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Well, there’s almost nothing more that I can say about the extremely disturbing story that was in The New York Times: E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection. You’ve probably read it or seen a friend’s Facebook post about it. The well-researched and achingly depressing story starts out with a woman — a dancer — who is now paralyzed from the waist down because she ate a hamburger. Then it explains how that hamburger was made, and why that process is a flawed one. I could go through the story paragraph but paragraph to summarize, but I don’t have to. The Times sums it up best pretty high in the story: “…tracing the story of her burger, through interviews and government and corporate records obtained by The New York Times, shows why eating ground beef is still a gamble. Neither the system meant to make the meat safe, nor the meat itself, is what consumers have been led to believe.”

I will highlight one part of the process, though: The fact that the $1.99 pound of beef you buy is actually comprised of trimmings that come from multiple slaughterhouses in multiple states and countries — some of which has been soaked in ammonia and all of which was possibly contaminated with feces. “Federal inspectors based at the plant are supposed to monitor the hide removal, but much can go wrong. Workers slicing away the hide can inadvertently spread feces to the meat, and large clamps that hold the hide during processing sometimes slip and smear the meat with feces, the workers and inspectors say.” This feces is the main culprit in E. coli cases, which causes stomach and intestinal distress, and can lead to death in some cases. Uggg.

What’s even worse is that even if you cook beef to the proper temperature, which is 160 degrees, you’re not guaranteed to kill all the E. coli. And even if you did, you may have transferred it to your salad inadvertently when you were preparing it. E.  coli is like a cockroach: It’s hard to kill. Plus, it’s so virulent that all it takes for you to get sick is a few cells left on a cutting surface, sink, or counter.

While all this is enough to make anyone want to be a vegetarian, for most of us, it’s just not possible. There are ways, however, to avoid getting sick. Here are some tips to cut down on the amount of feces in your chopped beef.

  1. Buy Grass-Fed Beef. Notice I didn’t just say organic. Yes, it’s more expensive, but those cows who are fed grass or forage have less E. coli in their systems. Grain feeding, according to one study, contributes to the growth of E. coli. And that’s coming from the USDA and Cornell University.
  2. Get a Grinder. Beef isn’t inherently dangerous. It’s the meat grinding process, which adds tiny pieces of fat, trimmings, and leftovers to the mix. Buy your own food processor and some beef and you know exactly what’s in your hamburgers. (Of course, you’ll need to take the same cooking and handling precautions that you would with any meat.)
  3. Use a Thermometer. Beef might look done, but unless you check the temperature, you really can’t be sure. Meat thermometers are inexpensive, and don’t take a lot of time. Stick it in, if it says 160 degrees, you’re done.
  4. Get Some Bleach. My organic mommies are going to disagree with this one, but remember, this blog is Natural as Possible. If you’re goingto have raw meat in your kitchen on a regular basis, you have to protect yourself. Bleach is one of the things that has been found to kill E. Coli. Obviously, you’re not going to spray your meat, but you should wash down counters and cutting boards–anything that may have been contaminated.
  5. Patronize a Local Butcher. If you don’t have the time or the stomach to grind your own beef, your local butcher (as well as stores like Whole Foods) can do it right in front of you, often for no additional cost. I get my ground beef (the hubby loves meat sauce) from Whole Foods, and it only costs me $2.99 per pound. Not bad for grass-fed meat.

My choice: Skipping the burgers all together. I’m lucky, though. I was never a burger lover save for an annual All American Burger run. It’s o.k., though. From now on I’ll just stick with the fries.

2 Responses to “Ground Beef: Yeah, It May Have a Little Poop in It”

  1. OMG so disgusting! Thanks for pointing it out. More reasons for me to stick to my vegetarian diet…
    Now, let me spread the word about it.
    Thanks again Karen.

  2. kb says:

    I wish I could commit to a vegetarian diet. Sigh. Thanks for reading!

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