RIP crap beef

"No grilling, no barbecue: Recalled beef buried in landfill" was the lede story of my local paper in Livingston, Montana, this evening. The Livingston Enterprise led with a large photo of a front-end loader burying recalled Hallmark/Westland beef.

More than 2300 pounds of recalled beef products from Park County Schools were buried in the county landfill Tuesday. The beef, part of a recent national recall of more than 143 million pounds of frozen meat, was in the form of precooked burger patties, ground beef and breaded steaks, according to the Park County Health Department. …

'They're not the only ones to take downed cows — they're just the only ones who got caught,' said County Commissioner Larry Lahren who was present at the landfill to witness the disposal of the meat.

From deep in the heart of cattle country, from a county where Yellowstone bison are routinely (and controversially) shipped to slaughter so as not to endanger the state's brucellosis-free status, the powers that be felt it was necessary not only to tell us that the beef had been discarded, but to send one of the county commissioners out to witness the event, and to show us a big fat photo of the funeral.

Rest in peace, crap beef.

11 Responsesto “RIP crap beef”

  1. Amanda Rose says:

    I have mixed feelings about this whole thing. It seems to me that the government could have sent out a few thousand meat thermometers with instructions to cook this beef well. I would have eaten a Hallmark/Westland beef casserole to make the point that we shouldn't waste a bunch of food willy nilly.

  2. Deb Dean says:

    There were a couple of articles on the recall in the WSJ. One of them, which prompted me to send Costco a nasty email, quotes a Costco executive as saying that they intend to freeze said beef in the hopes that the recall will be rescinded and they can sell it again. Here's the quote:

    "The food's safe," says Craig Wilson, assistant vice president of food safety and quality assurance at Costco. "We're going to recall all this food and destroy it. This is morally and ethically wrong." He said Costco hasn't yet destroyed that beef it has removed from shelves with the hope that regulators may allow it to be sold.

    I find it disgusting that Costco thinks it's morally and ethically wrong to destroy this tainted meat, but has no qualms with the cruel treatment of the animals that prompted the review in the first place.

  3. Amanda Rose says:

    I agree with you Deb Dean and with Costco. If this particular meat packing plant is the tip of the iceberg, then do we just destroy all beef that has already been created from animals that were treated cruelly and start over? I guess I wouldn't have a problem with that if everyone gave up beef as a result, but I don't actually intend to give up beef. We've still got a portion of a steer left.

  4. Christina says:

    Over all, it seems to me the little debate that has been about this issue has focused on food safety, not animal cruelty. The two often go hand in hand and I'd like to see a more transparent meat production as an outcome of this incident. Perhaps the "iceberg" will melt. I'm still not sure the trashing all this meat is the right thing. Seems like an easy way out of a much bigger problem. "See, we've destroyed it all -- you can feel safe again." Prove it.

  5. What a sad waste. All those cows that died. All that protein embalmed in the landfill. There wasn't anything actually wrong with the meat. This was really a punishment and public relations maneuver. The resulting 'waste' meat should have been composted to recover the valuable nutrients. Throwing it in a landfill takes up space and wastes the nutrients. Dumb.

    On the bigger picture, the solution finding safe, humanely raise meat is to look locally to small farmers in our area. In this case these were cull cows from large dairy operations and the customer was the government feeding it to our children. They looked to the lowest bidder - standard government procedure. And they got the lowest quality along with the lowest price. No surprises.

  6. Charlotte says:

    It would have been great if they'd composted it -- our town composting system is sort of a mess -- they don't really know what they're doing and the neighbors complain bitterly about the smell (which is a result of the fact that they don't really know what they're doing). There are a number of communities out here in the far west who have started composting roadkill and have been really successful with it -- when you have the sheer numbers of elk and deer and antelope being killed it really becomes a disposal problem. Sadly, Livingston is not yet one of those.
    I guess what I just found interesting was the PR aspect of this -- that a small town in cattle country both felt the need for this sort of public display, and that the commissioner was also clear that this is an endemic problem in the beef industry. (Of course I'm also sort of appalled by what they're feeding the kids -- precooked patties? breaded cutlets? ick).

  7. Amber says:

    I wish they were composted too! A small farmer in my area composts all his slaughter by products on farm.

  8. azurite says:

    I think one of the potential health hazards presented by "downer" or ill beef is being ignored. BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, am not sure if last word is completely correct) is a possibility when cows behave that way. As I understand it, the potential danger presented by BSE (to humans) is not destroyed by the heat of cooking.

    The federal gov't, i.e., the USDA (under Bush & probably under Clinton as well) has determinedly ignored (and refused to take preventative action) the dangers of BSE tot the livestock of the US. The USDA claims that there is no BSE in the US in the cow/steer population--but refuses to do the testing that might provide evidence supporting that presumption. Or it blames Canadian livestock. Yet there's been repeated episodes of "brain-wasting" disease in (if I remember correctly) elk & deer populations.

    While it may be a violation of the law (state law?) for those cows to be treated as they were, the reason for the federal recall was/is (unless I'm wrong?) is the potential health hazard to humans if they consume the beef. I don't think the USDA recalls beef because they were slaughtered inhumanely. Besides violating state laws re: humane treatment of animals, it might also be an issue for halal & kosher certifications. I think both the Muslim & Jewish religions include rules requiring relatively humane slaughter practices for halal/kosher (respectively).

    But I think there are two different issues here: one is humane treatment of livestock, the other is the health hazard (to humans) presented by using cows who may be "downers" because they're ill. I believe (haven't checked the statutes) that the USDA recalls deal w/the latter, state laws with the former.

    Yes, it is a waste of food, but the food's being wasted because: (1) the people running the slaughterhouse couldn't be bothered to remove or at least segregate "downer"/unhealthy? stock from the rest (who at least appeared to be healthy); (2) the USDA doesn't inspect enough or have enough inspectors to even hope to catch this kind of behavior when it happens; (3) apparently no one acted in response to the Humane Society's video in time to allow segregation of the slaughtered downer meat from that of the others.

    Would the heat & biochemical rxns of high heat composting get rid of any potential BSE problems? I don't know.

    My solution is to eat very little beef. I'm not particularly fond of it, so it's not like that's a hardship for me. It's also not that difficult for me to get some locally raised beef if I do want to eat beef--but I know well that is definitely not the case for many people, probably the majority of those who eat beef in the US.

  9. The USDA has stated there is no health hazard with the meat in the recall. See this post. BSE is not an issue. Composting would have been appropriate but lacks the great PR blitz of "throwing out the beef with the bath water."

    Your solution is good. Even better is to eat beef that was pasture raised, preferably from local small farmers. All sorts of reasons that's a good idea beyond the basic one of pasture raised cows don't get Mad Cow Disease (BSE).

  10. Charlotte says:

    This afternoon's paper has a small follow-up story on the front page. The emphasis is on the fact that the discarded beef was free because it came from the USDA Commodity Program (and we're a Title 1 district with 40% or more of our student body at or below the poverty level). Apparently, the USDA will replace it -- but I guess this answers the question of why we're feeding our local kids this stuff when we're surrounded by ranchers raising cattle. We'd have to pay for that meat. It would be nice to see the schools contract to buy local meat, but I can only imagine the outcry if we paid more than, well, nothing to feed our local kids. Grr.

  11. Steven Kent Metzger says:

    Has there been any scientific research questioning if this meat is human edible, or not? Or, if it poses any risk if consumed? What is the reason for the recall? SKM