The meat industry produces veritable mountains of manure. It contaminates cows, not only on the outside when they stand in it, but also on the inside, when they are fed from grains cultivated in fields fertilized or tainted by runoff from it. This has created a significant food security problem, one dealt with by after-the-fact technology and solutions, like pink slime, which gag people when they see more on them.
While it's bad practice to have so many animals standing in so much excrement all the time, maybe -- and it's a small maybe -- it wouldn't have mattered so much but for one thing, toxic E. coli. It was not native to the cow intestine but now finds a home there. The way the meat industry does things is responsible. That's the science of it.
This state of affairs came about because the mass of excrement in proximity to the animal and meat processing makes for an excellent mixing process. It cannot be ameliorated. Therefore Rube Goldberg sanitation processing of meat becomes a feasible profit source.
So the technologies invented to cope with it are all band-aids, lousy inventions and jerry-bilt methods to diminish the amount of dangerous microbes in the product -- after the fact.
That's the long and short of it. And that's why we had pink slime.
From a security standpoint, a bioterrorist can't do as effective a job as centrally placed business practice in the food industry. It's a topic the Dick Destiny blog has discussed in the past when mentioning mass food poisonings caused by widespread bacterial contaminations in the last decade. Deaths and illness due to the anthrax mailings make trivial numbers compared with those racked up from E. coli, salmonella and listeria infections.
STEC and non-STEC E.coli infections, which is the jargon used to classify them, are characterized here at the CDC. The numbers are a bit astonishing. Bruce Ivins, who he?
De facto, that makes the businessmen and companies fingered in food poisoning outbreaks better incidental bioterrorists than anyone purposeful.
Invariably, we have made an infrastructure in food processing which allows for casualties, presently factored out as an acceptable minor cost of doing business if the human losses are not too bad. If the profit margin is great enough a certain level of collateral damage in the way of food-borne illness and resulting fines are acceptable.
Pink slime was sold, and accepted by the USDA, on the idea that ammonia-sanitized meat recovered from the parts of the cow recognized to be the most contaminated with bacteria was made safe. Indeed, for a time the company that manufactured it tried to peddle its value as a meat sanitizing additive, a totally unsupported claim.
Here's a pic of my lunch, revolting as it may look to some. Two hot dogs -- actually cheaper turkey franks -- and one for late in the afternoon. Since I've been doing pink slime I wanted to let readers know: Of course I'm a hypocrite on meat. You have to be in this country.
There's almost no avoiding it.
I'm 90 percent sure turkey franks are made in a way similar to pink slime, from the worst cuts of the bird, stuff that used to be thrown away. Then sanitized, perhaps with ammonia, to kill all the salmonella and listeria.
However, I'm also completely encouraged by the idea that one day, maybe soon, someone famous like Jamie Oliver will do a number on this, too, just the way he treated pink slime.
It will be a good thing because it was viral television coverage, with unforced footage of mothers and kids going "Yuck!" -- that galvanized consumer choice.
So if something is tossed off the market and more people keep thinking about the US agri-meat system, one in which toxic microbial growth is guaranteed, there's nothing bad in that.
Because, this -- from a mass mail sent by the DailyKos last week, is what's always around the corner:
Here's the story. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently inspects all chicken and turkey carcasses for things like bruises, bile and feces before they are sent to further processing. However, the UDSA [sic] is now considering a pilot program that would eliminate that inspection and allow poultry processing plants to do whatever they want.
From now until April 26, the USDA is holding a public comment period on whether to go forward with this pilot program. During this comment period, we plan to submit tens of thousands of comments in opposition. Already, over 40,000 members of the Daily Kos community have signed our petition to the USDA ...
Allowing meat processing plants, of any kind, to always do what they want is bad security. And it eventually always has consequences.
Illustrating a food security problem graphically.
This material was originally published at Dick Destiny blog.