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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
The Double Standard
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By Katie Stockstill-Sawyer
Dec. 13, 2012 5:25 p.m.



The Kansas City Star, earlier this week, published a series of article focusing on the beef industry and practices it has adopted to improve the quality of beef it is producing.

The Wichita Eagle and The Hutchinson News both ran excerpts from The Star’s three-day series. The Hutchinson News published one of the articles focusing on the tenderization process that is used in some processing plants. The article wanted to connect the tenderization process to a heightened risk of E. coli in beef. Data shows the number of people sickened by E. coli in the past few years has declined significantly. It has also not been banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But industry whistle blowers, in an attempt to end the practice, want to connect the tenderization process to human illness and death. It’s a long shot that they shamelessly make with a backup of fact or proof.

The article was, ironically, published above an article and picture of a little girl that ingested a feather after playing with a feather pillow and consequently suffered a painful infection in her cheek. Ironic? I think so.

After reading the article about the girl swallowing a feather, no one would jump to the conclusion that all feather pillows should be banned because they lead to injury. That would be absurd. Instead, I believe many readers, like myself, look to the parents to better supervise their child and remove harmful objects from her reach. People can point to tenderization and claim harm but no one would point to a pillow and consider it dangerous when used correctly. It’s a double standard that is often attached to agriculture and it’s the result of people pointing fingers instead of learning the real facts about the food they enjoy.

Agriculture has received more than it’s share of the negative spotlight in the past few years. People have no problem pointing fingers at farmers and ranchers for adopting technology and practices that has allowed them to produce more food with less land, water and a minimized economic impact. Basically people want their 99-cent cheeseburgers but criticize modern feeding practices that allow cattle to gain weight at a faster rate and produce a leaner cut of beef.  The media’s newest criticism of the beef industry’s tenderization process is baseless and without scientific proof. What can be proven is the fact that today’s beef is safer, more affordable and more plentiful than ever.

There is no way to completely remove E. coli from beef. Proper cooking and handling techniques can all but guarantee, however, that the beef is safe for consumption. It’s the same rule of thought that applies to eggs and any other type of animal protein.

There is a certain level of responsibility that comes with having children just like there is a level of responsibility placed upon all consumers to handle and prepare their food according to directions. The tenderization process does not pose harm to humans and neither do pillows. Meat needs to be properly prepared and pillows should be kept out of toddler’s mouths. It’s that simple.

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