Have you been keeping up with the latest news? No, I am not talking about Paris Hilton, the Beijing Olympics, or our monsoon-like weather in Western Massachusetts — this time, at least! ;P
I am actually referring to the latest beef recall. The beef in question was processed at the same facility that has been generating recalls for quite some time — Nebraska Beef Limited. Whole Foods (aka “Whole Paycheck”) bought meats from the company Coleman Natural Foods that were PROCESSED at the Nebraska Beef plant. Ironic, isn’t it — a quality product raised using the following standards (according to the Coleman website): Coleman selects only the best breeds, raised to our exacting protocols, with 100% vegetarian diets and no animal byproducts. Coleman never uses antibiotics or growth hormones. We allow our animals to grow at their natural pace, with open air access in a comfortable, reduced-stress environment.
On paper (or an lcd screen!) Coleman appears to be a committed, professional business that puts forth a quality product. It is therefore, terrible that a product like theirs has to be processed in a plant that has so many other health, and safety issues to address before they can process a consistently safe beef product.
Whole Foods shoppers paid a premium for the quality, and piece of mind that comes with purchasing Coleman beef product — there has been widespread E Coli illness reported, which has now been traced back to this beef processing source.
Oh, yeah — would you like $5 in coupons for Coleman products? Just visit their website, and take the survey. While you are there, you should enter the sweepstakes to win one of 201 prizes that combined, have a value of $14,000.
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At Wells Tavern Farm, we are faced with similar challenges to those of Coleman Natural. How so, you ask? We have very small and diverse farm in Western Mass., and they have a network of farms out West who grow a single product.
The weak link in the system for both of us, is in processing.
Western Massachusetts is not known for our meat packing plants, or processing facilities. Those that we do have access to, are quality facilities — yes, some farmers prefer one or another, but for the most part — the processing facilities are clean, efficient, and above all, humane. Mind you, the current facilities that there are, are all located at least 100 to 300 miles (roundtrip) away from us. I suppose that if the tables were turned, and we were offered the Nebraska facility as our only local processing facility (again with the same mileage factors as we currently have) there might not be the ample supply of quality local beef available at the local food coops, restaurants and groceries, that there currently is, because local farmers would not put up with the sub-standard conditions that lead to the e coli contamination.
It is my guess that Coleman is faced with few low mileage choices, and therefore had to make the economic decision to trust that Nebraska Beef had enough USDA/FDA scrutiny lately that their “act” would be cleaned up, and the outbreaks of e Coli in the recent past, were isolated incidents.
It is terrible that the system failed them in such a public way.
It is one more reason to get to know your local meat source; Research your dinner. Talk to the farmer who grew your entree face-to-face and get a feeling for the way in which he/she treats their animals and runs their farm. Is it an impersonal affair — just a business? Does your farmer tell you that the animals have names or at least recognizable individual personalities? Listen to what your farmer says, and how they say it. After you have heard the answers it is time for YOU to RUMINATE over it, and then decide.
I would feel good buying food from someone that cares about the animal, the process, and the product.