“I’ve never heard a cow scream like that before,” said the unidentified narrator of a video that caused the recall of 143 million pounds of beef, the largest in the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) history.
The video, secretly filmed by the Humane Society, went public in October. It showed plant workers beating and prodding slaughterhouse cows.
The USDA announced its recall on Feb. 18. The reason: The beef was “unfit for human consumption because of lapses in required inspections,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
These “required inspections” include veterinary intervention when a cow can’t walk itself into a slaughterhouse. Cows that cannot stand and walk pose a higher risk for mad cow disease and by law cannot be used for human consumption.
However the questionable mystery beef served in several elementary school cafeterias was part of this recall.
Approximately 37 million pounds of the recalled beef, from Chino, CA-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Company, went to school lunch programs in about 150 districts nationwide.
Much of it has probably been eaten by now, as the recall includes beef dating back to Feb. 1, 2006.
Many school districts pulled Westland beef after the undercover video was released, but little can be done about the already-consumed meat, which the USDA said had “a remote probability of adverse health consequences.”
Of course it’s a relief that our beef supply is monitored and the government is willing to warn us of potential risks. It’s probable that the USDA faced heavy pressure from the beef industry not to impose a recall. Besides school districts, the fast food chains Jack in the Box and In-N-Out have refused to purchase Westland beef.
So at least you can feel safe when you eat a Monster Taco.
Animal activists can claim a small victory too. The released video showed obvious cruelty and inhumane treatment of cows at Westland.
Despite the minimal health risks posed by the recalled beef, socio-economic victims have been spotlighted.
The victims in this situation are students who rely on subsidized school lunch programs and the workers of Westland, one facing five felony and three misdemeanor charges.
It is easy to sit on our elevated campus and be grateful for the organic produce that is served in UC Santa Cruz dining halls, but not everyone is as fortunate.
Many Americans rely on federal supplies of meat and dairy to fill their stomachs, and there’s a slim chance that federally provided beef, from companies like Westland, is free-range and grass-fed.
Their cows can’t stand up, let alone graze.