How many people could answer that question? I don’t mean which supermarket, but rather from which ranch and from which slaughterhouse. Follow that question a bit farther and ask about the conditions on that ranch. Are anti-biotics used? Are chicken remains ground up and sprinkled into the grain to provide more protein? How many cattle pass through the slaughterhouse every day? The food safety system of this country has been bankrupt for quite some time. 200 people die every year in the United States from E. coli (Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser). The relationship between big business and the U.S. Department of Agriculture ensures that this number will not decrease unless there is a cultural shift in how we approach the animals we eat.
Stephanie Smith of Minnesota came home one Sunday for a home cooked hamburger at her parent’s house. Weeks of cramping, diarrhea, and eventually 9 weeks of coma left her paralyzed from the waist down for life. From a hamburger labeled “America’s chef’s selection Angus beef patties.” The hamburger patties that she ate that day came were ground up in Wisconsin, and garnered from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas, South Dakota, and Uruguay. (The New York Times, Oct. 3, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/health/04meat.html?_r=2) None of those scraps had been tested for E. coli because the FDA allows hamburger grinders to create their own safety procedures. Even though Cargill, the food giant that made those patties, had been breaking it’s own safety procedures months before those patties were made, they were allowed to release their products into the public because Cargill had promised to increase its safety requirements. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HA8iyzYnXuc
At the Country Cat in Portland, Oregon, Adam Sappington breaks down a side of beef every couple weeks and grinds the burgers himself. He has visited Sweet Briar Farms in Junction City and has made sure that the beef he serves is grass-fed, raised without anti-biotics, and slaughtered humanely. All of this is hard work, but worth it because of the piece of mind that accomplishing a job with integrity imbues. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1Wo4O2iepI)
On November 4th Adam broke down a side of beef at the Livestock venture. Livestock is the new shift away from the production of mass food and enormous slaughterhouses. In their words it is “an urban conversation designed to explore the literary and literal aspects of killing our dinner.” This is an attempt to create a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program that extends not only to the farmers of Oregon, but also to the ranchers. Farmers, and soon ranchers, will be encouraged to grow their produce and raise their livestock in a way that puts health and food safety first. People should be confident that the food they eat is being raised correctly, and slaughtered humanely. Perhaps this movement will someday spread to the rest of the nation.