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Misinformation Creates Fear For Ground Beef

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Should consumers worry about the safety of their ground beef? Of course not. Here are the facts.

At 27 weeks pregnant, my husband and I have flipped through plenty of books on healthy pregnancies, deliveries and names. One of those books written for the soon-to-be daddy is entitled “How To Make A Pregnant Woman Happy.” Authored by Uzzi Reiss, MD, and Yfat Reiss, the book had us both raising an eyebrow at the advice offered about beef in the diet section.

According to the book, as a pregnant woman, I should be extremely worried about the safety of ground beef.

Here is the advice the book gives to dads: “Often ground meat has been produced from the meat of numerous animals, increasing the chance of exposure to disease. If she must have a hamburger, buy a single piece of meat and ask your butcher to grind it.”

 

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While this was just a small blurb in an otherwise fun book, I thought it was worth debunking the myths presented in this paragraph.

Myth: Ground beef is contaminated because it’s made from hundreds of animals. False.

Factsaboutbeef.com just released a new blog post on this topic entitled, “There Is Meat From 100 Cows In My Hamburger, So There Will Be No Ground Beef In My Fridge.”

The blog debunks that misconception about ground beef, and I think it’s worth sharing

Here is an excerpt: “All ground beef trim must meet stringent food safety guidelines set forth by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, therefore the number of cows whose lean trim is used doesn’t represent the safety of your food. Ground beef, commonly used in hamburgers and tacos, is made from beef trim that results when steaks and roasts are cut. In order to get the right mix of lean to fat, processors combine trim from a number of different animals.

“Our food system comprises various sources. A carton of milk contains milk from a number of different cows. A glass of orange juice contains juice from a number of different oranges, and a loaf of bread contains wheat from many different acres of a wheat field. However, the USDA food safety procedures that our food supply undergoes, including ground beef, help prevent any harm to consumers and you can be confident in the safety of your ground beef.”

Myth: Only locally processed and prepared beef is safe. Meat from a major packer is probably contaminated. False.

Buying local may be the hip thing right now, but that doesn’t mean conventionally raised and processed meats aren’t safe and healthy to eat. While beef recalls in the news may have some consumers wary about the safety of their meat, most food-borne illnesses can be avoided by the consumer in the kitchen.

Explorebeef.org is another great resource for debunking beef myths. Here is what the site has to say about the strict testing that beef undergoes in packing plants to be safe, plus how practicing food safety in the kitchen can avoid food-borne illness:

“Rigorous testing and inspection ensures that the beef industry distributes only the safest food to the public. Nonetheless, it is important for those who prepare food — either at home or in restaurants— to know the proper cooking techniques to ensure optimal safety.

“The four keys to proper preparation of beef include: properly refrigerate beef until time of preparation; prepare beef on a clean work surface; test the internal temperature of beef as it cooks; and store and refrigerate leftovers in an air-tight container.”

Please help me pass along this important information to our beef-loving friends on social media. Also, what other myths and misconceptions are you seeing out there? Send me your thoughts, and I will do my best to write follow-up blog posts to counteract these myths. Thanks for your help!

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 12

Robert R Blease DVM (not verified)
on Mar 4, 2014

My 18 yr old son who loves horses was told at college that horse meat is often added to ground beef. Now he will only eat lamb burgers, although he loves his beef steaks. No amount of talking has convinced him otherwise. Any suggestions?

Amanda S. (not verified)
on Mar 4, 2014

Maybe point to the FDA regulations where a cow that isn't sufficently investigated makes for a massive recall-- how on earth would they be able to add something that is on again/off again not even allowed to be slaughtered here?

on Mar 4, 2014

That's too bad about your son. I have had similar situations with cousins of mine. I would tell him that the likelihood of horse meat in his ground beef would be slim to none. In addition to the horse slaughter ban in the U.S., all horse meat is used for dog foods and/or shipped overseas and all ingredients must be put on a label. There's really no sneaking things in anymore. We have a very safe beef supply.

Ken J (not verified)
on Mar 4, 2014

Mandy,
Your the expert here, don't read the books. You could write the book because you have a better background and understanding of reality. We have a lot of "well meaning" vegans that want everyone else to quit eating meat and have the "facts" to scare us.

on Mar 4, 2014

Thanks, Kenny. Very good points!

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 4, 2014

It's probably also worth mentioning that the U.S. has one of the world's safest food supplies. When you really think about the quantity of meat people nationwide are consuming every day vs. the number of people who actually get sick because of it, the rate of illness is actually very, very low.

Charlie Powell (not verified)
on Mar 4, 2014

Misinformation can only exist when there is a lack of previously delivered, reinforced, reiterated, high quality information. Refutations like this are defensive and further galvanize controversy. So here's the question for the industry: When was the last time the beef industry addressed the American Academy of Pediatrics or even had a booth in the exhibit hall? How about the AMA? Internal Medicine? OB-GYN docs? If you don't want "experts" disparaging the product, they are the first to be educated as a primary stakeholder otherwise you risk being a victim of misinformation. And finally, education never stops because ignorance grows daily.

W.E. (not verified)
on Mar 4, 2014

Almost all of the responses to this site come from beef producers who want to keep the beef industry the same, rather than observing and responding to the needs and demands of consumers, or adapting our ways to suit the market. Too many of us are putting down the very people who can save us from the perils of lost market share. More and more of our customers are ordering ground beef from our all-grassfed cows because they know us and we are local folks. They can come to the farm to see what the cows graze, where their beef comes from, and how our cattle live. This is a trend that the beef industry seems to prefer to ignore. There is nothing at all wrong with people who like eating food from a local source they know and trust. Give 'em a break. If they are buying beef, they deserve to have a choice about where it comes from. As for addressing the AMA and other medical establishment groups, how about stressing the role of beef in creating wellness as a preventative step rather than addressing experts in the medical industry, which is focused on treating illness and curing disease after the fact?

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 4, 2014

Thank you for a voice of reason. I am ashamed of our industry for criticizing those who want to know what they are eating. Isn't the customer always right? We need to see how we can make changes (ie cool etc). to raise the trust in beef. The industry has shot itself in the foot with hormones, Zilmax, etc. Lets listen to our customers and make friends not criticize and bull our way as usual.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 5, 2014

Comments by W.E. and 'anonymous' demonstrate the willingness of some producers attempts to promote their own product by denigrating producers who use methods different than their own.

Do you not know that since the inception of the Beef Checkoff, there has been constant focus groups of consumers and beef producers and checkoff staff TALKING together to share information, ASKING consumers what they want regarding the beef they eat, while also ANSWERING their QUESTIONS so they have accurate information regarding HOW beef is produced.

The fact is, there ARE many identified and branded beef products in stores so that consumers CAN get the beef they want. Some will choose traditionally produced beef, while others will opt for organic, or grass fed, or grain fed, according to what they prefer.

Why insist we should all produce beef exactly as you do? Wouldn't it diminish your profits if that was the only beef available?

.

Shonda Atwater (not verified)
on Mar 6, 2014

Amanda -

You also forgot to mention that while Grocery Stores technically are upheld by the same HACCP regulations, they do not have the same oversight. After nearly 10 years in the beef retail sector, I have seen some gross meat grinders in the back of grocery stores. Because of that, I actually prefer chub ground beef or gas-packed ground beef that comes directly from a further processor for my family. I believe its safer....

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 14, 2014

The advice given in the book....Select a solid piece of meat and have it ground at the time of purchase....is really good advice for avoiding food related illness. The increased surface area of beef when it is ground allows pathogens to grow at a faster rate...scientific fact. As you stated, mixing the product of multiple animals is less worrisome. Your response, and the defense of the packing industry falls short. You simply cannot just ask the American public to trust the safety of meat processing plants given the recent large scale recalls for all types of meat. The viewpoint that meat processing plants are big business with no conscience and will do anything to squeeze out more profit (think pink slime) is widespread. The greed based mistakes continue

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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