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The news this week that Whole Foods Market recalled ground due to contamination with E. Coli, a potentially deadly bacteria, may have been a shock to those who view the "natural" food store chain as a safe haven from the dangers that often lurk at the more conventional grocery conglomerates.

But this incident should serve as a serious wake-up call to anyone allowing the magical marketing of Whole Foods to mask the very real dangers of our meat supply, regardless of what retailer you happen to choose. The scope of the recall alone should be startling. And remember that recalls are voluntary, as the USDA has no authority to mandate them, incredible as that may sound. (See Marion Nestle's book, Safe Food.) According to one account:

Illnesses allegedly linked to ground beef from Whole Foods Market are in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The Whole Foods ground beef recall includes stores in: Alabama, Canada, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin.

As the New York Times explains, the debacle was caused by the fact that the previous beef processor Whole Foods sourced from, Coleman Natural Beef, was sold to another company with shoddy practices.

After coming under new ownership, Coleman Natural began using a slaughterhouse in Omaha that had received multiple citations and had fought a long-running battle with the Agriculture Department. The government has said the plant was the source of ground beef that has sickened scores of people around the country.

Whole Foods acknowledged that a code stamped on beef packages arriving at its stores accurately reflected the change in processing plants. But the grocery chain said it had no procedures in place to watch the codes on arriving meat packages, and therefore failed to notice it was getting beef from a packing plant it had never approved.

Beyond Whole Foods' quality control (not to mention PR) problems, all of this raises broader questions about what happens as "natural" and organic food suppliers inevitably get bigger, and are bought up by larger corporations whose standards for safety and quality fall below what most shoppers paying higher prices have come to expect.

This certainly isn't the first time that a natural or organic product has been called into question. For years, groups such as the Organic Consumers Association have been complaining about enormous (allegedly organic) dairy operations such as Horizon Dairy violating organic standards.

Let's face it, raising, slaughtering, and processing animals for meat and dairy products is a very messy business. Slapping a natural or organic label on it hardly changes that biological reality. Yes, (I hear the "locavores" telling me), buying meat locally, at your farmers market if you happen to have one near by, that you can afford to shop at, does help reduce the odds of problems. But even local, "grass-fed" cattle has to be slaughtered at a USDA-approved facility. (I know, Big Brother again, but there are legitimate safety reasons for requiring certain standards, they just need to be better enforced.)

I asked Marion Nestle (who also posted to her blog this morning on this) for her thoughts, and here's what she told me:

What everyone—even Whole Foods—needs to understand is that the United States does not have a farm-to-table food safety system.  Until we do, we really have nobody minding the food safety store. What I don’t get is how many of these incidents have to happen—and how many people have to get sick—before Congress takes some action. In my most cynical moments, I think that we will never have a decent system of food safety oversight until some powerful senator has a close family member who gets sick or dies from eating contaminated food. It's not that we don’t know how to do food safety. We do. It’s just that the political barriers can’t seem to be budged.

But we can't wait for Washington DC to clean up the food system (we've already been waiting for decades) so we have to take matters into our own hands. Eating ground beef is like playing Russian roulette. Even if you don't want to stop eating meat altogether, stick with others. Ground beef carries additional risks from the processing, especially for children who are susceptible to infection. And it doesn't matter how it's labeled, or how expensive it is, or what fancy store you buy it from.

Originally posted to Michele Simon on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 08:23 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Whole Foods ate my local Wild Oats (9+ / 0-)

      and prices jumped overnight, probably because they now had a monopoly.

      10, 20, 30 percent -- or more.
      "Organic" hamburger $8 a pound, "conventional" fruit and vegetables (non-organic) so much higher than the local grocery stores I'd pick something up, laugh, and put it back down.

      The cat food I'd bought in the 15 ounce can, they now only stock in the (ridiculously over-priced)5 ounce can.

      The store seemed to empty out overnight of customers.

      Then a neighbor who was eating blackberries, the same brand as Whole Foods, told me he'd bought them at the 99 cent store.

      Buh-bye Whole Foods: sorry for those sickened, but Whole Foods deserves every customer who leaves.

    •  thank you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joe shikspack

      we made some food containing ground beef from Whole Foods on Monday and then put it in the freezer.  We're looking into the purchase date and will discard if it was purchased before Thursday, August 7th.

      I had heard about this new E. coli outbreak but didn't know that my ground beef was possibly affected. thanks.  I don't have a kid and probably wouldn't have fed an older adult with this food, but anything is possible.

    •  Didn't Whole Foods get in trouble (0+ / 0-)

      a few years back for grinding pork and beef in the same grinders and contaminating the beef that way?

      "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

      by resa on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 09:20:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Grind your own (0+ / 0-)

      The risk of stuff like this goes way, way, WAY down if you grind your own ground beef.  Most of the contaminants are introduced in and after the commercial grinding process.

      Kitchen mixers often have meat grinder attachments available.  Buy chuck, insert into clean grinder, grind.  Presto!  Clean ground beef.

  •  Locally farmed beef from the farmer's market (9+ / 0-)

    We get ours from a farmer who feeds the cows on corn he grows himself.  It tastes amazing.

  •  I love a good steak (4+ / 0-)

    And it's just fine when ground up in the local butcher's.

    "The guy has no core. He likes to call his campaign the 'straight talk express.' We call it the 'forked tongue express.'" - Bob Haney (GOP)

    by DiegoUK on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 08:27:09 AM PDT

    •  I have a meat grinder (8+ / 0-)

      The old-fashioned kind with a hand crank, you know what I mean?  When I want something made with ground meat, I grind my own.

      A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. ~Edward R. Murrow

      by ActivistGuy on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 08:38:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was going to suggest the same thing. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        resa, annetteboardman, ActivistGuy, chigh

        The classic clamps-to-a-tabletop hand-cranked meat grinder can be had for about $35 and, as long as you protect it from rust and sharpen or replace the blade occasionally, will probably last forever. It makes for safer ground meat, and it lets you control the fat content and texture of the grind. Not to mention providing a bit of an upper-body workout. The only downside is that they are a bit of a pain to clean.  

        •  so called progressives, i love it (4+ / 0-)

          chompin down on beef, the worst food on so many levels. like:

          the huge amount of water it takes to raise a beef cow
          the huge amount of green protein it takes to make a pound of beef.
          contamination such as feces, e coli, etc
          weight problems from gorging on beef
          heart problems from gorging on beef
          mental confusion and anger when challenged about their beef consumption
            (just wait a few minutes here, you'll see it here)

          As a cocky anti-beef preacher I want to share a slogan I just now made up.

          Beef: it's not the shit, or the fat. It's the conspicuous flaunting of reason

          I'm thinking xxxlarge tees in red

          "Don't push the river but don't pull no punches." Van Morrison

          by bob zimway on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 09:35:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thanks for this, as I posted earlier (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            bob zimway, VegDana

            You are right, there are so many reasons not to eat meat that progressives should get. I posted here how Al Gore doesn't even get it, or rather chooses not to.

          •  Misinformed vegans (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lemming22, judith2007, Anarchofascist

            Typical response from the ignorant.

            How much water is used to grow an ear of corn, process it, put it in the can, ship it to your local supermarket?

            And what happens to the corn stalk, the cob, the shucks from that ear of corn?

            How about tofu? How much water is used to grow the soybean, harvest it, process it into tofu, package it, refrigerate it, haul it to the store?

            And what happens to the bean plant, the bean husk?

            I'll put the water used up in raising a beef cow for the nutrient value received against your tofu diet any day of the week.

            Cattle generally graze on pastures that are not suitable for farming. You can't eat the grasses they eat.

            No one has to gorge on beef just as no one has to gorge on potato chips or sodas. And there are a lot of us who aren't a bit confused about our beef consumption. Angry? Actually I think you're pretty funny.

            •  my tofu diet (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              How would you know about my diet. Oh right, from your beef eaters support group handbook.

              I ate tofu when I was in Asia. I'm not in Asia.

              Try again.  Let's make a game of it: guess my diet of say five foods and if you hit the majority I'll retract everyhing I've ever said about the correlation between beef and mental confusion.

              "Don't push the river but don't pull no punches." Van Morrison

              by bob zimway on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 10:06:49 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Tofu? No thanks. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                bob zimway

                I'm not a tofu eater either, though I'm not opposed to it if someone can make it in a tasty dish.  Cracks me up how us "crazy" vegetarians/vegans are assumedly all tofu-eating hippies.  

                I think someone mentioned this in another post here.  I find it weird that so many progressives - who are generally compassionate people - are typically the ones I notice arguing against animal welfar (much less animal rights) or a vegetarian diet.  

            •  Here's Some Info (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bob zimway, VegDana

              According to this website (which sites various sources):

              A meat-based diet requires 7 times more land than a plant-based diet.  In a world where more and more land is being converted to agriculture (especially in Central and South America), this is pretty substantial--that alone would get me to cut back on meat consumption (though I'm a vegetarian already).

              Meat production requires 10-20 times the energy that grain production requires (though that multiple is probably a little less compared with fruits and vegetables since they can't grow in as many different places and thus might be transported further).

              This website (with a fewer number of citations) address water issues:

              One pound of beef requires an input of about 2500 gallons of water (that's 20 tons!).  In contrast, a pound of soy requires 250 gallons of water, and a pound of wheat (which can grow unirrigated in moderately dry climates, like the Great Plains) requires only 25 gallons of water.

              By the way, as a vegetarian, I don't eat tofu all that often.  I do eat lots of other foods though, enough that I don't miss my meat-eating days of my childhood one bit...foods like pesto, masala dosas, oyster-mushroom curry (my own creation using oyster mushrooms), vegetarian burritos, tacos with huitlacoche (I admit, I only had that for the first time not long ago--I'll be back for more), steamed artichokes, falafel, hummus, couscous, vegetarian Vietnamese pho, channa masala, bhindi (okra) masala, vegetarian sushi rolls, sweet potatoes, blackberries, blueberries, chocolate-chip cookies, chocolate cake, cherry pie...uhhh...I'll stop before I make people too hungry!

              Bears hibernate for months. Congress hibernates for years. Is it "spring" yet?

              by westcornersville on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 10:19:47 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  man I'm starvin (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                okra masala, couscous, and pho (lived on it in Vietnam last year)

                thanks for the info.

                "Don't push the river but don't pull no punches." Van Morrison

                by bob zimway on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 10:30:07 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Pho (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  I'll make you really 'bout some extra basil with that vegetarian pho!!!

                  Ironically, basil is a late 20th-century add-on to that otherwise traditional Vietnamese food.

                  I hope to visit Vietnam this winter (I'm planning on a Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos combo trip).  I'll look forward to some good vegetarian pho (and to see how it's different from that found at a small handful of veggie/veggie-friendly Vietnamese restaurants in the US) at one of the many vegetarian restaurants there (Happy Cow lists about 100 vegetarian restaurants--and I'm sure there are quite a few that aren't listed on that website).

                  Bears hibernate for months. Congress hibernates for years. Is it "spring" yet?

                  by westcornersville on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 11:13:45 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  However ... (0+ / 0-)

                ... grazing animals can be raised in marginal regions, where rainfall is too low to support agriculture.  Among other locations, this may include a substantial fraction of the Great Plains, as global warming dries out the Midwest.

              •  There remains (0+ / 0-)

                the argument that traditionally, cattle were grazed on land that was unsuitable for grain agriculture.  Of course, that's a simplistic assumption, and not really the way that our system does it at all.  If you lack large-scale water engineering, however, there are a lot of areas that would be suitable for sustainable grazing (not the overgrazing which has become far more common)and not for intensive agriculture.  And in an ideal world, sustainable agriculture would include crop-to-grazing rotation for natural fertilization.  It REQUIRES it, practically speaking, so you might as well make use of the animals.  Although dairy products are a more sustainable use of the capital than meat-eating, still, any dairy farmer is going to point out that you don't need or want a 1-1 sex ratio in livestock, so you have to do something with your excess males.

                There is also the FACT that the human body evolved primarily eating a much higher percentage of animal protein than anyone outside of America gets today; OTOH, a much greater proportion of that animal protein was probably fish than is typical in the average American diet.  But the overall problem is just that there are far too many humans; there is soon going to be no way to feed them all, period.  Mandatory vegetarianism could prolong the agony and allow a larger population, say one more generation, to accrue in poorer health until the population densities lead to an epidemic or four. Shrug ... there is no NICE way to get over the last century of excess, so stop dreaming.

                Vegetarianism is a religious/spiritual fashion that came into existence for religious/spiritual reasons.  Health justifications are mainly secondary and often bogus, although the mere fact of attending to one's diet consciously and making deliberate decisions based on nutrition makes most vegetarians far healthier eaters than the average member of the herd.

                •  Crop Rotation, etc. (0+ / 0-)

                  I guess one question I'd have regarding the rotation between crops and grazing--how many of the crops that are grown are for animal feed versus "human feed"?  Less land would be needed for crops for a vegetarian diet (since less animal feed would be needed), thus making it more sustainable.

                  There's some debate out there about how much protein people really need.  Of course, it'll vary based on needs--a bodybuilder will need a lot more than your typical sedentary office worker, but generally around 10% of the calories from protein (especially if it's from a variety of sources) is kind of the median.  Of course, a lot of foods that one doesn't normally think of as protein has more than 10% of calories from protein, like wheat and most vegetables.  Fortunately for us, the human body is capable of surviving on a variety of diets, so that those of us who choose to be a vegetarian for ethical and/or environmental reasons very easily have that option.

                  Yep--that's true that vegetarians tend to pay more attention to what they eat, and that is likely a big factor in vegetarians generally eating healthily.

                  Bears hibernate for months. Congress hibernates for years. Is it "spring" yet?

                  by westcornersville on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 11:09:06 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Well, (0+ / 0-)

                    growing crops for the animals is mostly counterproductive.  Cows are SUPPOSED to eat grass, not grain.  Supplements won't hurt them, and they like it, but it shouldn't be what they normally eat, and feeding it to them to get "well-marbled meat" is another way of saying, feeding them until they're obese and then we eat them and you are what you eat.  Sticking them in a tiny stall where they can't turn around and stand in their own crap ... only in a "modern" system could that be possible ... anybody who'd tried it before antibiotics would have had nothing but dead cows on their hands.

                    A complication in the calculation as to how much protein a "human" needs is that there are some real differences between human metabolic systems.  Those of us with impaired carbohydrate tolerance are really designed to live on meat and vegetables, and grain products gradually kill us.  So your 10% animal protein figure is, well, a one-size-fits-none suggestion.  I'm sure there are people who do well on it ... and others could die from it.  There's an amazing amount of genetic diversity in this species.

                    But yes, vegetarians DO tend to know more about what they're doing than those who don't think about it.  Which is why, although I am not one, I give the gods thanks for having had a vegetarian to teach me how to cook!

                    •  Yep... (0+ / 0-)

                      The "factory farming" is certainly one thing that repulses me from meat (though not all meat, of course, comes this way).  It also unfortunately contributes to food poisoning in vegetables (E-Coli, etc.) since the manure is more likely to carry disease in a factory farm environment than if you have widely spaced animals eating grass.

                      Fortunately, I'm one of those people whose metabolism is very vegetarian friendly.  I found my health to improve after I became a vegetarian--though that could've been because I was simply eating better (more fruits and vegetables).  My running improved (it's harder to run with 2 hamburgers in your belly than...say...pasta with tomato sauce and spinach), and I even went from being a "skinny little runt" to being "moderately muscular" (though that was more because I started working out with weights).  But...each person's body is different--quite obviously, some people don't thrive like I have on a vegetarian diet.

                      Bears hibernate for months. Congress hibernates for years. Is it "spring" yet?

                      by westcornersville on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 01:12:10 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

            •  here's funny (0+ / 0-)

              Maybe Obama doesn't need the agriculture community to win the presidency. But some animal rights groups have been declared terorists organizations by the FBI, ALF, for example. He'll never, ever win the people who produce food for this country and, I don't think he'll win the general election if he's painted as supporting the animal rights agenda of the far out wackos, like ALF and ELF.

              I think the farmers will sleep okay in an Obama adminstration. The beef ranchers; though--we're comin to gitcha!  me and k.d. lang ridin free range  ostriches.

              "Don't push the river but don't pull no punches." Van Morrison

              by bob zimway on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 10:27:47 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Thanks for your concern. (0+ / 0-)

            I'm going to create a dish in your honor. I think I'll call it "Beef Short Ribs Zimway".

          •  I have found that meat-eating has nothing to do (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            with one's place in the political spectrum. The Seventh Day Adventists, who are veg because of religious reasons, are quite conservative, as are many older folk who find out that their cholesterol is too high and must either resign themselves to alifetime of Crestor™ (whish wil eventually destroy their liver) or they must give up red meat.

            Even the animal-rights folk aren't necessarily progressive.

      •  We have a Kitchen Aide (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        resa, annetteboardman

        Mixer that has a grinder that is bought separately...about 250 for the two and worth every penny.  We use it at least twice a week and have for years.

        We have a hand crank that we use when the power goes down.

        Fear is the mind killer

        by trinityfly on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 09:11:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  You guys beat me to it. (0+ / 0-)

        Should have read the whole thread first.

        "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

        by resa on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 09:22:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Well, not necessarily. That's sort of the point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      of the diary.  Unless the butcher is also slaughtering the cow himself, his beef is subject to the same problems as anybody else's.

    •  My local butcher closed a number of years ago. (0+ / 0-)

      He decided that the real estate business was better.  I'm wondering if today he wishes he had stayed in the meat business.

      I haven't been able to find another one since.

      My local Shop-rite grinds their own beef in the store.

      (Old White Woman 4 Obama)
      OWW40's Unite!

      by Cyber Kat on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 09:10:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Lewis Black joke on The Daily Show (24+ / 0-)

    He showed a film clip about how expensive, due to inflation, things were in Zimbabwe.  The reporter said something to the effect, "10 million dollars and I was able to buy two cans of soup and some beans."

    Lewis Black commented, "Who knew they had Whole Foods in Zimbabawe?"

    They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. -Benjamin Franklin

    by Gangster Octopus on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 08:27:49 AM PDT

    •  Now THAT'S funny! (0+ / 0-)

      We call it whole paycheck where I live. Also, wasn't there a problem awhile back when some of the ingredients used in the 365 brand were found to come from China and be contaminated with very unorganic substances?

      "Big boss ain't so big, just tall, that's all." And McCain is the boss!

      by TheFatLadySings on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 06:08:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm going local (10+ / 0-)

    And yes, it still has to be USDA.  But local farms are less likely to be rifling 6000 slaughtered carcasses a day to feed 200 million people and cover a nationwide corporate profit mandate.

    They just want to make it through the winter, and maybe put their kids through dental hygeine school.

  •  Well, it doesn't take a genius to recognize... (7+ / 0-)

    ...that animal diseases like E coli aren't limited to animals in giant, corporate slaughterhouses. The fact that beef is natural and organic doesn't mean you don't need to take the same precautions in preparation as you would with "ordinary" meats.

  •  Who's going to protect the friggin beets from (5+ / 0-)

    these crazy vegetarians!! SAVE THE FRIGGIN BEETS!

  •  Mmmmmm ... beef. n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dennisl, Anarchofascist
  •  this is why irradiation is good (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bustacap, dallasdave

    natural != healthy

    Fight the stupid! Boycott BREAKING diaries!

    by VelvetElvis on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 08:36:23 AM PDT

  •  I have to regretfully admit that I clicked this (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, dennisl, dallasdave, Virginia mom

    diary because I read "Beer" not "Beef".

    I was really worried for a minute there.

    We are easy to manage, a gregarious people/Full of sentiment, clever at machines, and we love our luxuries. - Robinson Jeffers; poet, "Ave Caesar"

    by Uwaine on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 08:37:34 AM PDT

  •  meanwhile, until we TEST. EVERY. COW. (9+ / 0-)

    for BSE prior to slaughter, there's no reason to assume any cow is free of BSE.

    This would also make up for the shoddy slaughterhouse practices here.  Stick a knife in the spinal cord of an infected cow, and that knife can transfer BSE to the next several cows being slaughtered.  Bon appetit!

    Testing every cow is standard practice throughout Europe and even in several developing countries.  There's no excuse for not doing so here -- except that those producers who actually want all their cattle tested are actually forbidden from doing so!

  •  Whoo... Thank goodness I eat buffalo (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tinfoil Hat, banjolele

    John McCain loves to suck sausage with Lindsey Graham.

    by The Dead Man on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 08:50:15 AM PDT

  •  To reduce much of the risk... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bustacap, dennisl, VClib

    You could simply cook all pre-ground beef to 165 for 15 seconds.  Although, 60 seconds would be better, yet less tasty.  That reduces the risk substantially.

    I like to buy my own cuts and grind them myself(you can pick up a hand crank meat grinder for about $40).  While that does not reduce the risk 100%, it is makes the risk near zero and reduces the risk enough to allow me to feel comfortable eating a medium burger.

    On a personal point, I hate food alarmism just as mush as I hate any other form, such as terror alarmism.  We need to restructure the FDA for the 21st century.  However, the Food Code is scientifically sound and inspections are mostly successful.  Most people will live their entire life and never have a foodborne illness that began on the production end.  When you do get sick, it is usually an issue of improper cooking, storage, or cross-contamination.

    •  um, (0+ / 0-)

      it's hard to stick a thermometer into ground beef.

      i actually may have bought the problematic beef, though, and I luckily froze the meatloaf-type food, in order to later cook it in the oven.  So, any thoughts about cooking temperatures and duration? Any suggestions of where I can go for the supporting information to your suggestions (i.e. CDC, FDA, etc.)?

      •  nevermind (0+ / 0-)

        i got my info from the tubes.. now, i've just gotta hope that my tubes will be okay

      •  Well, I am a Serv-Safe instructor... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        distraught, Mara Jade

        so I get the data from my teaching materials which is derived from the FDA Food Code.  A good place to start for more information is

        If you bought something that has been recalled it is best not to use it.  However, for more general ground meat products, 155 for 15 seconds is considered safe but I would recommend the higher temperatures for longer durations with pre-ground beef, especially if you serve children, the elderly, or other high risk groups.

        As for meatloaf, 165 for 15 is a must since there are so many different ingredients mixed together, and composed mixtures are inherently more dangerous than simple ground meat.

        As for temping out beef patties, I have a probe thermometer I picked up from Bed, Bath, and Beyond that had a very narrow probe.  I can temp all but the thinnest patties.  Plus, the probe is oven safe and I can set an alarm for when something reaches temp, a time saver when roasting a turkey.

  •  What does 'organic beef' mean exactly? (0+ / 0-)

    I've often wondered what exactly this term means.  This is a serious question, no matter how silly my first interpretation may seem.

    I admit, at first I assumed that 'organic' meant the ancestry of the cow...

    "This cow is 1/32 non-organic, on its mother's side"

    Does it instead refer to the origin of what the animals are fed?

    Or to something entirely different?

    •  It's a number of things, feed, conditions (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Erin in Flagstaff, TheOtherJimM

      The USDA has certain standards. But the problem is lack of oversight. The Organic Trade Association describes it this way, here.

      Organic Practices
      The philosophy of organic production is to provide conditions that meet the health needs and natural behavior of the animal. Thus, organic livestock are given access to the outdoors, fresh air, water, sunshine, grass and pasture, and are fed 100 percent organic feed. Any shelter provided must be designed to allow the animal comfort and the opportunity to exercise. Organic practices prohibit feeding animal parts of any kind to ruminants that, by nature, eat a vegetarian diet. Thus, no animal byproducts of any sort are incorporated in organic feed at any time.

    •  A chemist would tell you (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      polecat, bustacap, Anarchofascist

      that an organic cow is a carbon-based cow.

      Most are.

    •  Feed and management (0+ / 0-)

      "Organic" beef is from cattle that haven't been fed any "inorganic" matter and have not had any antibiotics or growth hormones. They also have to be produced by cows who were deemed "organic." They are vaccinated as calves to keep them from getting sick, but if they get sick and are treated with antibiotics, they can't be sold as "organic."

      All their feed must be organic. They can have grain as long as the grain was raised organically. The pastures they are grazed on must be organic.

  •  And Whole Foods is as good as it gets -- (3+ / 0-)

    As grocery store chains go, Whole Foods has made considerably more effort than most to use reputable and clean sources of meat, poultry and fish.

    This is disturbing.  

  •  Food: Unsafe at any price! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cyber Kat, VClib, Anarchofascist

    That could've been the title of this diary since we have had problems with vegetables lately too.  I suspect the anti-carnivores will use this episode to browbeat us meat eaters.

    •  Actually, the produce problems stem from meat too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cyber Kat, Cassandra Waites

      All of the e-coli contamination of vegetables come from upstream problems with animal waste. Vegetables do not make e-coli, animals do. That's why vegetarians also need to worry about meat safety!

      •  There are animals that aren't farmed for (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        food that spread e. coli.  Unless your Hannibal Lecter, the sort of animal waste that most commonly spreads e. coli has nothing to do with meat.  And there's a host of other pathogens, of course.

        You can pretend that vegetables are safe from food-borne pathogens, and even when vegetables develop problems, it's the meat-eaters' fault.  But you'd just be pretending.  The most common food-borne illnesses world-wide, of course, are really water-borne.

        WARNING: There is a high probability that the preceding comment is snark. Use your best judgment (hopefully better than Senator McCain's).

        by Anarchofascist on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 09:29:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I am not blaming meat-eaters... (0+ / 0-)

          Why do defensive? The problem is with factory farms that breed the e.coli in the animals. If it's in the water, it still comes from an animal, human or non-human.

          •  Blaming factory farms is kind of silly, (0+ / 0-)


            Why do Europe, Japan and the U.S. have such alarming food borne illness outbreaks?  Because countries that don't have industrialized food supplies have endemic food borne illness and aren't alarmed by it.

            WARNING: There is a high probability that the preceding comment is snark. Use your best judgment (hopefully better than Senator McCain's).

            by Anarchofascist on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 09:50:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  kosher (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Kosher at least gets checked regularly--it's that "higher authority" thing.

    •  But a big kosher plant in Iowa turned out (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to be horrible. Kosher SHOULD mean checked for safety, but that's not always the case.

      •  That wasn't safety issues, I don't believe (0+ / 0-)

        That was immigration and labor law violations.

        And obviously, if you cook Kosher beef properly, it's going to be safe from just about everything other than prions.

        I actually think people who keep Kosher are missing out more on rare beef tenderloin more than any pork product or dairy/meat mixture.

        WARNING: There is a high probability that the preceding comment is snark. Use your best judgment (hopefully better than Senator McCain's).

        by Anarchofascist on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 09:33:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Also soft-shell crabs. eom (0+ / 0-)

          WARNING: There is a high probability that the preceding comment is snark. Use your best judgment (hopefully better than Senator McCain's).

          by Anarchofascist on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 09:58:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  From the sound of it, I can't believe the (0+ / 0-)

          Pottsville plant had meat that was actually safe, or even actually kosher.

          I'm not an expert on Pottsville or kashruth, but it sounds to me as if the way the Pottsville plant was treating the workers probably, at a minimum, violated Talmudic labor rules, and maybe even the labor rules in the Torah itself.

          If a "kosher plant" is certainly ignoring the spirit (and maybe the letter) of Jewish law when it comes to treating people decently, how can I trust the plant to treat the animals decently, or even to follow the Jewish laws concerning diseased animals?

          Personally, I do still buy kosher meat, and I might actually buy kosher meat from the Pottsville plant if I lost track of which kosher brands were the bad brands. But that's because I want to continue the Jewish tradition, not because I think kosher meat is necessarily all that safe.

          On the other hand: if, say, you live in Brooklyn, and you actually go to an old-fashioned kosher butcher that has carcasses in a meat locker, and you see the butcher get your meat from a nice-looking carcass (and maybe grind it with a clean-looking grinder), then I think that would be a lot better than getting wrapped meat from a supermarket display refrigerator.

          But I think the same would be true if you got your meat for meat from an old-fashioned halal (Muslim) butcher or mainstream American butcher. The safety really comes from the fact that you have a good butcher getting meat from animals that he saw when they were alive, rather than from some automated meat factory.

          •  halal (0+ / 0-)

            In NYC, halal = kosher.  If the rabbi inspecting the place is corrupt, obviously, it's not kosher, but, that's true of any regulator.  We live in a large world, gotta trust somebody.  Where I moved to, gentiles buy  kosher franks for safety reasons, not custom.

  •  "organic" is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassandra Waites

    also kind of beside the point.  Cattle fed with organic grain can still harbor the nasty bugs and the meat can become contaminated during slaughter and processing.  

    If you want to eat beef and avoid the types of e coli that make you seriously ill (there are many many kinds of e coli, you're benignly infested with a few right now), what you need to avoid is grain-fed beef.  

    Cattle raised entirely on grass have a stomach Ph that is less friendly to the nasty bugs.  Way more about this at

    Otherwise, you have to cook it thoroughly enough to sterilize it, with careful handling to avoid cross-contamination of your kitchen, salad, etc.  

    And/or, buy chuck roasts and grind them up yourself.  

    "Civility costs nothing and buys everything." - Mary Wortley Montagu

    by sarac on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 09:08:07 AM PDT

    •  but they are still slaughtered with the others (0+ / 0-)

      that was one of my points in the dairy. so no one is immune, the entire system is connected.

      •  They are not all the same (0+ / 0-)

        First off, not all meat is slaughtered at USDA-inspected plants, which is a requirement for sales across state lines.  Quite a few local farmers have their animals processed at state-inspected plants.

        Second, and more fundamentally, just because a plant is state or USDA inspected does NOT make it the same as the monster plants that process animals for grocery store chains!  Those plants kill and process thousands of animals a week, sometimes each day.  They typically hire a large number of illegal workers and move the line at fast speeds to keep their profit margin up, giving each worker just seconds to do their job.  In contrast, the sort of slaughterhouses that many local farmers use (both USDA and state-inspected) process perhaps a few dozen animals a week and spend a lot more time and care on each animal.  This means both less stress for the animal, better conditions for workers, and SAFER meat.  

        The key is asking about where and how the animal was processed, as well as how it was raised.

        "Organic meat" is very often processed at large, industrial slaughterhouses.  But it is not accurate to lump that with local, grass-fed products.

        Help protect independent farmers! Go to

        by judith2007 on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 11:50:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ok, I stand corrected (0+ / 0-)

          about the moving across state lines, thanks for the clarification. my main was that people think buying local is better and there are still can be problems with that, if you don't know the entire process.

          I also don't understand how caring for an animal before slaughtering it isn't an oxymoron. I mean, it's like lethal injection to me. Less stress maybe, but how about no stress, no killing. Since eating meat is not necessary, why kill?

  •  What a crock (5+ / 0-)

    Beef is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available to us. Ground beef is the most affordable line of beef. More beef is sold as ground beef than in any other form. How many people got sick or died from this recall from Whole Foods? None that I've seen. How many people got sick and died from the recent outbreak of salmonella in peppers? Earlier this year it was organic lettuce. Last year there was a big outbreak of ecoli in lettuce. Organic spinach was also recalled as contaminated. You probably have less chance of actually getting sick from meat than anything else. If properly cooked, ecoli is killed in the meat. You don't generally cook lettuce. While Bush has cut the USDA's budget and we don't have the oversight we need in meatpacking plants, we still have more oversight there than in the fresh vegetables available in your store.

    Organic is about marketing. Organic food is no healthier, nutritious, or safe than the same cheaper, conventional item in the supermarket.

    •  All vegetable contamination comes from animals... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      esquimaux, VegDana

      As I said earlier. Factory farms crowd animals and that's what causes infection. (Sometimes it's from workers.) E-coli-laden run off  from these facilities then gets onto plants that we eat and then make us sick. So every time you hear about a spinach recall or any other vegetable, you should ask yourself, what is upstream, and what sort of animal did the pathegen come from?

      •  Humans are animals (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib, Anarchofascist

        Ecoli can come from human waste. It can come from people not washing their hands before they bag lettuce at the organic lettuce plant.

        It also comes from wild animals. I understand some vegetable producers are cutting down the wildlife habitat strips around their farms to keep deer and wild hogs out of their fields

        Again, if properly cooked, ground beef is safe. Under any circumstances, it's probably safer than fresh veggies simply because there's more oversight (though not enough) in meat packing plants than in vegetable packing facilities.

        •  I said humans too, but that's the same problem (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          A broken food system predicated on profit not safety. It doesn't matter the type of food. I strongly suggest you read books like Fast Food Nation, Safe Food, Slaugherhouse, and others if you really think that meat is safe. As for the cooking temperature, you can't cook away Mad Cow.

    •  agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Beef is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available to us.

      but the planet pays

      "Don't push the river but don't pull no punches." Van Morrison

      by bob zimway on Wed Aug 13, 2008 at 10:45:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You can't assume (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GW Chimpzilla

    that meat is EVER "safe".  Meat has a tendency to harbor just the kind of parasites that also like to eat OTHER meat ... US.

    Blooded meat must be thoroughly cooked.  There are no exceptions to this policy.  Raw meat is an "affordable" -- in a safety sense -- delicacy  only when you personally supervise both the care and slaughter of your food from farm to table.  And when you do that, you usually won't risk it either, because you know damned well that applied biology is an inexact science and that there's no such thing as a "sterile" living creature or environment.

    Transporting huge amounts of dead animal all over hell's desacration doesn't improve the odds any, but ultimately, meat is just more prone to problems than dried up and ground up dessicated seeds, and it can't be made 100% safe.

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