by Marion Nestle

Search results: USDA meat

Feb 18 2008

The biggest ground beef recall ever

The USDA is announcing the largest recall of ground beef in U.S. history: 143 million pounds, most of it already sold and, presumably, eaten.  The meat was produced at the  Westland/Hallmark Meat company in Chino, California. The recall follows a shocking video of an investigation by the Humane Society at that plant.  The video, which is not easy to watch, shows “downer” cows being slaughtered for food as well as other violations of regulations for meat slaughter. The USDA is taking this very seriously, if too late to keep the meat out of the food supply. It has posted answers to Frequently Asked Questions on its website, along with a transcript of a technical briefing, and links to related statements. And here’s what today’s New York Times has to say about it (as always, the writer, Andrew Martin, provides great quotes).  If you are puzzled about what humane treatment of farm animals might have to do with the safety of the meat we eat, here is as good an explanation as anyone could ask for.

Nov 3 2007

Another Cargill E. coli Recall–a Biggie

I don’t know about you but I can’t keep up with them. So here is another million pound recall of hamburger contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. This time, the USDA was on the job testing hamburger at the retail level. Good work. USDA has safety rules (HACCP with pathogen reduction) for meat and poultry packers. Now, how about enforcing them? Or is that too much to ask?

Oct 19 2007

New rules for grass-fed

The USDA has just come out with a proposal for voluntary rules to govern use of the term “grass-fed” in marketing food animals. Reading Federal Register notices is always a lot of fun but if you don’t feel like wading through the fine print responses to comments on this issue, skip right to page 58637 and read the section titled “claim and standard.” As of November 15, if meat is labeled grass-fed, the animals have to have been fed grass, hay, and vitamin supplements. That’s all. No grain. As I read it, the animals don’t have to be outside grazing, but maybe I misunderstand? Check it out!

And here’s what the New York Times has to say about this rule.

Sep 10 2007

Today’s Question: Feed Efficiency

I haven’t thought carefully about this question since I first read Francis Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet in the 1970s: “I have a question…about growing grains for livestock feeding: When corn, for example, is grown, it has a k/cal value, or an amount of caloric energy that I assume can be counted for human nutrition. As it is used for feed, is caloric energy lost in the transfer? In other words, is the resulting food (all the butchered and eaten parts of a cow, for example) similar in energy content to the edible feed that went into it? I assume we lose some caloric value along the way, but how much? To me, this has all kinds of implications that I’d like to ponder, including the implications of this from the (admittedly broad) prospective of global hunger.”

This is about “feed efficiency ratios”–the amount of food it takes to make a pound of animal or a pound of us. Let’s hear it for Wikipedia, which has a nice summary with a reasonable reference. It takes more grain to make beef than pigs, chicken, or fish. A lot of those animals are not usable for food (maybe half a beef carcass, for example) and we have our own problems with efficiency. The calories listed in food tables are pretty much what we can use and the better tables specify how well the meat is trimmed. Good question!