The bad news last week for XL Foods did not stop coming. It seemed everyday there was another date or store added to the list for potentially contaminated beef from the large meat processing plant in Brooks, Alberta.
The possibility of E. coli contaminated meat had people all over the country checking labels in their freezer and throwing out meat – landfill crows will eat well this fall.
It was a major fail for the massive meat plant, XL Foods, and a massive fail for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which was facing criticism for slow action on the recall.
More than 1800 beef products had been recalled as of last week.
For those who haven’t read Fast Food Nation, now is the time.
The book describes how fast food led the way for large-scale industrial food production. While written from a U.S. perspective, much of the book remains true for most of North America, as Canada’s food regulation increasingly follows the U.S. lead.
Unfortunately for our own health and the environment, the industrialization of our food supply has led to some major changes to the food supply chain.
The treatment of animals, the environment and the health and safety of consumers have all taken a back seat to profit margins and rates of production at different points. While at the same time, government cut backs to inspections have made the industry increasingly self-regulated.
Anyone hear the one about the fox guarding the henhouse? Wolf minding the sheep perhaps?
It all just seems a little less than ideal from a consumer standpoint.
I guess it’s one more argument for vegetarianism, which is much healthier for the environment, taking far less energy to produce the same amount of food.
However, for those of us who do eat meat and aren’t really looking for something so extreme, perhaps the recall is a bit of a wake up call.
I heard the news of the recall and knew I had nothing to worry about, as the entire meat selection in my fridge and freezer is locally sourced, bought directly from meat producers.
I have beef from local ranchers, lamb from family friends in the Cariboo, and chicken from local producers as well.
None of it was processed in large-scale facilities, where production line meat processing can lead to widespread contamination.
Now, I know even small producers can have contaminated meat, but let’s be honest, small operations are not running the same kinds of fast-paced, automated systems where an intestinal puncture would not be dealt with right away, and contained. I also think for society as a whole, there is so much less risk, as the contamination is not amplified, and spread from one facility to the entire country through a massive distribution system. One mistake does not then become a health hazard to a nation; instead a small community might be made aware and the problem contained.
Call me old-fashioned, but to me, this is one more example of how getting a bit traditional and going back to local food could be a great thing for everyone. Better profit margins for producers, better products and food security for consumers and better health.
Now, there will always be those who are desperate to save $5 or $10 on their meat order by shopping at Costco or some other large chain (which money nine times out of 10 they probably spent in gas to get there or on a latte they could have skipped instead).
But what is your health worth to you? What about the health of your family?
I for one am pretty glad I shop at the local farmer’s market and local producers and am not throwing away meat in my freezer this week. Probably a lot more than $5 worth of food was tossed from many freezers, with 1800 products recalled. I see it as money saved