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Beef General Information

How much money is being spent on meat and poultry inspection?

By Bob Oros

meat-inspection.jpg (42675
 bytes)The only way to completely eliminate the bacteria problem that causes people to get sick is for supermarkets and food service operations to purchase only meat and poultry products that have been precooked or pasteurized at a USDA inspected processing plant. Meat is the most tested and inspected food item we buy. It costs the federal government more than one million dollars a day to employ nearly 10,000 USDA meat and poultry inspectors who are physically present in every packing plant during every minute of operation. FDA inspected food plants may receive a visit from an inspector less than once a year. The USDA devotes eight times as many resources to the inspection of meat and poultry as the FDA spends for the rest of the entire food supply. If you wanted to open a meat processing operation and sell products to restaurants you would have to have an inspector present all the while you were processing. On the other hand, if you opened a restaurant or a supermarket, you could bring in all the raw meat you wanted to, process and cook it for your customers, and hardly anyone would watch what you were doing.

An important thing to keep in mind is that we are talking about live animals that are raised in unsanitary conditions. The two basic sources of bacteria are from the outside, meaning fur, feathers, scales, hair, etc., and from the inside, meaning the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. Great care is taken when the animal is killed and butchered to be sure the meat does not become contaminated by either of these sources. After the hide and intestines are removed the carcass is thoroughly cleaned to be sure there is no “ingesta,” undigested material, or “feces,” animal waste, left anywhere on the carcass. In the case of dairy cattle, used primarily for ground beef products, the udder must be carefully removed making sure there is no leakage causing possible contamination. Steam Pasteurization is a process that is being developed that kills bacteria by sending it through a steam tunnel that raises the surface to 190 degrees.