Friday, June 13


With the news that one of the people responsible for the spread of Monkeypox, who is himself infected, has been on the line as a meat inspector, we've all got to ask, how credible is our inspection system? A Seattle-area TV station is being attacked with state money over its investigation into the handling of downer cows, in which "videotape shows meat inspectors failing to follow food safety codes and cows improperly stunned." The reporter repeats the company's assurance that this could never happen, and Mike, a former USDA inspector, says "That's a lie. It happens on a daily basis." And let's not kid ourselves that this one plant is the only place where it that's true.

But what about inspectors who are doing their job? The Baltimore Sun reports that even the ispection system in place for downer cows (of which "cow zero" in Canada was one), if followed to the letter, could still miss BSE. And in the meantime, still more holes in the firewall are coming to light, including the "restaurant exemption," which allows beef to be fed to cows if it's gone through a restaurant first. This USA Today article touches on my point that our moral queasiness about animal slaughter is what allows unsafe abuses:
"But opening this delicate topic could have unappetizing consequences for consumers who rarely think about what those sizzling steaks and burgers went through on the way from feedlot to backyard grill. When they do, they might not want to pay higher prices
to change the system." Nope. Especially since we're already paying enough just to keep the system going: As just one relevant example, we're paying to shield ranchers from mad cow risk, as this explanation of the USDA-underwritten insurance program makes clear. "The economics are tilted towards the producer as well, since he or she pays only a portion of the actual risk premium. USDA pays 13% of the risk premium and all of the administrative costs." Sure, why should the fellas slaughtering the downer cows and foisting more diseases onto the public get stuck with the bill?

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