You’re eating crappy meat — literally

This was printed in 1942 by the National Live Stock and Meat Board. Via Flickr user Umpqua.

This pamphlet was printed in 1942 by the National Live Stock and Meat Board. Via Flickr user Umpqua.

If you’re in the U.S., there may be excrement in your meat.

Keep reading — I promise this isn’t some chain email in all caps.

Ever since I read Fast Food Nation, I’ve been thinking about food safety. (That’s how fun a person I am.) The book is an investigative look into the influence of the U.S. fast food industry, for better or for worse.

The book was released in 2001, so when it devoted a large chapter to fecal matter and other contaminants present in beef, I thought, Hey, it’s been 12 years since this book was released. Maybe the food industry has changed since then. That’s what I tried to think to myself as I read about the disgusting practices done in meatpacking facilities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture turning a blind eye to it all.

But a few days ago, a feature in The Washington Post talked about a pilot USDA program that fails to remove fecal matter from meat sold in grocery stores. The USDA program allows meat producers to increase the speed of processing lines and replace USDA safety inspectors at plants with private inspectors employed by meat companies.

There are a few problems with that:

  • Sped-up processing lines means workers take a more relaxed attitude toward food safety as they try to keep up with the fast pace of the lines.
  • When safety inspectors receive their salary from the meat plants they’re supposed to be inspecting, those inspectors probably won’t do as thorough a job of ferreting out food safety concerns.

It’s a nightmare program that has been used for more than a decade by five American hog plants — three of these plants were among the 10 worst offenders in the country for health and safety violations, including not removing fecal matter from meat.

Besides E. coli, the very fact that there is crappy meat, literally, should induce a collective shudder.

And how is the USDA responding to these findings? They’re rolling out the failed program to hog plants nationwide.


We have to face the fact that the issues discussed in Fast Food Nation 12 years ago — contaminated meat leading to diseases in those who eat it  — are still present.

Why aren’t more people outraged over the USDA’s lax food safety practices? I see more public and media attention given to controversial commercials than what goes into the food they’re advertising.

What can we do about these unsafe food practices? Fast Food Nation argued that we as consumers wield a lot of power. When we demand change from a food company — let’s say better safety standards — then the company is compelled to respond quickly.

Let’s channel some of that energy we use on getting outraged over ads.

Let’s get outraged over our crappy meat.

  1. safia said:

    Well, I certainly shuddered when reading that. The sad fact is that if you are putting anything processed out of your sight on your table, you are at risk. That steak may look pretty good in it’s ergonomically designed packaging, under manipulative lighting in the supermarket, but if people visited a meat factory, I reckon a fair few would become vegetarian over night. Great blog – keep up the good work

    • Thanks for reading! I’m not vegetarian, but I sure want to eat less commercially-available meat when I see news like this.

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