This week the news has been splattered with reports about downer cattle discovered at Central Valley Meat Co. in Hanford, California, a processing plant which supplies up to 30% of the meat used by fast-food chain In ‘n Out Burger, and also to the U.S. school lunch and emergency food programs. This establishment, known by its slogan ‘quality you can taste‘ is now facing a publicity nightmare.
What was shown in an undercover video produced by animal rights group Compassion Over Killing in June and July of this year is that there were animals being poked, proded, and who could barely stand or walk. Federal law prohibits the use of meat from animals that cannot walk on their own for processing.
Ho hum, you might think. Food recalls happen everyday and packing plants are getting shut down pretty frequently. True. However, if you look on the FDA Food Recall list you can see just why the U.S. food system, touted by its defenders such as politicians, big wigs at the FDA, CDC, and USDA, and “food safety” experts from medical and health authorities as being “the safest in the world”, it’s obvious that our system is anything but safe.
“But”, you might argue, “I eat out at restaurants pretty regularly and I’m just fine. “ So why should you care? Sure, maybe you’ve gotten away with doing this for some time and things have been all right. But what about that time that you got sick because you ate at the local drive in or maybe your favorite Chinese restaurant that serves General’s Chicken? So maybe you get food poisoning a few times a year. It’s no big deal. Normal, even…right?
Not really. As a culture, we’ve grown so accustomed to food recalls, food poisoning, and chronic health issues we don’t really give a second thought to the idea that maybe the food we’re eating is causing more problems than we realize. Consuming industrial foods are now being linked to many different health issues such as antibiotic resistance and the development of superbug viruses such as Salmonella, E. coli, MRSA, Enterococcus, and Campylobacter, yeast overgrowth, heart disease, obesity, cancer, and many other degenerative diseases.
Food poisoning is not something that is normal or that we “should get” regularly. Some years ago when I was eating out a lot and not paying attention to my diet, I had food poisoning 1-3 times a year, whether it was a terrible upset stomach, diarrhea, or all out vomiting for 12 hours or more.
Since I changed my diet and eat mostly real food from safe sources, I haven’t had food poisoning in at least 7 years, maybe longer. During this time, it was common for me to have bowel irregularities, stomach cramps, bloating, and feeling bad in general. And I thought that was normal. It now very rare that I have a mild upset stomach or nausea, and most of the time I feel great. So when I hear about people I know with “stomach flus” and digestive distress, I remember very well how it used to be. No fun.
Why does factory farmed food make us sick?
- The food we eat from these facilities, whether it’s from a restaurant or store is filled with preservatives, fillers, dyes and colors, and other chemicals that are harmful to human health on many levels.
- The food is nutritionally imbalanced because it’s grown or produced in the most unnatural ways – as is evidenced by the video footage from the packing plant supplying meat to In ‘n Out Burger. Many foods are irradiated, heat-treated or pasteurized, extruded, or highly processed in some manner that removes colors, flavor, and nutrition. Then food companies add back in synthetic nutrients and chemicals that give food the right texture and flavor so people will eat it. But it’s completely devoid of anything good or natural for our bodies, and is mostly lacking in any easily-absorbed nutrients.
- Factory meats contain residue from antibiotics & hormones to make them grow faster than normal to increase business profits, and also residue from pesticides and herbicides used on the feed consumed. These substances are linked to many health issues including digestive problems, yeast overgrowth, antibiotic resistance, hormonal and endocrine problems, weight issues, and much more.
- Cattle and other animals are not on pasture, and are crammed into too-small quarters, standing on dirt or cement, and within close proximity of excrement piles or standing cesspools of feces. The feces is supposed to be used as fertilizer, but you wouldn’t want anything you are eating to be fertilized with this stuff. Because it comes from sick animals, it’s not healthy to use on anything. But it gets used on crops and also ends up running off into other areas such as waterways and land and seeps into our groundwater. It’s a contaminant and makes people sick. Have you heard about spinach, tomatoes, or watermelon recalls in recent years? That’s thanks to contamination from disease such as E. coli and Salmonella from factory farms.
- Cattle are fed something besides grass and hay (which is what they are meant to consume) such as corn, soy, grain, and are genetically modified (GMOs). Among other problems, consuming these feeds causes the nutritional content of this meat to be too high in Omega 6s, which contribute to inflammation in the body.
- Some animals are fed by-products of processed foods and other consumer products to “fatten them up” (especially cattle) as discussed in this article from February 6, 2003 by Jason Straziuso in the Des Moines Register.
The news reports say In ‘n Out Burger has canceled their contract with the offending CA meat packing plant. ABC News also stated that this packing plant does not only supply In ‘n Out Burger and the school and emergency systems with meat, but other businesses and entities as well.
At this point, 3 very important questions need to be asked:
1) Should In ‘n Out Burger, who claims to pay a premium price for “quality meat”, be given kudos for ending their relationship with the meat packing company that broke the law?
2) Will In ‘n Out Burger sign a contract with yet another processing plant that has unsafe and inhumane practices?
3) After the offending meat plant “cleans up their act”, will it then be “safe” to purchase meat from restaurants and grocery stores that have a contract with this company?
Here’s the reality of this situation: most meat comes from factory farm settings, and simply because the cattle found there are not staggering and unable to walk does not mean the meat produced there is safe to consume. And, just because your favorite fast food joint doesn’t get their meat from this particular plant in CA with downer cattle does not mean they don’t get their meat from a facility that doesn’t use unsafe and unhealthy practices. Downer cattle are not the only factors which make meat from factory farms unhealthy to consume.
Another critical point: because food companies and establishment get busted by the FDA does not mean we have to stop eating meat. You’ll hear many voices from animal activist groups, health groups, and others proclaiming that this is why meat is so harmful for us, causes high cholesterol, cancer, heart disease, and so on.
Animal and environmental activists will prey on your emotions by saying that animals are getting murdered and are suffering mercilessly at the hands of big corporations (which they are), and that all meat farming is devastating to the environment. They will attempt to persuade you with false studies and infamous books like The China Study by T. Colin Campbell about how all meat is bad for your health, and that you should avoid it as much as possible.
But don’t be fooled. There is a better way, a more natural way practiced for thousands of years by traditional populations around the world. Healthy meat from animals and birds raised humanely, and from natural environments is not only okay to eat, but critical to our health and the environment – as described by Joel Salatin, sustainable food activist, grassfed farmer and author of various books on the subject.
The solution should be clear:
More information on food recalls and factory farmed foods: