The poor consumer gets repeatedly bashed and denigrated, especially in some of the electronic journals frequented by those either in the meat and poultry industry, or retired after having spent their lives feeding us.
And I agree that the consumers may not know much about where their food comes from or how it is raised using the technologies that allow farmers to use less land and water to raise more pounds of meat and poultry than ever before.
But whose fault is that?
As an example of the extreme, at one conference I presented at a consumer asked why people had to slaughter pigs and cows? Why, she asked, can’t everyone just go to the grocery store to buy their meat?
I would guess that the average shopper gets most of his or her information from the labels on meat and poultry that, by law, must be “accurate and not misleading”.
Let me list a few labels and other statements from leaders and respond to them with what I think the consumer (or me) thinks about them.
No Hormones Added: (When this label is on a package of chicken, turkey, pork or bison meat, it may be accurate but is misleading. No wonder the average consumer thinks most animals get hormones to make them larger. Shame on the industry and USDA for allowing this misleading practice.)
Our Broilers are all Cage Free: (Huh, I guess most of the chickens are then raised in cages and that would be inhumane. I guess I will buy this product.)
Our Cows were not injected with rbST or any other hormones: (But I also read on the label that the FDA states there is no difference in milk from cows supplemented with rbST or not, so why are they implying my little girls would be at risk drinking milk from supplemented cows? Do I trust the dairyman or the FDA?)
No Antibiotics -- Never Ever: (Seems pretty simple and straight forward, until one learns the antibiotic class of ionophores is OK to use, and medically important antibiotics can be used in the first 24 hours of life. Once again, how can we point a finger at the consumer and call them misinformed when we are doing the misinforming.)
No Medically Important Antibiotics Used: ( I suggest you ask your physician if he or she considers oxytetracycline or chlortetracycline, which account for over 40% of antibiotics sold for use in animals, to be medically important. Don’t take my word for it.)
Organic: (Must be safer and healthier for me and my kids. Guess I should fork over a few extra bucks for the kid’s sake.)
All Natural: (Nothing is all natural any more, beginning with the reproductive process. I mean, really?)
Grass Fed: (Of course cows are/were at one time all grass fed. That does not mean they did not spend their last months in a feed lot on a grass/corn mixture.)
Antibiotic Free: (Well, since I have an allergy to Penicillin I guess I should choose this label and its meat because I assume the rest of the meat case can’t make that claim or they would.)
All Products Sold at Our Farmers’ Market are Grown Locally: (This sign was at the entrance to an outdoor market in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. First booth I came to advertised line caught Halibut.)
Raw Milk is Healthier Milk: (I bet that is why my Son has Cystic Fibrosis, since we fed him pasteurized milk.)
Eating Raw or Undercooked Meat, Poultry or Fish may Cause an Increase Risk of a Foodborne Illness: (That doesn’t really sound too bad. At least eating raw or undercooked products won’t kill me or my children, right?)
Inspected and Passed by the USDA: (Phew, I am so glad Teddy Roosevelt signed the Federal Meat Inspection Act into law so I don’t have to be obsessive-compulsive about how I handle and cook my meat and poultry.)
As of Today, non-O157:H7 STECs in Ground Beef are Declared to be an Adulterant: (Double Phew, I am so glad I don’t have to worry about them, either, whatever a non-O157:H7 is not to mention that STEC thing, whatever it is.)
In a January, 2015, report, the USDA stated that 83% of mechanically separated chicken parts were contaminated with Salmonella: (Honey, forget about the last two statements regarding USDA inspection, and get the tongs out, use them to grab the wings and drummies out of the frig, being careful not to touch them yourself, and bury them three feet deep in the garden plot.)
What is more Scrambled than a Scrambled Egg?: The US Food Safety System; Caroline Smith-DeWall, at the time with the Center for Science in the Public’s Interest
How did that E coli get in the spinach in the Salinas Valley, sickening hundreds?: (If you look long enough into an E coli O157 outbreak, you will probably bump into a cow; Nancy Donley, then President of STOP.)
And the investigators did bump into a cow, a whole bunch of them.
But was there ever an announcement that equaled all the bad press as the outbreak grew? Nope. We would not want to inform the consumers that it was not the spinach’s fault nor point a finger at a dairy farmer.
Seriously, I had a physician tell me that the reason those chicken breasts in the meat case were so much bigger than when he was growing up was because the chicken farmers were pumping the birds full of hormones.
He reads the labels and reached the conclusion that only a few raise the birds with no hormones added.
Or at least he thinks he knows and bases his choices on those accurate and not misleading labels.