Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

June 3, 2007

USDA Tries To Stop Meat-Packer From More Extensive Testing For Mad Cow

Filed under: books, politics — codesmithy @ 8:39 am

There was a story that I came across on how the USDA sued a meat-packer for trying to test and advertise that they tested more of their cows for Mad Cow disease. If this is surprising to anyone, it is because they haven’t been paying attention. The industrial food chain is explained in great detail in “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser and is confirmed by anyone who cares to look into the claims like in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan.

Although, trying to investigate allegations in detail now is likely to be more difficult since corporations will use the specter of food terrorism to prevent people from looking into their operation. It may be that, but the fact that it acts a convenient excuse to shield one from criticism through secrecy is also undeniable. Industrial food chain organizations find little need to be cooperative because the underlying assumption by most Americans is that everything is fine. The fact that “Fast Food Nation” is just a continuation of the documentation of problems with industrial production of food that dates back more than a century with Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” is not likely to occur to most Americans.

I can’t help but feel that this is due to the problems that James Lowen brings up in “Lies My Teacher Told Me.” The result of teaching people that the government sees a problem, introduces legislation, which solves the problem once and for all. The way we teach history might be the cause of Gore Vidal’s lament that we live in the “United States of Amnesia.” Whatever the cause for our complacency, to act as if problems in our industrial food chain are unprecedented or unexpected is simply to be ignorant.

I have no doubt that the USDA has rationalized their position about “false positives” for Mad Cow. They don’t want to cause a panic after all. The fact that the logic is obviously completely backwards and wrong probably doesn’t occur to those that hold this belief. The simple solution to “false positives” is to test the meat again. Testing less doesn’t ensure higher quality, it ensures that the level of quality is unknown. The underlying reason to not test more is to avoid the increased costs, which eats into bottom lines. This would be justified if Mad Cow wasn’t a legitimate problem to begin with, then all this testing and hubbub about it is worthless. Fair enough, there has been a lot of hysteria about Mad Cow. However, “a recent study links up to 13% of all “Alzheimer’s” victims as really having Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.” Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is the human form of Mad Cow, although it is typically presented as new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD). Given the fact that it has happened in other countries, in many cases, with more stringent standards on food quality than our own, I think the dismissal of Mad Cow as a legitimate problem is reckless.

Lest I be accused of hypocrisy, I am effectively a vegetarian. I refuse to eat any meat that comes from an agricultural food chain. So, this doesn’t affect my lifestyle as much. However, as a rational agent, I think that Mad Cow is a legitimate concern. Although, I admit that further testing is a stop-gap measure. I believe biology and evolution will eventually make the types of industrial farming we see today unprofitable. However, the solution is not to make that cost an externality to be paid for those that get sick. Food is unique, because “you are what you eat” is true in a literal sense. It is surprising that it doesn’t seem to be as closely examined, but, paradoxically, people find looking at the food chain disquieting. The fiction that meat is just something one picks up at the supermarket without making the connection to the living creature that it came from aids the ignorance.

We believe the lie, because we don’t want to know the truth. In that respect, the USDA is following the de facto policy of most Americans who partake in the industrial food chain.


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