An article in today's NYT about artisanal sausage-making starts off innocuously enough, seemingly about the difficulty of preserving this centuries-old skill of turning slowly rotting, moldy meat into tasty, savory snack material. And then the meat inspectors arrive.
shreek! shreek! shreek!
Turns out most sausage makers aren't giving up the craft because they're tired of smelling like bad bacon, but because they're being driven mad by USDA meat inspectors who only understand "under 40 degrees and under 140 degrees," as one charcuterie chef bemoans. There's a heartbreaking aside about how all the cured meats at Il Buco restaurant in New York were destroyed last week simply because the temperature in the curing room was six degrees higher than regulation. Not because of there was any proof or indication they were contaminated.
Il Buco owner Donna Lennard said, "These are pigs that were raised for us. We knew their names. We were trying to do something sustainable and traditional, and this is what happens."
The blindness of these inspectors is sickening. They're intent on protecting the public health, which is admirable, but the main reason the public needs their help is because the meat 90% of this country eats has passed through the industrial gullet, and on its way picked up a nice posse of pathogens like E. coli. And therefore it has to be irradiated and cooked within an inch of its life. Michael Pollan* writes that the cost of having meat processed at a USDA-approved facility -- which, among other corporation-friendly requirements demands a separate bathroom for use only by USDA inspectors -- adds $1/lb to the end price of non-industrial meat. That's a lot to a farmer trying to keep his meat competitive with animals raised in feedlots on GMO corn and chicken "litter."
Will the government wake up and realize that artisanal farmers, butchers, and makers of raw cheese are not the enemy? That it's large corporations that are most likely to poison the public? Sheesh.
It's rainy here again, and I was thinking I might skip the farmers market in Berkeley tomorrow. But now I *have* to go, just to get some salumi** from the Fatted Calf. Who knows how much longer we'll be able to.
*OK OK, I know Pollan is omnipresent on these posts so far, but dammit, we're just starting out here.
**I just learned that salumi is the equivalent of the French charcuterie -- refers to meats that are salt-cured, smoked, or fermented as well as meats that are preserved in fat (confit), cooked sausages and pates.