My job. Most of the time, my job involves sitting at my desk, listening to iTunes and writing stories. But because I happen to write about the meat industry, she thought it was gross. Now, I could have given arguments about misconceptions in the industry and the food safety advancements I’ve seen, but there would have been no point to it. Her mind was made up, and my experiences in the industry weren’t going to change her beliefs.
That’s a common occurrence in the meat industry. There is a perception among some that the meat industry is a violent, cruel practice of slaughtering animals and putting unsafe products into the marketplace. It couldn’t be further from the truth, unfortunately, but the occasional hidden videos and recalls only help to reinforce the false impression.
Consider the case of the FSIS banning six additional varieties of the E. coli pathogen, which has been hailed by many food safety advocates. The “big six” pathogens have accounted for three illnesses in the U.S., stemming from one recall last year. The industry can make the argument that the decision is not based on science, will cost millions of dollars and place an additional burden on meat processors without actually making the meat supply noticeably safer. However, if the industry fights the ban, the perception in the public will be that the meat industry is fighting to keep pathogens in its products. There’s no way fighting this can be a “win” for the industry, so the best thing is to accept the new restrictions and the additional testing.
Incidentally, the country is currently going through one of the worst cases of food-borne illnesses it’s seen in decades. A Listeria outbreak traced to cantaloupes is responsible for at least 13 deaths and more than 70 illnesses, and the numbers are expected to rise. But cantaloupe is a fruit, and fruit is better for you than meat. At least, that’s the perception.