DIANE CARMEN, DENVER POST
If 19 million pounds of meat distributed to half of this country had been
contaminated with a deadly strain of E. coli bacteria by terrorists, we’d go
nuts. But when it’s done by a Fortune 100 corporation, we continue to buy it
and feed it to our kids.
As children are weaned from dialysis, joining others recovering from eating
ground beef contaminated with feces, the rest of us are ready to return to
business as usual from the meat industry.
Be sure to cook those burgers well, we remind each other. Well-done burgers
won’t give you renal failure despite the traces of manure.
Consumers, like cattle being led to the slaughter, barely twitch when the
corporate machine that controls our food supply ships another load of
Tainted meat. We’ve come to expect it. We actually blame ourselves for not
sterilizing our meat thermometers every time we check to see if the fecal
contaminants are done.
Meanwhile, we pay no attention when the industry eliminates another
safeguard. Faster meat disassembly lines, fewer poorly paid workers, fewer
inspectors, more mechanized processing — they’re all designed with profits,
not consumers, in mind.
It’s no wonder that federal officials count 61 deaths and 73,000 cases of E.
coil 0157:H7 poisoning in the US every year. By comparison, it took only a
handful of cases of the human form of mad cow disease to shut down the beef
industry for three years in Great Britain, where consumers fought back.
Kathy Kelley, a cattle rancher near Meeker, is exasperated with “lazy”
American consumers who don’t have a clue about the source of their food,
Much less the shameless exploitation of humans, animals and the environment
involved in its production.
Kelley doesn’t think of the 19 million pounds of recalled beef as mere
hamburger but as tons of costly feed, acre-feet of scarce water, years of
work by ranchers and thousands of head of cattle slaughtered — and wasted
— all because of an inherently filthy system.
“There is no reason for people in this country to have E. coli poisoning,”
she said. “It’s entirely a byproduct of industrial meat processing.”
“They hire economic refugees, exploit unskilled workers, steal the meat from
the suppliers and endanger the lives of the consumers,” said another angry
cattleman, Mike Callicrate of St. Francis, Kansas. Ranchers are getting “the
lowest share of the consumer’s meat dollar in history,” while consumers are
“paying the highest prices in history for the dirtiest product since 1906
when Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle. ” Callicrate said.
The free market system has collapsed. While drought-stressed ranchers sell
off herds for a fraction of their value, meat prices remain unmoved.
Deliberately inadequate labeling thwarts consumers from making informed
choices. Information about what country the animal is from or the packing
plant that processed it is withheld, and measures to require those details
repeatedly have been defeated in the legislature, at the urging of the meat
They don’t want us to know.
Then, to protect the corporation from litigation, we’re reminded once again
to be sure to cook the living, well, manure out of it. They freely admit
it’s the only way we can be sure the product they’re selling won’t kill us.
Diane Carman’s commentaries appear Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday in the