Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Dangers of Factory Beef - Caught On Tape!

They say ignorance is bliss. And they were right!

When I started this blog, it was out of curiosity, fueled by a passionate belief in supporting a sustainable local/regional food system. I hate to admit it, but before I got into this, I was one of those happy, mindless consumers who filled up the grocery cart without giving a thought to where my food comes from. Now, as I turn over rocks on the road from farm to grocer, it seems as though there's a scorpion under every stone!

Yesterday, it was reported that public school districts across the Denver metro area (including Denver, Cherry Creek and Jefferson and Douglas counties) have temporarily stopped serving beef in their cafeterias. That's because earlier this week, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released videotape findings of its investigation of the Hallmark Meat Packing Company in Chino, California -- the nation's No. 2 supplier of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program. The video presents shocking images of the appalling mistreatment of "downed" dairy cows — those who are too sick or injured to walk. These downer cows present an increased risk of spreading mad cow disease and other harmful foodborne pathogens that can jeopardize human health.

You can view the entire video -- and take action to help prevent these abuses in the future -- here, at the HSUS website, but be warned. These images are graphic and disturbing. You may never eat factory hamburger again!

As awareness of the video spread, the USDA took action. According to a statement from the USDA released yesterday, "the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) suspended inspection at Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company based on the establishment's clear violation of Federal regulations and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. This Notice of Suspension is a regulatory course of action available when FSIS finds egregious violations of humane handling regulations."

The USDA suspension will remain in effect and the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company will not be allowed to operate until written corrective actions are submitted and verified by FSIS to ensure that animals are humanely handled.

The USDA also suspended indefinitely the eligibility of Westland Meat Packing Company to participate as a supplier to Federal food and nutrition programs, specifically the National School Lunch Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

On the plus side, this story got me motivated. I've been trying to put together a directory of retail and producer locations where you can buy locally raised, grass-fed beef and it's not easy. It's taking me longer than I thought.

This was the shot in the arm I needed to keep soldiering on....


Pete said...

You go girl! Isn't it absolutely amazing what we allow in this country--all under the intense supervision of USDA!!!Interesting that definition of "all natural" and wait until you check into what's required to call beef, pork, lamb etc. "colorado" Ever wonder where all that Colorado lamb comes from? especially given the highly seasonal nature of lambing. Not from Colorado, friends--at least not the way you'd think of.

homegrowncoloradogirl said...

Thanks, Pete,

The more I learn, the more there is to know. It may take me a few weeks/months to get to "Colorado" lamb, but I'll get there eventually....

ClaireWalter said...

In the finest tradition of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle," modern-day muckrakers are exposing abuses in the meat and food service industries. 'Supersize Me,' 'Fast Food Nation,' 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' and others are wakeup calls to the American way of eating. Hopefully, after January 2009, the next administration will not be so tolerant of industry abuses.

Claire @

homegrown colorado girl said...

Thanks for the comment, Claire.

I agree that we need to go after the industry -- and we need to ask our political candidates how they stand on the Farm Bill, subsidies, food labeling, the WTO and other pertinent issues. (FYI: I read somewhere that Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma) revealed that, of the presidential candidates, only Obama's campaign had contacted him to get educated on food system issues.)

More importantly, WE need to make choices and vote with our wallets. It's amazing how powerful that can be in driving change. Not easy to do, for sure, but powerful!

Myrto Ashe said...

I'm for eating healthy animals, but I am realizing that our total consumption needs to decrease dramatically.

I think violations of the law and of the health of these animals is only a part of the problem. I would encourage you to think through what would happen if Americans ate grass-fed beef in the amounts we eat feedlot beef. It takes 6 times more land to pasture these animals than to raise them for feedlots (where they still have to spend some part of their lives grazing), yet in many areas (including Colorado) all suitable land is already taken up grazing cattle, at huge cost to wildlife. See article at

homegrowncoloradogirl said...

Thanks Myrto,

Great point! I agree completely!

ClaireWalter said...

Denver was once characterized as a "cow town" for good reason 00 but no longer. Too much good Front Range pasture land (and farmland) has now been developed into housing, shopping centers, yet another outlet mall, yet another WalMart, Home Depot or other bix box stores, yet another golf course and yet another office park, so Colorado's virtually unchecked sprawl provices another challenge for ranchers who might wish to grass-feed livestock. Instead they've cashed out. When I first visited Colorado to ski in the '70s, cattle grazed where the plains rose to become the foothills just west of Denver. When I moved here in 1988, cattle and horses grazed along the Boulder Turnpike between about Westminster and Boulder. Now we have Rock Creek, Interlocken, etc. Highlands Ranch was once a ranch. Ken Caryl used to be a ranch too. Vast acreage in East Boulder County/west Weld County, the stretch from Denver south to Castle Rock and the stretch up north from Denver to Brighton and beyond that were once grazing land are now tract houses. The construction of the Northwest Parkway is turning ranchland into Californicated suburbia.

Claire @

homegrown colorado girl said...

Hi Claire,

I know what you mean. If we're not careful, there won't be an inch of green space anywhere. One of the things I hope I can do in this blog is to mobilize folks to protect and preserve a portion of what's left.