take a close look, and learn from that list brands and stores to AVOID)
USDA/FSIS website with the official public recall notice

7 comments:

  1. Very helpful as I start to care even more where I get meat.

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  2. Well done, well said. It really is a crying shame what our country produces.

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  3. I'm so irritated with this. The news about where our food is coming from just keeps getting worse and worse.

    I'm ready to move to a farm.

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  4. Or you could become a vegetarian, lots of us already have

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  5. I agree that vegetarianism is a way to try to avoid this, but it doesn't change our food system that isn't working as a whole. Plus, fruit, vegetables, and peanut butter have been involved in major recalls.

    I'm hoping we look at how our food is produced closer and then make decisions that meet our needs. I was vegetarian for over a decade, but I've found I make better dietary choices having humanely raised meat as an option.

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  6. One of the troubles with "National Brands" is that they go by so many names. Cargill turkey could be known by more than a dozen names in the store. Distribution is shaped like a pyramid, with Cargill at the very top, essentially hiding behind brand names.

    It's a huge mess. Big Ag has been buying up so-called organic companies, charging more, but with the exact same distribution/brand scheme as non-organic. When you buy food in a box you don't know what you are getting.

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  7. I just found your blog and (against my better judgment) watched the video. Amazing that I was even more horrified than I thought I could be. I am a former vegetarian who now works hard to support sustainable, humanely-raised meat, though I probably won't be eating any turkey for a while. Thanks for posting.

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I always appreciate the gesture to stop and take a moment to comment. Thank you!