Caught With the Meat in Your Mouth

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Jayson Whitehead has a long, good read in C-Ville (the Charlottesville, Virginia weekly) about independent farmers struggling to sell their meat under onerous federal regulations. Whitehead quotes farmer Elizabeth Van Deventer:

"The question all consumers should be asking is this: Why is it legal for corporate factory farms to sell meat from livestock that have been fed arsenic as an appetite stimulant, the remains of other animals, urea from natural gas, chicken feathers, hormones and daily doses of antibiotics to keep the animals from dying from their sick surroundings? This factory farmed meat, where animals are packed together by the tens of thousands in disease-ridden environments, is given the stamp of approval by the USDA to appease their powerful corporate clients. Double H's pigs, by contrast, live their lives roaming outside in fresh air, they are given natural, locally produced grains, and are processed by Richard himself, a lifelong butcher.

"We are fooled by the 'assurance' of a USDA inspector when the meat itself is unhealthy to eat in the first place. E. coli contamination and Mad Cow disease are the result of intensive, confined cattle practices and no USDA inspection could prevent that. It's time to change the laws. If I want to buy healthy pork from Double H and not from a corporate farm's mistreated, unhealthy, factory pigs, that should be my right."

There's a happy ending, though: Joel Salatin, a farmer discovered by Chipotle owner Steve Ellis after his inclusion in The Omnivore's Dilemma, cuts a deal to sell his pork to local branches of the megachain. "I can go down and see these animals, two weeks later they are slaughtered and three days later being marinated so that you can go over and have a Carnitas burrito four days later."

Salatin's own book here. Headline reference here.

NEXT: Who Is Headlining Headlined Hillary Clinton's 60th Birthday Party To Help Make It "Younger, Hipper, More Fun"?

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  1. That’s good.

    I’m no vegetarian, but I don’t like the intensive farming system. It just seems like a breeding ground for disease.

  2. OT but Ron Paul is on CNBC right now!!

  3. This is the kind of mistake that’s hard to bounce back from, Weigel. Reason is all corporatarian, all the time; I’ve been assured of this by many HnRers. Expect a visit from AEI goons, soon.

  4. Not only do factory-farm hog operations contaminate their own products, but the practice of holding pig manure in acre-sized open pools leads to contamination of neighbors’ property as well.

    Something similar to this is the most likely explanation for the contamination of the organic spinich last year.

  5. Classic case of regulatory capture. While claiming to protect the public, a regulatory bureaucracy actually serves to protect the economic interest of the industry it ostensibly regulates.

    I’m not a big fan of status foods myself but if someone wants to plunk down the dough for hand raised pigs, they certainly should have the right to do so without the government “protecting” them

  6. joe,

    Something similar to this is the most likely explanation for the contamination of the organic spinich last year.

    Or, since all “organic” fetilizers come from animal products of some kind, it merely hitched along from the original animal source.

    I don’t think anyone raises a lot of pig near spinach fields, its to hot.

  7. “…If I want to buy healthy pork from Double H and not from a corporate farm’s mistreated, unhealthy, factory pigs, that should be my right.”

    Hey, sometimes people really do care about their rights! Not always, but sometimes!

    Sometimes they may even care about other people’s rights, though, I know, I’m kinda talking crazy now….

  8. Ohmigod! The government reulatory establisment protects corporations while burdening the small business owner? They don’t even perform the purpose that they were ostensibly created for? That’s an real eye opener!

    In a serious vein, I used to denigrate alternative weeklys. Now I consider them a welcome addition to the media stew. Yeah, they’re lefty bastions, but they occasionaly do some damned good reporting and education. Old dogs can learn new tricks.

  9. Something similar to this is the most likely explanation for the contamination of the organic spinich last year.

    I’d bet on the harvesters relieving theselves in the fields because they have no other option. I’m not a farmer, but I doubt that meat factories are in close proximity to produce operations.

  10. I eat only free-range salami.

  11. Shannon,

    Manure used for fertilizer is cured outside for months first, which keeps down the pathogen loads.

    Manure fertilizing has been used safely for about eight millenia.

    In the California spinich case, I believe it was a beef operation that was nearby, not hog.

  12. J sub D, that’s an interesting theory.

    I don’t believe they ever issued a definitive statement about the source.

  13. “I can go down and see these animals, two weeks later they are slaughtered and three days later being marinated so that you can go over and have a Carnitas burrito four days later.”

    Meet your meat before you eat!

  14. joe,

    I don’t know the details of the spinach contamination case, but do you really think the use of manure for thousands of years is worthwhile argument? I mean, how do we know there weren’t occasional contamination cases for much of that thousands of years?

  15. Here’s a novel idea – stop eating meat. I stopped about two years ago, and have never felt better.

    I still eat fish and love to go for sushi, but I really don’t miss the meat at all.

    Like libertarianism, being a pesco-vegetarian allows me to feel superior to and smarter than everyone else.

    If you must buy meat, at least get it at Whole Foods.

  16. joe: finding a definitive source for that would be about as likely as Stephen Hayne actually being able to deduce two hands on a gun from the bullet wound.

  17. fyodor,

    Yes, it’s a worthwhile argument, because it provides literally billions of individual data points, which show that the process is safe the overwhelming majority of the time.

    It’s not an appeal to tradition, it’s a reference to a mountain of data. BTW, it’s not just a practice used by organic farmers. Fertilizing with manure is still widely practiced on regular farms.

    Tom Walls, I go the free range, naturally raised route when I buy meat. I’ve never once had the slightest reason to pay attention to any of the recall stories in the news.

  18. I still eat fish and love to go for sushi, but I really don’t miss the meat at all.

    I hate to break the news to you, you’re still eating meat. I don’t care what the pope says on the subject.

  19. joe,

    Well I guess my point, using your terminology, is that I don’t know if there’s reliable data points from most of those millennia.

    That said, there may be plenty of worthwhile data points from more recently. But that’s a different argument from saying it’s been used for millennia.

    Also I’d be open to the argument that it’s safe the overwhelming majority of times even if it were in fact responsible in that one particular case since, as any libertarian knows, Utopia is not an option. 🙂

  20. joe,

    Manure fertilizing has been used safely for about eight millenia.

    Depends on what you mean by safe.

    Back in the day, people used to rather routinely die horribly from tetanus (lock jaw) almost all of which they contracted from scratches or punctures contaminated by the feces of domestic animals. In fact, I would go so far as to say that only near universal vaccination against tetanus allows us to safely use large amounts of manure based fertilizer. Last time I check (circa 1995) safety inspectors did not even check for the presence of tetanus bacillus in food.

    Manure fertilizers, like most “organic” farming techniques, is an affectation of naturalness only made possible by advanced industrial technology.

  21. Good on ya, Joe!

    When I did still eat land animals, I often bought buffalo and ostrich burgers. Damn, those were good.

    Yes, I know fish are still a type of meat, but:

    -Fish is pretty damned healthy for you (rich in Omega 3s and all that stuff)
    -The poor little bastards’ brains are pretty small, so they suffer less
    -The aquatic ape theory might be stretching it a little, but I think humans evolved eating raw fish and mussels for at least part of their evolution

  22. RIGHT NOT TO DISCLOSE IS USED TO SHUT DOWN RIGHT TO DISCLOSE

    In 2003, Monsanto sued a small dairy farm in Maine for placing the words “no artificial hormones” on its (Maine’s) milk products.

    This would be like suing a cabinet shop which uses only pure hardwoods and labels its products as “free of fiber and particle board”.

    The absurd result is not only are harmful contents of a product not disclosed to consumers by the producer:

    Any COMPETING producer of that product may not distinguish its product by noting the specific absence of certain products, harmful or otherwise.

    It’s not suprising that this comes from the same company that sued farmers on adjacent land for which proprietary genetically modified seeds had drifted by wind onto nearby property and sprouted.

    So if their stuff gets on your stuff by their actions, they can sue you. And if your stuff portrays anything negative about their stuff, they can also sue you.

    And since it’s in their interest not to disclose a lot about their stuff, only your stuff gets penalized when neither party is allowed to say anything about the negative stuff.

  23. I have nothing to say about the article. I just came here to admire the Dead Boys title.

  24. barry paine,

    Sounds bad. What’s the solution?

  25. Manure fertilizers, like most “organic” farming techniques, is an affectation of naturalness only made possible by advanced industrial technology.

    Wow.

    Mind-boggling.

    Using the same techniques that have been used since the dawn of agriculture is now an “affectation” that was not possible before modern industry.

    Whatever.

  26. Depends on what you mean by safe.

    I didn’t think I was being obscure.

    The subject was the contamination of food supplies by pathogens.

  27. My uncle was a fairly large cattleman. All the cattle were “free range”. As near as I know, all beef cattle in the US are free range. It’s only when they get to the feed lot just before slaughter that they get overcrowded. Hogs and chickens, on the other hand, are raised in overcrowded filthy conditions all their lives.

    Yet beef is considered the “bad” meat, while pork and chicken are the “good” meats. Huh?

  28. I have to admit, the carnitas burrito is the justification for Chipotle’s continued existence.

    But nothing is a match for the Poblano Pesto burrito at Qdoba.

  29. lunchstealer,

    Our local Qdobas have discontinued those. I hope they haven’t done that in your area… if they did… why you could almost say that they stole your lunch! You’d finally get your comeuppance! Woo!

  30. Eating organic, free range, naturally-raised chicken for the first time was an enlightening experience.

    I realized that the phrase “It tastes like chicken” stems from the fact that most of the chicken people eat doesn’t actually have any taste beyond whatever oil and spices are used to cook it.

  31. Yes, I know fish are still a type of meat, but:

    -Fish is pretty damned healthy for you (rich in Omega 3s and all that stuff)
    -The poor little bastards’ brains are pretty small, so they suffer less
    -The aquatic ape theory might be stretching it a little, but I think humans evolved eating raw fish and mussels for at least part of their evolution

    Ok. Just so you’re not trying to pull any of that moral superiority crap on me. If you eat squid or octopuses, be advised, they’re pretty brainy.

  32. Not only do factory-farm hog operations contaminate their own products,

    I’m trying to reconcile this linkless assertion with the fact that our meat supply is pretty effing safe.

    Eating organic, free range, naturally-raised chicken for the first time was an enlightening experience.

    I’m behind on my Weekly Agreements with Joe, but this one definitely counts.

    I’m not a farmer, but I doubt that meat factories are in close proximity to produce operations.

    Its pretty unusual, because you need pretty high-quality land for produce, especially organic produce. Livestock, on the other hand, only needs much cheaper land. The opportunity cost of raising livestock on land good enough for truck farming is pretty stout.

  33. The taste is the hook they will bring more people to it. If the local food movement would focus more on the food and less on the environmental politics they would get more traction. A lot of local food restaurants have popped up here in Kentucky and I’d swear they get more people down to the farmer’s market than a hundred years of pamphlets passed out on campus.

    Also awesome from small farms: fresh pork belly. Roll it, season lightly, and bake until crispy. It’s rich and you won’t want much, but it freezes great. Soft tacos or steamed pork buns are a great application.

  34. RC,

    I’m trying to reconcile this linkless assertion with the fact that our meat supply is pretty effing safe. OK. Look up some stats on antibiotic use in feedlot operations. You don’t need to keep animals juiced with antibiotics in a clean environment. Their practices impose that cost by contaminating the animals.

  35. Our local Qdobas have discontinued those. I hope they haven’t done that in your area… if they did… why you could almost say that they stole your lunch! You’d finally get your comeuppance! Woo!

    Gah! Unfortunately, circumstances have forced me outside of reasonable burrito driving distance of any Qdobas, so I couldn’t say if they’ve killed the Poblano Pesto here, but if so, it is a sad sad world we live in.

    For that matter, I only occasionally go near a Chipotle near a mealtime.

  36. We have both right off of campus. Qdoba has started opening at 7am and serving breakfast burritos. They are awesome! They are practically the only chain fast food I eat anymore (for reasons of being fat, not politics.)

  37. Why is it legal for corporate factory farms to sell meat from livestock that have been fed arsenic as an appetite stimulant, the remains of other animals, urea from natural gas, chicken feathers, hormones and daily doses of antibiotics to keep the animals from dying from their sick surroundings? This factory farmed meat, where animals are packed together by the tens of thousands in disease-ridden environments, is given the stamp of approval by the USDA to appease their powerful corporate clients.

    I think i should retain my right to eat this yummy stuff as well. You don’t have to prohibit my meaty foods just so you can freely enjoy yours.

  38. Just eat McRibs. I’m not sure where they come from, but it sure as hell ain’t meat.

  39. OK. Look up some stats on antibiotic use in feedlot operations. You don’t need to keep animals juiced with antibiotics in a clean environment. Their practices impose that cost by contaminating the animals.

    On the one hand, I think most people consider their food safe if they don’t get sick and/or die from eating it. If the antibiotics help those stats (in the short term), people will think their food is safe.

    My understanding is that the real threat from overusing antibiotics to compensate for unsafe business practices is the effect on bacteria and their ability to resist more and more strains of antibiotics.

    The other side of that coin is that we’re duping ourselves into thinking we’re safe because of all the antibiotics when all we’re really doing is breeding super bacteria.

  40. Similar to another article posted here today, cops are likely to use more force now that they have tasers. We’ve reduced the cost of of cops acting like overzealous douchebags, and so they increase their demand for acting like overzealous douchebags.

    We’ve reduced the cost of using disgusting and unsafe business practices for raising/producing various meats through the excessive use of antibiotics. Therefore, the use of unsafe business practices goes up.

  41. mike,

    While the contaminatin of the meat itself can be offset by the use of antibiotics – which, as you say, raises its own hazards – the unhealthy practices cause contimination-related harms in other areas, such as groundwater pollution and the contamination of other products.

  42. People have raised the same argument against irradiating food, mike.

    If they can just zap anything on the surface of the food, they are going to be that much less careful about keeping it from getting contaminated in the first place.

  43. joe – agree

  44. Just eat McRibs. I’m not sure where they come from, but it sure as hell ain’t meat.

    Krusty: Look… about the rib-wich… There aren’t gonna be any more… The animal we made them from are now extinct…
    Homer: The pig?
    Otto: The cow?
    Krusty: You’re way off… think smaller… think more legs!

  45. Hurray for Joel Salatin! He’s one of us (a libertarian), you know.

  46. My local Chipolte sucks.

    It’s not really a relevant detail, but hey.

  47. I think i should retain my right to eat this yummy stuff as well. You don’t have to prohibit my meaty foods just so you can freely enjoy yours.

    Y’know, I missed that “why is it legal” part, though I kinda suspected this was hardly a purely rights-promoting agenda! As I said in my first post here, concern about other people’s rights is kinda crazy talk!

    Re joe and mike’s latest posts, true enough, but from the safety POV, so what? Who cares if they get lax about hygeine if technology makes that hygeine unnecessary? Yes, I read joe’s remarks about the environmental impact, well that’s a separate issue. I’m not saying it’s a non-issue, but it’s a separate issue, and it should be dealt with separately. As far as food safety itself goes, I’ll stick to what I said. If technology makes hygeine unnecessary, so be it, who cares.

  48. Because, fyodor, the bacteria count on the packaged meat in the grocery store is not the only variable that matters here. The workers at the slaughterhouses, for example, already have horrendous rates of illness.

  49. Anyone who needs a reference to that Headline is a total fucking lamer.

    Weigel, you were born after that record came out.

  50. How much would it cost him to get his meat inspected?

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