Kansas City Star Takes a Closer Look at the Beef Industry

A new series uses unprecedented access to shed light on the beef industry, and brings into focus the shortcomings of modern meat production.

  • Take a closer look at the beef industry
    "The Kansas City Star" explores what happens to our beef from hoof to table.
    Fotolia/ Marina Karkalicheva

  • Take a closer look at the beef industry

This article is posted with permission from Food Safety News.  

On Tuesday The Kansas City Star published the final installment of “Beef’s Raw Edges,” its three-day investigative series examining the current state of the U.S. beef industry. The project was spearheaded by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Mike McGraw.

The work follows a yearlong investigation during which The Star was given rare access to the processing plants of two of the four major U.S. beef suppliers, as well as packing plants and a large-scale cattle feedlot. The resulting stories highlight issues such as non-therapeutic antibiotic use in livestock, the industry’s funding and propagation of pro-beef research and the safety risks of mechanically tenderized steak.

The Star’s investigation into mechanical tenderization determined that the use of the technology exposes consumers to an increased risk of foodborne illness. A significant amount of beef consumed in the U.S. is sent through a machine with dozens of needles or blades that puncture and sometimes marinate the steak in an effort to improve the texture of cuts sometimes considered cheaper and tougher.

When the steaks are punctured, however, fecal contaminants on the surface may get driven down further into the meat. When these steaks are cooked on the rarer side, pathogens such as E. coli have the chance to survive within them and eventually infect diners.

In many cases, consumers, restaurant staff and supermarket managers do not know — and cannot tell — when a steak has been mechanically tenderized. A 2008 U.S. Department of Agriculture survey found that 90 percent of beef producers are using the technique on at least some cuts, though the practice does not require any additional labeling.

12/15/2012 11:23:13 PM

if you cannot grow it yourself, buy direct from a farmer. make small scale farming profitable & take our food out of the hands of big business.

t brandt
12/13/2012 8:15:43 PM

If infection rates fell by 52% over the last decade, how bad can the problem of tenderization be?... Remember that 310 million Americans eat 3 meals a day, 365 days a year (340 billion meals) and about 100,000 cases of food borne illness requiring hospitalization occur. The vast majority of illnesses are caused by contamination at the site of meal preparation, not at the source of the food, and few are due to E.coli. OUR FOOD SUPPLY IS SAFE.......If you're still worried, contact your local meat locker and ask about availability of organically grown beef. You can buy freezer beef produced locally & processed at the locker any way you like it. You can save 10% or more on the cost of beef.... A 1/4 cow only takes up about 3 cu ft of freezer space. A regular full size fridge has about 4 cu ft of freezer.

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