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Would You Like some E.coli on that Burger? Part II

October 4, 2009

“Meat is meat.”

How do we go from this...

How do we go from this...

I just stared at him.  I couldn’t believe it.  After having him read the recent New York Times article, “E.Coli Path Shows Flaws in Ground Beef Inspection” and explaining to him the health and environmental implications of industrial meat for the past half hour, that was all he could say.

“But aren’t you weirded out by the thought that one hamburger patty could have meat from four or five different cows?” I ask.

“Why would I be weirded out?  Nothing bad has happened to me yet.  I have no reason to stop.  Most, if not all, of the food that I eat is chemically modified or processed in some way.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“Janie, my point is…meat may be stuffed with antibiotics and hormones, but ecologically it’s all connected…the vegetables that you eat may also contain nasty chemicals because farmers use livestock manure to fertilize their crops.  Why be afraid of all those additives in meat when it’s in everything?  Some E.coli may slip through the cracks, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.  It’s like driving your car–there is always an inherent risk involved, but we continue to drive our cars without worrying about the what ifs.”

“Yeah, but…”

“Well, food just has its risks that we have to deal with.  Honestly, I think our biggest concern is treating livestock with antibiotics. We inject our cows full of antibiotics but then the bacteria evolve and eventually become even stronger.  The development of resistant bacteria reduces the effectiveness of human medicine…now that’s what we should be worried about.”

...to this? And is it possible?

I couldn’t agree with him, but I couldn’t disagree either. I’m no perfect eco-eater.

It’s funny, when it came to reduce, reuse, and recycle, it was easy to convince Austin to do those things.  How come food was so difficult?  Was it because it came with a monetary cost or because it was less convenient?

Guilt trips, scare tactics, informational articles didn’t seem to make a difference.  He’s seen the feedlots in Garden City, KS and visited the Lawrence Farmers Market.  He’s tried everything from organic and grass-fed, to vegetarian and vegan.  What would it take to change his eating habits?

Sensing my frustration, he gently added, “I would shop at the Merc for every ounce of my food if I had the money and I’m sure there are people out there who do.  But as a college student, sometimes I can’t have access to the healthier alternatives…so I make due.

It’s good to know where your food comes from but in all reality there is little we can do to control whether it’s safe or not. We as the consumer just have to be conscious about expiration dates and cooking/washing our food thoroughly.  I can’t travel down to Garden City and demand that my steak be perfectly safe. I just have to put up with the fact that it may contain residue of bacteria, and trust that it most likely is ok to eat.”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Andrew permalink
    October 5, 2009 4:45 pm

    The crux of the matter is that he’s eating mostly processed food. Food that has that chemical flavor haze along with the magic blend of fat, sugar, and salt. Why switch? Economy, as he said, he’s a poor student. When someone’s name is on your food (and I’m not talking about Granny Smith here), then it’s going to cost you more, just for the name. Beans, lentils(!), rice, cheese, corn (if you must, use masa harina as it has more available protein), and some meat from time to time.

    Real food, with ingredients you can not only pronounce, but also name (who knew there was ammonia in your hamburger “meat”?), is something you’ll quickly come to enjoy.

    • janiec52 permalink
      October 12, 2009 11:20 pm

      Austin and I have been trying to incorporate cooking with real ingredients into our dinners. Every Thursday night we get together to try out a new recipe and hone our culinary skills. We used to make rice and mashed potatoes out of those boxed mixes but we’re trying to make those from the real ingredients from now. We used to think that buying packaged food was cheaper than buying real food. But when you consider how much you get for the price, it really isn’t that much cheaper. With a little time and effort, you can manage to make the same meal at the same price with double the quantity.

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