Winston Churchill once said that Americans are a great people in that you could always count on them to do the right thing, once they had tried everything else. Lately I feel like Winston Churchill could also be referring to our industry as we collectively struggle to deal with the pathogens that are finding their way into our products.

As an industry we all agree that the elimination of pathogenic bacteria in raw ground beef is a momentous act and will take all of us to solve. Regardless of our collective commitment to this challenge we continue to ignore one key segment of the food chain — the farm.

I continue to be invited to be on committees where groups of highly talented, intelligent and educated professionals continue to scratch their collective heads as to what more we can do to reduce/eliminate these microscopic hazards from our food chain.

The discussion inevitably goes to invasive treatments of the carcass like antimicrobials, heat and, yes, the consumer favorite: irradiation.

At the last conference I was at the U.S. government representative became greatly agitated when the idea of irradiating a carcass came up. How could we?  Consumers do not want irradiated beef!  I brought up the fact that as a Canadian no one seemed to care when they irradiated me when I went through US customs.

So perhaps we are missing the most important part of the food chain, the source of the hazard, the farm. We know that there are low-cost, low-technology processes we can implement on the farm like providing the animals with clean water, vaccinations, bio phages and most importantly, ensuring animals are leaving the farm clean with minimum tag.

Given that we can reduce these microbiological hazards by as much as 90 percent before the animals get to slaughter, through the application of low-cost technology interventions….why don’t we take action and “do the right thing?”

Perhaps as Winston Churchill said…. we eventually will ….we just haven’t tried everything else yet.