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Animal Health Notebook

Dung gets slung in food safety conversation

Dung gets slung in food safety conversation
Consumer Reports takes on ground beef with some interesting, but perhaps not so valuable facts.

Several weeks ago I was told that Consumer Reports, October, 2015 edition was to contain an American ground beef article. ”How Safe is You Ground Beef” hit the newsstands and the internet in late September, and gives our industry another job of turning sour lemons into lemonade. It may require more than the addition of sugar.

Ground beef got an up-close review by Consumer Reports, but there's more to the story.

The article reported that examination for fecal organisms was positive in 100% of the 300 samples of ground beef  from 458 pounds purchased in 26 cities across the U.S. They made reference to “conventional”, “organic”, and “grass-fed” ground beef. They reported that “conventional” was more contaminated than more local organic or grass-fed, but all were contaminated.

Most or at least many of us have dressed or cleaned a clean or near clean kill at some time or in my case many times. Fecal contamination happens more than occasionally. Truth is that some degree of contamination is routine.

Food poisoning reality

Remember that food poisoning is a once or more yearly event for most Americans and is far from uncommon in the rest of the world. Beef should be and is one of the cleanest foodstuffs that we can eat. It is also one of the safest. Also remember that we cannot sterilize hides and bowels and that the good microbes by far outnumber bad microbes in healthy animals.

Food poisoning has been around and common since long before the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Actually food poisoning has likely been common since the invention of grain farming thousands of years back.

Related: Human nutrition needs a revisit

Do not fail to remember that the key answer to dealing with pollution is dilution. I have been closely associated with sickness and disease for better than six decades, four decades of which were as a practicing veterinarian and health provider. I have studied, worked, and lived treatment and prevention for a long while. The Natural Model and wellness are now my major focus.

A few facts concerning food poisoning, fecal contamination, and the CR article need to be reviewed.

  • All peoples require food for life and reproduction
  • All cultures that remain viable have always included and sought after the nutrients and nutrient density of the amino acids, fats, minerals, and vitamins found in beef.
  • The Holy Bible directs us toward consuming beef, lamb, goats, and certain fish and fowl. The scripture also gives directives on harvest and handling.
  • Waste material (feces) is a part of all life.
  • Mankind has gotten along better as he has distanced himself from offal.

The technological advances of the past 100 years and especially of the last 50 years have made it possible to greatly congregate animals and monocultures of plants close together and increase production efficiency. Similar tech advances have been applied in the food processing and distribution industries. The speed, scale, and distances at which animals are now grown, harvested, processed, shipped, and delivered would be mind boggling to our fore fathers. The safety which has been built into the system is generally deserving of applause.

More facts needed

The CR failed to mention or explain the true size of the system and failed to fully give a good explanation of their findings and figures. Try reading the article several times.

There is no doubt that ground products are much, much more likely to be contaminated with all organisms since the inside as well as the outside of the product have received lots of exposure. When the system increased in size and numbers more exposure is going to occur.

Ground beef consumption in the U.S. is close to 25 lbs. per capita annually. 300 million people consume nearly 7.5 billion pounds of ground beef yearly or 20.5 million pounds every day. This is no little task and with the U.S. policy of “cheap food” it is rather easy to see there are many openings for possible problems.

CR fails to list the order of food poisoning foods. The report said beef is #4 in Salmonella causing outbreaks but fails to list what the percentage is. The author also fails to list the other causes of Salmonella outbreaks in their order, magnitude, frequency, or actual number. Salmonella outbreaks are bad boys but spinach, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, and seafood are the most frequent causes and with the exception of chicken all are consumed at much smaller amounts than beef.

The organisms that CR reported are all believed to be important causes of disease, but disease is a stress and numbers deal. CR failed to make notation of the number of colony forming organisms per sample in the article. I doubt that the scientific community would recognize such lab work.

Related: Why die of a heart attack?

There are some good conclusions that may be reached from studying the CR article. If consumers (this includes producers) are truly interested in their health and wellbeing, they need to diligently check out and see their source of food. If it is grass based, processed individually, and local on a rather small scale it is probably much safer. Chances are it will cost more. A lot of folks think they are worth the price.

I love our grass produced ground beef. It accounts for 20% of my weekly diet.

Locally produced and processed grass based beef offers many pluses. Ground beef is one of the extreme pluses. Interested consumers should have and take the opportunity to visit and see where their hamburger comes from. Those of us who have chosen to be producers need to raise the curtains and welcome the visits.

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