How safe are your steaks?

The Kansas City Star investigated for a year a type of meat processing that mechanically tenderizes beef. The industry calls it “bladed” or “needled” beef, and The Kansas City Star found that “the process exposes Americans to a higher risk of E. coli poisoning than cuts of meat that have not been tenderized.”

The report is very long, and I can only pull a few graphs. So here is the basic gist of the study but please click on the link and read it all. It is very informative.

From The Kansas City Star:

“The process has been around for decades, but while exact figures are difficult to come by, a 2008 USDA survey showed that more than 90 percent of beef producers are using it on some cuts.

“Mechanically tenderized meat — which usually isn’t labeled — is increasingly found in grocery stores, and a vast amount is sold to family-style restaurants, hotels and group homes. In many cases, grocery stores don’t even know the meat has been tenderized.

“The American Meat Institute, an industry lobbying group, has defended the product as safe, but institute officials recently said they can’t comment further until they see the results of a pending risk assessment by the meat safety division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Although blading and injecting marinades into meat add value for the beef industry, that also can drive pathogens — including the E. coli O157:H7 that destroyed Lamkin’s colon — deeper into the meat.

“If it isn’t cooked sufficiently, people can get sick. Or die.”

There were many more findings about the production plants churning out the mass amounts of beef. Read the entire story here. (There are also graphics and photos that explain the process and show the plants.)

Should this type of mechanically tenderized beef be labeled at the market? Would it change your decision about buying a particular cut of beef? How well-done do you usually cook your steaks? What do you make of this investigation?

44 comments Add your comment

jarvis

April 23rd, 2013
6:15 am

Yes it should be marked. A free market can’t exist without full disclosure.

Furious Styles

April 23rd, 2013
7:45 am

It’s NOT that hard to tenderize your own meat. How lazy we’ve gotten. Our laziness has lead to more of mass processing of our food. Get back to making time to prepare meals properly and processes like this won’t be needed further reducing the risks of eating the foods that we like to eat.

FCM

April 23rd, 2013
8:02 am

I agree with jarvis and with Furious.

I really agree with the chefs on Food Network. GET TO KNOW YOUR BUTCHER. Many places require a College diploma or similar education and a 3 year apprenticeship before you can be a butcher at their store. They need to know more than skill with a band saw.

Patak over in Austell is my favorite place.

Furious Styles

April 23rd, 2013
8:06 am

Thanks for the tip FCM, I’ll check out Patak’s in Austell.

justmy2cents

April 23rd, 2013
8:24 am

I second Patak’s. They are fantastic! This past year though, we puchased half a steer, local, grass fed, so we don’t have many concerns regarding beef. Since I prefer mine rare, this is a good thing!

Techmom

April 23rd, 2013
8:35 am

Yes, it should be labeled just as chicken has to be labeled when they add water to it now.

We purchased a locally raised cow this past fall and won’t go back to supermarket beef anytime soon. We got on a list not knowing how long it would take for our name to come up on the list and when it did, our budget wouldn’t allow us to purchase the whole thing. We put the word out to several friends and ended up splitting the meat up with 3 other families. It worked out very well for us and we’re on the list again. I don’t want meat sitting in my freezer for 2 years anyway :)

q

April 23rd, 2013
8:47 am

I also buy in bulk from a farm, The Dekalb farmer’s market also sells Patak meats if that is closer for anyone. Keep tenderloins whole and you can cut your own steaks to the thickness you prefer.

Me

April 23rd, 2013
8:57 am

We are also on the Patak’s bandwagon and have been for quite some time! And I’m convinced that, if you buy the right cuts of meat and never stray below USDA “Choice”, there is little need to tenderize. For those cuts, simply use them in a slow cooker or in soup so that time allows for the connective tissue to properly break down. For cuts such as filet, ribeye, strip, etc., there should be no need for any tenderizing. If so, find a new place to purchase your beef!

A

April 23rd, 2013
9:38 am

Why not just go vegetarian. Humans don’t need meat to survive and thrive!

justmy2cents

April 23rd, 2013
9:44 am

@A- because cows, pigs, bison, elk, deer, chickens, etc are delicious! :) Go PETA- People Eating Tasty Animals

Techmom

April 23rd, 2013
10:46 am

@A wasn’t there a huge eColi outbreak a few years ago from spinach?

Metro Coach

April 23rd, 2013
10:58 am

“Humanss don’t need meat to survive and thrive”. Check your teeth, if humans were meant to be vegetarians, all of our teeth would be flat like herbivores. As Bulldog Briscoe used to say to his radio callers on Fraiser “You’re an idiot, shut up.”

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 23rd, 2013
11:17 am

I am so glad to know about the Patak’s meat — and I’m glad to know they sell at the DeKalb Farmer’s market — Are there any other local producer’s or butchers that you guys like? Any in Gwinnett??

Dennis

April 23rd, 2013
11:48 am

Know your farmer. It’s fundamental now to good health.

Beyond blading or not, the problem starts with confined feeding operation animals. Feedlots lead to the need for antibiotics and the mass outbreaks of illness.

White Oak Pastures – Bluffton, Georgia is where I buy my meat. Shipping rates are quite reasonable. Beyond being higher quality grass fed and finished, pasture raised – animals are raised and slaughtered all on the same farm. It’s also less processed (not water loaded and packed) so you re just paying for meat, not water.

q

April 23rd, 2013
11:54 am

Been to White Oak also, it’s worth the drive. Check the AJC archives, their is a good article on the son’s struggle to transition to organic.

justmy2cents

April 23rd, 2013
12:17 pm

I get my beef from Ford Family Farms, and they send it to Waldrep’s in Ellijay for processing. Waldrep’s also raises and slaughters pigs, so I can do 1 stop shopping. :) You can’t beat their prices when you buy in bulk!

oneofeach4me

April 23rd, 2013
1:08 pm

I sure am glad I peeked in today. My husband and I were just talking about this the other day… and YES ALL meat should be marked. Period.

On another note, we are trying to make the move to mostly organic and are doing so slowly (as we all know it’s expensive), but are starting with the most important things. People think kids today are just bad and not disciplined. That may be so now, but not more so than yesteryear’s. I think it has WAY more to do with pesticides, hormones, and additives in our foods. Call me Crazy.

On a side note… I couldn’t tell by the Patak website, but are their meats organic like White Oaks?

FCM

April 23rd, 2013
1:12 pm

This one was on Shark Tank Echo Valley Meats. In particular Robert was impressed with product and said he would be getting gift baskets for his clients from this company. Nobody made a deal with him, so the sharks aren’t making money on him.

The guy seemed pretty genuine. He is a rancher/farmer who butchers and cures his own meats. He does ship. Has anyone gotten a basket with his product? Or ordered it? I admit I have been thinking of ordering from him.

Checking Ford Family and White Oaks now.

Patak has smoked meats (smoked on site)…he is German. They are open during the week but not weekends. Exception: first Saturday of the month they are open (and the line is CRAZY!!!) and they often have a German baker out front selling bread that Saturday.

The Pinestraw Farmer’s Market (corner of Robinson Rd and Roswell Rd) also sells Patak meats, but the prices are higher than if you drive out out to the cute Barvarian place yourself.

FCM

April 23rd, 2013
1:16 pm

@ A I may not need meat to live….but I enjoy it. Rare steak on the grill, smoked pork chops or bacon, ribs covered in sauce, chicken (baked, fried, or grilled)……YUM Tofu and Soy will never compete.

and those veggies you love? They are fantastic right along side the meats.

Speaking of veggies, we are looking at getting part of my parents gardening space (they have less rabbits than I do) and planting greenbeans, limas, carrots, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. What else do those of you doing gardens recommend we plant in May?

FCM

April 23rd, 2013
1:41 pm

@ Oneofeach….the AJC did a write up on neighborhood butcher shops back in January. I will try to get the link posted. They said Heywood (Marietta in East Lake Pavillion Shopping Center by what used to be Wild Wing) does organic. My folks have gone there and said it is good.

FCM

April 23rd, 2013
1:41 pm

oneofeach4me

April 23rd, 2013
1:43 pm

@FCM ~ THANKS!!!!

catlady

April 23rd, 2013
3:58 pm

We belong to a meat CSA out of Asheville. Not only are the cows organically raised, but they have the happiest, best cared-for cows, pigskin chickens, and turkeys imaginable. Equally important, they are humanely killed. I recommend Hickory Nut Gap Farm highly!

meateater

April 23rd, 2013
5:56 pm

The Rock Ranch sells some good quality beef.

cobbmom

April 24th, 2013
6:17 am

My dad raises grass fed beef for our family, he also hunts deer and keeps us supplied in venison. The butcher is the key though. When he first started with the cattle, years ago, he took one to a recommended butcher. When we received the meat back there were no steaks or roasts but there was a pack of pork chops. He switched processors and now really likes the one he uses. The ground beef will stick to a non-stick pan it’s so lean. If venison is processed correctly it is difficult to tell the difference from beef, if it’s not done correctly it is terrible tasting.

Mayhem

April 24th, 2013
7:02 am

Well I cook dinner almost every single night. I do or someone in my house does. We do not go out to eat often at all.

We have two butchers we have been going to for years. Wilkes in Suwanee, and Patton’s in Duluth. I love Wilkes as they are family owned and have been in the same location for a long time. They are very friendly, and there’s a small grocery selection in the store also.

catmom

April 24th, 2013
7:24 am

@Mayhem–for about the past 6 months, I’ve been buying all my meat at Wilkes in Suwanee. I like that they’re family owned and provide good service.

Mayhem

April 24th, 2013
8:11 am

Can you please define “Organic”.

And as I understand, “Organic” has not been regulated by the USDA as of yet. Anyone can slap “organic” on something, and the masses will buy….

What is the difference between a regular banana, and an organic one?

ylojkt

April 24th, 2013
8:19 am

Sam’s at Five Forks in Lilburn is a good butcher, I recommend giving him a visit.

Uh, catlady...

April 24th, 2013
8:23 am

…how can you tell when a cow (pig, chicken, etc) is “happy” as they wait to be slaughtered?

And, catmom...

April 24th, 2013
8:24 am

….Wilkes is a chain that has been around for about 30 – 40 years…

Mayhem

April 24th, 2013
8:46 am

I don’t think Wilkes is a “chain” as much as it is a family owned business with several locations in the metro area.

Uh, Mayhem...

April 24th, 2013
9:18 am

…isn’t a family owned business with “several locations” a chain, whether fmailoy owned or franchisee owned? Out here in Forsyth County there is a Wilkes and it is “owned” by some friends of ours…

Mayhem

April 24th, 2013
9:28 am

And what the hell is fmailoy?

Uh, Mayhem...

April 24th, 2013
10:10 am

…a typo – DUH…

thekimmer

April 24th, 2013
10:26 am

Couple of points.

I believe in evidence based conclusions. Show me the data that indicates the practice of tenderizing steaks is harmful before we go all nuts about it. I do know this that the food supply today is MUCH safer today than at any other time in our history.

That evidence based conclusions also go for the so-called organic nonsense too. To oneofeach4me I won’t call you crazy but I will call you wrong on the notion that chemicals in the food supply is what makes children misbehave more or has anything at all to do with such things. The evidence just does not support it. Today due to decades of agricultural science research we can produce food more efficiently and safely than at any time in human history. The whole ‘organic’ kick wants to take things back to the turn of the century.

John

April 24th, 2013
10:45 am

Hi, I run an online farmers’ market called Home Grown Cow that allows anyone in the US to search for and by meat, poultry and cheese directly from farms (and sometimes butchers) all over the nation. While our farms are free to use any legal marketing claims or farm practices, including organic, I think it is important to note that with the exception of farms with farming revenues of less than $5,000/year, it is absolutely illegal to market any product as organic without USDA approval. There is an $11,000 fine for each violation. (See the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, Title 7 (Agriculture), Part 205—(NOP),Subpart B—§ 205.102) at: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&SID=a8c0f0cdf14781ef0488d099e7421d56&rgn=div8&view=text&node=7:3.1.1.9.32.2.354.3

Mayhem

April 24th, 2013
11:58 am

Again I ask, define “Organic”.

HB

April 24th, 2013
12:25 pm

Mayhem, USDA regulates organic labeling. There’s an exemption for very small farms (<$5,000 of produce).

http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/NOPNationalOrganicProgramHome

tb

April 24th, 2013
1:57 pm

This topic has died. Why does it take so long to get a new topic up daily? If Theresa is too busy then the AJC needs to find someone who isn’t. Sorry Theresa but it gets old when the same lame topic stays up for days.

W.G.

April 24th, 2013
2:13 pm

Our butcher (who actually has a Ph.D., by the way!) is Peter Swerdlow at Griller’s Pride. If you’re kosher (and maybe even if you’re not), GP is an outstanding choice. They have the most delicious all-grass-fed beef imaginable, as well as the best chickens (Chai from Canada.) Unlike most grass-fed beef, this is actually tender. And it’s incredibly flavorful. We eat our burgers rare and never give it a thought – not something I would do with any other meat.

Mayhem

April 24th, 2013
2:35 pm

@tb – I agree. However, tomorrow’s topic will be something like “How safe is your Chicken” since we’ve covered beef today. And there may be yet another topic about Barbie since there was 3 blogs devoted to her in the last 10 days.

Hang on….more excitement on it’s way…….NOT.

bgb

April 24th, 2013
10:48 pm

At what age should you allow your children to clip their own toenails?

catlady

April 25th, 2013
4:05 pm

Uh catlady: if you saw these animals you would know.