Activism Healthy Living

1 in 4 Meat Packages Tainted with Pathogenic Bacteria

Tainted meat is available everywhere…grocery stores, restaurants, schools, hospitals, prisons…you name it. And it’s all over the news this week and last week – NY Times, NPR, Food Safety News, Sauk Valley News, The News Tribune, Daily FinanceBellingham Herald, and many others. And you know when mainstream news outlets start reporting news items like this, the problem is an epidemic.

This is not a new problem. In 2008, the largest meat recall in history (to that date) was issued, as reported by many different outlets – again, so it’s not like people weren’t made aware of this issue.

Other nationwide meat recalls were issued in 2010 such as the one from Rudolph Foods Company, Inc. in California (205 pounds in January),  Huntington Meat Packing Inc. in California (4.9 million pounds in February),  Zemco Industries in New York (380,000 pounds in August), and there were many, many more.

What’s wrong with the meat?

In short, animals and birds are raised and processed in the most abhorrent conditions possible. They are cramped into close quarters, many of them indoors for most of their lives, and are not given access to sunshine and the ability to roam and graze, and behave naturally. They are fed unnatural substances that are treated with dangerous chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, and come from genetically-modified organisms like soy, corn, grain, and other toxic silage and substances (in some cases, tainted meat by-particles and products).  Animals are given hormones to make them grow faster and antibiotics, and birds get antibiotics “to keep them healthy”.

Cattle are not supposed to consume anything but grass because they are ruminants, which means their digestive systems are designed to process grass. Healthy cattle on pasture produce superior, healthy meat.

Animals become sick from living in these conditions and the result is pathogenic bacteria that our bodies simply cannot fight off. As a result, bacteria  like Staphylococcus aureus prevail. According to news sources, “proper cooking” kills these bacteria, but do you really want to eat something you have to cook the life out of in order to consume? And if you don’t cook it enough…well, you just never know what might happen. If you get sick, you won’t be able to successfully treat it with antibiotics because these pathogens are RESISTANT to commonly-used drugs like amoxicillin and penicillin. We’ve abused their use for so long…using them for prevention and for everything under the sun, instead of letting our bodies fight illness naturally.  Commercial farming uses antibiotics liberally on animals and birds to as a preventative measure, and animals receive daily doses of antibiotics in feed their entire lives, from birth until death. It’s no wonder these bacteria are as powerful as they are now.

When we eat this food, we get sick.  We’re eating bacteria, genetically-modified organisms, pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics…all of it negatively impacts our health. It may not happen today, but it could be next week, next year, or longer. But the more these practices occur and the more we eat this food, the more you’ll be hearing about people getting sick and dying from degenerative or sudden illness that is caused by consuming it.

So why aren’t people waking up yet?

There are many reasons…

  • People believe they are too busy and harried in their everyday lives to go somewhere else besides the grocery store
  • They genuinely can’t afford it or just don’t want to spend the extra money or make time to find better sources of meat
  • There is a widespread belief that we can’t possibly feed everyone sustainably and the factory farm model is “essential” to feeding the world
  • There are folks who simply don’t think it’s an issue (or as I’ve heard some say, “it’s just a scare tactic of the news media”)

It’s frustrating to hear people say they can’t afford to eat healthy because they:

  • believe that if they can’t go all organic, they might as well not even try at all
  • believe organic foods are too expensive, and in some cases they are referring to packaged, processed organic foods (which are not much healthier and are certainly very expensive!)
  • believe that good food is entirely out of their reach, but perhaps have money for vacations, hobbies, or other things that aren’t absolutely necessary

But it’s not impossible!

Please understand: my comments here are not a judgment toward people who don’t eat organic food.  Every family’s situation is unique. And don’t get me wrong, I do realize it costs more to buy healthy food, and with our sinking economy and fewer and fewer jobs, it’s certainly difficult.  The purpose of this post is to make aware this issue, and more importantly, to acknowledge that many of us are in the same boat – short on money and living paycheck to paycheck (sometimes FAR between). And yet, many people on budgets are figuring out ways to spend less and eat healthy. Remember that doing something is far better than nothing…and if you don’t have your health, you really don’t have much of anything at all.

Living on a budget and eating good quality meat and other foods CAN be done. And from what I know about meat and how the body digests and processes it – meat and meat products are some of the most critical foods NOT to skimp on because our bodies store these substances in our cells and they are harder for the body to detoxify.

Read this post from last year about the subject of cheap food, and how those up-front, somewhat lower costs you pay at the grocery store for a box of cereal, package of lunch meat, crackers, or container of sugary yogurt don’t account for the hidden costs of eating industrial food. If you figure out how much per pound you are spending on these foods, it makes a $3.99 per pound whole, pasture-raised chicken look pretty darn cheap!

And, don’t forget all the sickness, doctor visits, missed work and school days, and long-term health issues you incur from eating processed foods with chemicals, fillers, antibiotics, hormones, and other toxic ingredients. Eating healthier food supports health, plain and simple. Makes eating healthy look quite a bit cheaper, doesn’t it?

My own family doesn’t eat everything organic, but we do the best we can. We’ve struggled for years to make ends meet…and now we are about to lose our house. We started a brand new business two years ago when the economy was just starting to slump, and let me tell you, sometimes we go for MONTHS without any paycheck at all. But some things are just way too important, and I put healthy food at the absolute top of that list. We do without many things (and I’m not complaining) so we can continue to eat healthy food. To save money, we buy any foods we can in bulk, we work for our food, or trade when we can. Buying meat by the side is cheaper than buying it piecemeal. And, using all the parts you can from the meat you get – bones, stew meat, organ meats, etc. stretches out the meat you get and is more nutritious.

If you want ideas for eating healthy on a budget, here are some of our past posts on this subject:

3 tips for eating organic on a budget

Food budgets – using creativity and prioritizing for healthy eating

Waste not want not – tips for saving in the kitchen

Proof that real food doesn’t have to cost a bundle, is nourishing, and satisfies!

Many bloggers have written posts about how they manage to feed their families on a limited budget, barter or trade, and use their creativity and prioritizing skills to buy at least some of their food sustainable or organic:

Eat well, spend less: how to spend less money across the U.S. and Canada Kitchen Stewardship

Super-charge the grocery budget – Modern Alternative Mama

Real food on a real budget – Keeper of the Home

Saving money while eating “real food” – Naturally Knocked Up

Real food, frugal food: compromises can save money – Milehimama

Whatever the reasons that are given…it’s pretty apparent to me that eating a hamburger or steak from a restaurant or a grocery store isn’t worth MY life or one of my family member’s lives, or risking that one of us might get sick enough that we won’t come out on the other side in the same condition.

What can YOU do?

It’s way past time to give up our modern ideals about food is produced because it’s convenient and cheap. If, as culture, we decide this issue is not important enough to make a change in their lifestyle and buying habits, then the problem will only continue to get worse as time goes on.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are many opportunities in virtually any local area to make satisfying relationships with local farmers who care about sustainable and safe farming practices, and bringing food to their customers. And supporting local farmers who do good for us can change the future for everyone. By buying from local farmers, you are making it possible for them to continue to provide you with healthy foods.

There are also opportunities lurking everywhere to save money, trade, improve your way of life and the future for our environment and earth, and have better health.

There is also the opportunity to grow or raise your own food:

  • Maybe you have some space for a garden or for chickens
  • Maybe you know someone with land who is willing to allow you to raise a steer or have a milk cow
  • Maybe you have been fortunate enough to have a chance to acquire your own land.

Whatever the case, take the opportunities that come your way and use them!

I’m imploring everyoneplease, please, please, reconsider your buying habits if you are still purchasing from the grocery store or other mainstream outlet.

Go into your local community or farmer’s market and find out how your meat is being produced. Make sure your farmer uses mindful practices such as allowing cattle and poultry on pasture, avoiding antibiotics and hormones, and not using harmful chemical toxins like fertilizers and pesticides.

If we don’t change our buying habits and lifestyles soon, this problem will continue to create viruses that will sooner or later, wipe out big portions of our population. In the meantime, it can make us very sick, or cause people we know or care about to become sick or die.

Ask yourself this very important question: is it time to change?

Food recalls why they could mean the end of food as we know it

Huge FDA recall of 10,000 products – another wakeup call to avoid processed foods

The egg recall and why local isn’t necessarily better

Whole and healthy meat…does it really exist?

11 replies on “1 in 4 Meat Packages Tainted with Pathogenic Bacteria”

Wow! This is worse than I thought, and I thought it was terrible!

Could there ever be a better reason to switch completely to grassfed and grassfinished meat?

Not to mention to use only organic or the equivalent?

Or to stop eating in Restaurants that serve tainted food?

Before it seemed like a matter of nutrition. Now it looks more like a matter of life and death.

Thank you so much for this very important post!

Hi Stanley – yes, the problem is very acute, I just found this from the Eat Wild web site: “Almost half the meat and poultry sold in the US is likely to be contaminated by highly dangerous bacteria, according to research published this month (April 2011) in the scientific journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases”. So this information is not just being spread around in mainstream media news outlets, which are always subject to releasing information that may or may not be accurate. When medical journals are reporting this type of information you know it’s an issue. Eating anywhere is a problem now, and it’s just best to eat at home unless you know where you are eating is using clean food.

Great article! I live in the treasure valley can you give me some ideas on where to purchase quality meats? We are trying to move towards healthier eating, but it’s difficult to know where to purchase food without the farmers market being open. We do purchase some from the Boise Coop, but it’s pretty expensive.

Hi Monica – there are various places to purchase meats in the Treasure Valley, and paying a higher price up front is the way it is with better meat. Yes, the Boise Co-op is more expensive than what you are used to at the grocery store, but there is a reason the meat is more expensive – because it is not mass-produced and depending on the meat you are buying, better care and sustainable practices are used. I buy my meat from the following producers:

*Saint John’s Organic Farm in Emmett
100% certified organic, grass-fed beef

*Wilsey Ranch, Marsing, ID
Grass-fed beef and pork – sold at the Boise Co-op under Homestead Natural Meats

*Alderspring Ranch, May, ID (also sold at the Co-op, but you pay more if you buy it by the piece versus a side – contact them to see about bulk pricing)
100% certified organic grass-fed beef – sold at the Boise Co-op and on their web site

*Matthew’s All Natural Meats, Weiser, ID
pork, beef, lamb, chickens, turkeys, all fed non-soy/GMO feeds produced on site.

*Meadowlark Farm, Nampa, ID
pastured chickens, eggs, and lamb

*Lava Lake Lamb, Hailey, ID
pastured lamb – sold at the Boise Co-op

The best way to lower prices on meat is to buy it in larger quantities such as a whole cow or a “side of beef” which usually amounts to a half, or a whole lamb, half a lamb, etc.

If you can’t store that much or don’t want to spend that much, consider finding other families to split the cost with you. This is what we usually do, and we also have a freezer and store our meat this way as it keeps for some months and then you can take advantage of the savings of purchasing the meat in bulk. You can also get the other parts from the meat you buy such as bones and organ meats, which are extremely nutritious and help spread your meat out further. You can make a variety of nutritious recipes that taste great with organ meats and bones to make bone broths. It a different model of purchasing and consuming meat than you may be used to, but ultimately it’s a cheaper and more nutritious way to consume meat. I hope that helps! 🙂

Thank you for drawing attention to this topic of interest for most of us Americans living beneath dogmatic regime of “big food industry.” We CAN make change by voting with our dollars.

I love this relevant quote by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Love your blog, too. 🙂

I think you make some great points here.

Many people I know don’t want to eat organic and healthier. I try to convince them that you don’t have to do it all at once. You can switch to some organic fruits and veggies, and slowly work more in. You need to be really careful with meat though, obviously.

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