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Monday, October 5, 2009

When burgers kill

Here's an article (and video) that you might not want to read (or watch) if you enjoy ground beef. The hamburger patty that paralyzed one young Minnesota woman had meat (and other stuff) in it from four different sources, including a slaughterhouse in Uruguay. Now, there's a recipe for success, eh?

The main point of the article is that while slaughterhouses say they take great precautions to keep deadly fecal bacteria out of meat, that's not always the case. Moreover, most big commercial grinding outfits take the slaughterhouses' word for it. No testing is done on the meat at the grinding plant until the meat's already been ground, at which point there's no way to tell which slaughterhouse the bad stuff came from. Which of course, is exactly how the slaughterhouses want it.

Costco actually emerges as a relative good guy in the tale.

Even proper cooking may not kill the worst of the poisons that could show up in hamburger. And so most burgers are a bit of a high-stakes gamble. God help the victims.

Comments (12)

I was nearly done in at Stanich's a few years ago by a burger. New cook was sloow and the patties sat on the counter adjacent to the grill in a bloody heap. I waited an hour for mine to be cooked. I remember thinking, what the hell, an institution like this must know what they're doing. Wrong.

The NYT article reports that E-coli cells double every 45 minutes at room temperature. This explains why, in the middle of the night, I was violently ill. Now, I don't know what's worse, the bacteria or the ammonia they spray on meat to kill it.

The USDA and FDA and similar state agencies protect the food producers, not the food consumers.
A good case could be made to completely eliminate these "alphabet soup" agencies that do nothing for the consumer and let the legal system take care of the problem producers.

Salmonella can almost always be found in chicken processing plants.....and hospitals.

Ah, the high cost of cheap eats. I'm sure "tort reform" will take care of all this.

There are options other than giving it up. I decided years ago, not coincidentally after reading Fast Food Nation, that all of my beef intake - small as it was - would be natural. I know and trust the farmer who raises the beef I purchase, and it is available through small natural grocers in the area.

I had an uncle who was a butcher. For my family we used to always buy cut beef and grind it ourselves at home to be used immediately. Now at my place for my two kids I will buy a low cost piece of cut beef, cut it into chunks, and run it in a Cusinart for a few seconds. Works great for hamburgers and avoids the contamination issue as cut beef has less surface area than chopped.

FYI...always wash the produce too.
Cantelope is a real carrier of all sorts of nasty bugs including ecoli that come off on the counter or cuting board.

Our society is full of such irrational fears.

One person dies, and now I'm supposed to suddenly worry about my burger intake.

Please. It's more dangerous to get in your car and go to the supermarket than it is to eat meat.

I'm sure it's healthier to avoid hamburger in all forms. However, life is a risk. And McDonalds is one risk I'm willing to take.

Rettig, I grew up on an Oregon farm. I don't know of one farmer/rancher that kills, butchers, packages their own raised beef. Farmers and ranchers have little to do with your purchased finish product, even in your "natural grocer" stores.

You might pay a bit more, but you can have your Fred Meyer or New Seasons or wherever butcher grind a cut of beef for you, right in front of your eyes.

The meat departments at the New Seasons stores grind their burger every day from chuck, sirloin, and trim from the steaks that need cleaning up a bit. Ditto the pork, lamb, and chicken.

You can buy a chunk of chuck (or brisket, which makes a great burger) and have it ground, but you pay a premium since you need a big chunk anbd some of it stays in the grinder (just how they work).

I don't know of one farmer/rancher that kills, butchers, packages their own raised beef.

I didn't say anything other than "I know the farmer who raises the beef". That's my main concern, as the processing that happens afterward for natural beef is too small a market for the big boys - and that's where my concern lies.

Farmers and ranchers have little to do with your purchased finish product.

Come on. You know better. Not only for the integrity of the "natural" label, but also the quality.

And FWIW I likewise grew up on a farm. A beef cattle farm.

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