A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Friday, February 22, 2008

An unsavory discovery at Hallmark Meat Company

The scandal from the lack of inspectors in meatpacking plants continues to spread, as it was revealed this week that some of the tainted product made it into the school lunch program:
More than a third of the 143 million pounds of California beef recalled last week went to school lunch programs, with at least 20 million pounds consumed, officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday.

About 50 million pounds of the meat went to schools, said Eric Steiner, deputy administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service's special nutrition programs.

Of that amount, about 20 million pounds have been eaten, 15 million pounds are on hold at storage facilities and 15 million pounds are still being traced, he said.

Officials said, however, that they still weren't able to provide the names of all the places the meat wound up.

"Sitting here today, I cannot tell you how many locations the product has gone to," said Dr. Kenneth Peterson, of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. "Our focus is identifying the locations and making sure the product is under control."

The USDA shut down Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. and issued the nation's largest beef recall after the Humane Society of the United States released undercover video of workers kicking and shoving sick and crippled cows and forcing them to stand with electric prods, forklifts and water hoses.

The plant produces about a fifth of all the meat in the federal school lunch programs, said Bill Sessions, associate deputy administrator for livestock and seed Programs with USDA's agriculture marketing service.

Well I can tell you that some of that beef made it here to the Land Between the Coasts, and several area school districts had their names splashed all over the news for having received some of the recalled beef. Some of these districts are very large, and some are from very wealthy areas.

Interestingly, the school district in which I teach ALSO received some of the tainted product, but somehow we managed to keep our name out of the media. Seriously, you've gotta admire the job our PR folks do-- somebody there HAS to have sold their soul to the devil or something, because the media never hears anything about anything negative about our district. I make this point not to cast aspersions upon the Powers That Be, but to simply say to those of us who are parents: Just because you haven't heard that your district was affected by this story, doesn't mean that it wasn't. At least our school district disclosed it to parents in a letter. Other districts certainly aren't as accountable. So, if I were you, I would contact my school district to find out what had happened in your situation. Food poisoning in small children is very dangerous, and this should serve as a wake-up call.

Oh, and if you go back and read the rest of the article, you will see that an employee caught on film abusing the downer cattle has turned himself in to police. Let's hope that the accountability doesn't stop with employees but goes up to the management and ownership of Hallmark Meat Company.

And the next time you hear someone rail against taxes, think about what it would be worth to you if the government actually could afford to put inspectors into these plants more than once in a blue moon. Another thing that would be nice would be if our government would make this a priority, too, but that's just wishful thinking....

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At 2/22/08, 5:00 PM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

If you haven't done so yet, you really ought to read Fast Food Nation. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

At 2/22/08, 6:06 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Yeah, I have. Ewwww.

And my mom's baby sister died of food poisoning during the Depression. So it really just enrages me that this kind of stuff is allowed to go on.

At 2/23/08, 10:49 AM, Blogger nothing said...

This is why I'm a vegetarian! Though even veggies are a concern these days:( I remember being grossed out by The Jungle, and a quote about the book to the effect of "Sinclair meant to hit America in the heart, and instead hit them in the stomach," which oddly enough is more of a motivating factor, it seems!

At 2/23/08, 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was there anything actually wrong with the meat or was it simply precautionary. Seriously, going vegetarian is sounding better and better these days...oh, and growing your own vegetables.

At 2/24/08, 7:30 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

The problem is that they were using "downer" cattle for slaughter, which is a serious violation. If a cow cannot even walk on its own, there is the chance that there is something wrong with the animal, especially something viral. So this meat company was sometimes dragging non-ambulatory cattle into the slaughterhouse.

And there were no inspectors there because of government budgetary priorities which do not put the welfare of the American people first. It that basic.

If you've read the Jungle, which led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act at the turn of the century, you know that there are even worse things that meatpacking companies can do if they are not watched.

At 2/25/08, 9:19 AM, Blogger Friar said...

This is what happens when you have a greeting card company run a meat packing operation...


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