The Orion

Beefing up the argument against beef processing

Yessenia Funes

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When parents walk into a supermarket thinking about tonight’s meal, they aren’t debating whether that steak or ground beef is safe.

Unfortunately, they should be.

Rancho Feeding Corp., located 168 miles away from Chico, just issued a nationwide USDA Class I recall for nearly 9 million pounds of beef product from “diseased and unsound animals” that hadn’t been fully inspected, according to the USDA.

What does that even mean?

At least the USDA website clarifies what Class I means. The most severe of the three classes, it essentially means that anyone who has eaten meat included in the recall will probably visit the hospital soon — maybe even a casket.

Products ranging from from beef lips to America’s beloved Philly Steak and Cheese Hot Pockets have been removed from grocery stores. Yup, that’s right — Hot Pockets.

Meat recalls don’t surprise me anymore, but that doesn’t mean my blood doesn’t boil when I read about a new one.

If Hot Pockets can afford an ad featuring Snoop Dogg rapping a “You Got What I Need” remix dubbed “You Got What I Eat,” it can afford to ensure it’s purchasing safe meat.

If the company wants to brand itself a stoner’s go-to snack, it better keep its ovens and customers baking safely. Customers can’t do that six feet underground.

Meat-processing companies like Rancho Feeding Corp. must increase their standards and realize that they cradle lives in their hands. People are what they eat.

If people eat “diseased and unsound animals,” they will become diseased. Though the USDA defines “unsound” as poor quality, sick people won’t be making sounds when they’re lying on their deathbeds.

2014 has already seen 15 USDA-issued recalls. Only five have been Class II recalls, which have low health risks. As for the rest? Class I, such as Rancho’s incident.

The federal government is supposed to keep an eye on its people’s food providers and ensure that what they’re eating is safe. Consumers can only do so much.

Sure, they can write persuasive, engaging letters to their Congress representatives. But how can our words compete with last year’s $1.5 million lobbying efforts by Tyson Foods? Lobbying efforts for meat-processing plants totalled around $5 million, according to research by OpenSecrets.

Even if foodies decide to shop at local cooperatives that offer grass-fed beef, some farms send their cattle to meat processors for slaughter. Though the farmers handle the meat responsibly, meat processors may not.

Leftcoast Grassfed, a California producer of grass-fed beef, processed some of its cattle with Rancho Feeding Corp. this year, so it was forced to recall all its meat, according to its website.

More than a century has passed since Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” and look where we are now. Sinclair shook Americans awake with the atrocities he revealed in 1906, but not much has changed.

Americans continue to fear that their McDonald’s burger or homemade beef stew is contaminated with E. coli or some other deadly bacterium. That shouldn’t be the case.

Every person’s purchase is a vote. I vote for safer food, so I’ll stick to poultry, veggies and beans for now. I’m not squashing my beef with beef just yet.

Yessenia Funes can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_yfunes on Twitter.

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The student news site of California State University, Chico
Beefing up the argument against beef processing