USDA Orders Largest Meat Recall in U.S. History

In the largest meat recall in U.S. history, 143 million pounds of beef have been recalled by the U .S. Department of Agriculture. The beef represents the past two years of production for California-based Westland Meat, and was recalled because the company did not prevent sick animals from entering the U.S. food supply.

The videotape above showed that Westland’s partner company, Hallmark Meat Packing, was involved in “egregious violations” of federal animal care regulations. The company did not consistently bring in federal veterinarians to examine cattle that were too weak or sick to stand on their own, and sent them to be slaughtered anyway.

Government regulations prohibit slaughtering cattle that cannot stand or walk on their own for food.

Federal officials have noted that most of the recalled beef was likely eaten long ago, and, despite the recall, likely poses little or no hazard to consumers.

About 37 million pounds of the meat went to school lunch programs and other public nutrition programs.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
This recall came about only after this undercover tape from the Humane Society of the United States showed sick animals being treated cruelly and inhumanely by Westland/Hallmark Meat Company employees. It was only then that federal officials came to the realization that this company has been routinely allowing sick animals into the U.S. food supply (including to school lunch programs).

This begs two burning questions:

1. Why didn’t the USDA, with their supposed safety inspections, know about this long before the Humane Society’s undercover work?

2. What good is it to recall meat AFTER most of it has been consumed?

The recall includes beef products that date back to February 1, 2006. Now, in 2008, most of these products are already long since eaten, but how many other meat companies are violating safety standards right now?

Is the USDA Protecting Your Food Supply?

As evidenced by this massive recall, no, not even close.

If you are not yet familiar with the conventional practices that go on in factory farm beef warehouses, as a matter of course, then listen up. These are places where animals are raised in filthy overcrowded conditions, and are pumped full of hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals while being fed animal byproducts and pesticide-laced grains.

And this is all in accordance with federal regulations. Still, as the undercover video showed, there are apparently even worse things going on in the nation’s slaughterhouses, despite the fact that USDA inspectors are there “continuously.”

If this doesn’t bother you, then perhaps the reason why this massive beef recall likely took place will: Mad cow disease.

When an animal collapses out of sickness or weakness, it has an increased risk of being infected with not only e. coli bacteria but also bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

Richard Raymond, the USDA's undersecretary for food safety, said that there is no risk of mad cow disease from the recalled meat, but what else could he say? Most of this meat has already been consumed, and symptoms of the fatal brain infection associated with mad cow disease can take 30 years to show up, which means it would be nearly impossible to link it to the recalled beef anyway.

Factory Farms Flourish While Small Farmers are Shut Down

Factory farms, which are widely known for their deplorable conditions, are given the golden USDA-inspected stamp, and their products sent off to your local supermarket to become your dinner.

Meanwhile, small farmers, who would otherwise slaughter their own cattle in a much more humane, clean and sustainable way, are made to bring their animals to a federally inspected slaughterhouse.

Sometimes these “inspected” slaughterhouses are hours away, making it not nearly cost effective for a small farmer to transfer his cattle there. Yet, if they attempt to slaughter the animals themselves, in the way that has been traditionally done for generations, they risk jail time.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Grass-Fed is the BEST Beef to Eat

In my view your exclusive beef choice should be grass-fed beef. But it is important to recognize that while nearly all cattle are started on grass, the key is what they are fed in the few months prior to being slaughtered. So avoid being deceived by some unscrupulous sellers. Verify that any beef you purchase is truly grass-fed until slaughtered.

If you live in some countries like Australia, Brazil and New Zealand it is a non-issue, as that is all they feed their cattle. And if you are fortunate enough to live in Hawaii, where I stay for the winter, all the cattle are grass-fed and they do not give them any grain, unlike in the rest of the United States.

Who do YOU Trust With Your Family’s Food?

Did I mention that the government once named Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. the school lunch program’s “Supplier of the Year”?

Makes you wonder what the meat companies are like that didn’t win the title …

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather get my meat from a farmer I can talk to first-hand, than put my faith in a plastic-wrapped meat product that comes from a factory farm where a USDA inspector may have been asleep on the job.
And this is not even factoring in the superior nutrition that comes from eating beef that is raised on pasture, instead of in feedlots.

While I realize that not everyone has access to small farmers, food from local sources is increasing in popularity and is becoming much easier to come by. For an excellent list of sustainable agricultural groups in your area, please see Promoting Sustainable Agriculture -- this page is filled with resources for high-quality produce and meats in your area.

To end on a positive note, it looks like Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. will be one less black mark on the U.S. food supply. Their general manager has issued a statement that the company is probably going to be shutting its doors for good.
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