Monday, February 18, 2008

USDA Orders Largest-Ever Beef Recall

Oh, urp. Torture of “downer” cattle--animals too sick or injured to walk into the slaughterhouse on their own--has led to the USDA's largest-ever beef recall:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the largest beef recall in its history Sunday, calling for the destruction of 143 million pounds of raw and frozen beef produced by a Chino slaughterhouse that has been accused of inhumane practices.

However, the USDA said the vast majority of the meat involved in the recall -- including 37 million pounds that went mostly to schools -- probably has been eaten already. Officials emphasized that danger to consumers was minimal.


The action came nearly three weeks after the Humane Society of the United States released a video showing workers at the plant using forklifts and water hoses, among other methods, to rouse cattle too weak to walk. In addition to issues of animal cruelty, the video raised questions about whether so-called downer cattle were entering the food chain in violation of federal regulations.

”Downer” cattle might carry disease (Mad Cow among them) that could spread to humans. That’s why the USDA has the rule that if an animal is unable to walk into the slaughterhouse on its own, it can’t be turned into food.

My question is, where was the USDA while water hoses and forklifts were being used to push sick and injured cattle into the slaughterhouse? Why did it take an undercover operation by the Humane Society to protect our food supply?

And then there’s this:

Although the Humane Society said at least four non-ambulatory cattle had been slaughtered for food, the USDA had repeatedly said it had no such evidence. On Sunday, federal officials said for the first time that they had evidence such cattle from Hallmark had been processed for food.

Again, we have the denials from the government, the “everything’s OK” assertions, and then the inevitable acknowledgment that maybe things aren’t as hunky-dory as the government has claimed. I just wrote about a similar situation last week when the government finally admitted its FEMA trailers are making people sick.

I know all of this nicely supports the Republican view that government doesn’t work and should therefore be drowned in the bathtub. But I don’t buy that line. I think Republican government doesn’t work.

Yes, there have been problems at the USDA under both Republican and Democratic administrations, but I think when you go into government with the mind-set that it doesn’t work, you’re handicapping your ability to make it function. You've got the wrong mind-set.

As far as the food supply is concerned, the fact that much of this ground beef was sent to schools is very troubling. According to the Los Angeles Times, meat from this plant also was sold at CostCo, In-N-Out Burger and Jack In The Box on the West Coast.

I'm a meat-eater, and I'm not ready to go vegetarian. I buy organic meats in the grocery store, but I don't know from a slaughterhouse perspective if those animals enter the food supply any differently from the regular kind.

Buyer beware.