I love steaks. Rare. So I’m biased. But now there is the report of a year-long investigation by The Kansas City Star into the industry practice of mechanical tenderization. Meat packers take certain cuts and run them through a mechanical tenderizer where dozens of needles or double-edged blades perforate them. The result is a “bladed” or “needled” steak. It’s tenderer, and perceived to be of higher quality, so it can be sold for a higher price. And more profit. The perfect alignment of American values. The process can do something else, however: push potentially deadly E. coli into the core of the steak.
It’s been going on for decades. By 2008, according to a USDA survey, over 90% of the beef producers were blading or needling certain cuts. But nothing on the label said so. Turns out, steak lovers have been deluding themselves into assuming that any E. coli bacteria would remain on the surface and would be killed by the heat.
The US beef industry is a powerful lobby. Packers employ 260,000 people who handle 26 billion pounds of beef a year. After a bout of Wall-Street engineering, beef packers have coagulated into essentially four companies: JBS USA, owned by JBS of Brazil, the largest beef packer in the world; Tyson Foods; Cargill; and National Beef of Kansas City. Together they slaughter 87% of all heifers and steers...
...The USDA has been on this case for years and has pressured the industry to label “bladed” or “needled” beef voluntarily, but few packers complied. Costco is among the stores that labels their beef appropriately, along with a warning: “for your safety USDA recommends cooking to a minimum temperature of 160 degrees.”
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