Sunday, February 17, 2008

Good call...

The announcement today of a record recall of beef would not have lodged in my mind, if were not for the reason:
Officials said it was the largest beef recall in the United States, surpassing a 1999 ban of 35 million pounds of ready-to-eat meats. No illnesses have been linked to the newly recalled meat, and officials said the health threat was likely small.

The recall will affect beef products dating to Feb. 1, 2006, that came from Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., the federal agency said.

Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said his department has evidence that Westland did not routinely contact its veterinarian when cattle became non-ambulatory after passing inspection, violating health regulations.

"Because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection, Food Safety and Inspection Service has determined them to be unfit for human food and the company is conducting a recall," Schafer said in a statement. [More]
The videos and allegations came out much earlier and received cursory coverage in the farm/livestock press. This is not unusual for charges of animal abuse. Frankly, I think the meatpacking industry is leery of actually confronting the issue because it could snowball completely out of control.

I think that snowball just formed.

If you haven't gotten your mind around the power of viral video and YouTube, watch this one play out. And what fed this story was some gruesome video. Even setting aside for the moment the increasing government surveillance in the name of national security, the ubiquity of cameras and the plummeting price of data storage means all of us are on some radar nearly all the time.

As creepy as this can be (and Google Streets is one example), it is nonetheless reality, and those who don't deal with it as such are going to be smacked around.

What folks don't know, doesn't hurt them, of course. But this is one more example of how much people can easily know about and how it can affect customer sensitivities. The Steak 'n Shake motto comes to mind: In sight it must be right. Today the safest assumption is everything is in sight.

Stories like this intensify the scrutiny on the the meatpacking industry, as well.
And the disease that confronted doctors at the Austin Medical Center here last fall was strange indeed. Three patients had the same highly unusual set of symptoms: fatigue, pain, weakness, numbness and tingling in the legs and feet.

The patients had something else in common, too: all worked at Quality Pork Processors, a local meatpacking plant.

The disorder seemed to involve nerve damage, but doctors had no idea what was causing it.

At the plant, nurses in the medical department had also begun to notice the same ominous pattern. The three workers had complained to them of “heavy legs,” and the nurses had urged them to see doctors. The nurses knew of a fourth case, too, and they feared that more workers would get sick, that a serious disease might be spreading through the plant. [More]
I will be watching to see the full consequences of this rather aggressive USDA action. Now tie it to the inflammable immigration issue and the dependence of the packing industry on immigrant labor. It lends more credence to the idea that meat will become more expensive and per capita consumption will likely decline in the US.

No comments: