My Mother Let Me Eat Raw Hamburger
My mother was fixing dinner, and I asked her if I could taste some of the raw ground beef. She tried to discourage me by saying it doesnŐt taste very good, but I pestered her and she said it was OK to try it. I took a small piece, about half the size of the smallest segment of my little finger. It tasted good. I tried another, several times that size. As I took a third piece, she said, ŇThatŐs enough.Ó
This happened in 1958, as I remember it. I had gone with her to George and EdŐs Market earlier in the day. At the meat counter she pointed out to George the cut of beef she wanted him to grind. He ground it twice, and wrapped it up. I watched it go through the grinder.
George and EdŐs was on the corner of Elm and Adams, about two miles from our place. (See point 1 on the map). I donŐt know about the particular animal we ate that day, but George and Ed were among the locals who bought beef from Art Mello, who ran a nice beef operation on the corner of Fig and Lincoln. (Point 2 on the map—still there, see it on Google Earth) ArtŐs son, Clark, was my age, and among our adventures was getting an escaped calf back inside a fenced pasture. The MelloŐs bred and raised beef on the ranch, and auctioned them on site. I donŐt know where the food for the animal I ate that day came from, but we grew alfalfa on our back twenty every other year, and sold it locally. (Point three on the map)
In 1958 it would not be unusual to raise beef cattle, with all the food needed in their lives, and have them sold and eaten all in the space of a circle a few miles wide. That rarely happens now. As reported in the Times (in a story by Michael Moss, Oct. 4), in the case of a recent case of severe food poisoning Ňthe hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.Ó
My mother would have been horrified to learn the food she made for us had such a provenance. And, she would not have let me eat the raw ground beef.
We canŐt go back to 1958, but we can ask for safer food. At websites such as www.foodsafety.gov the emphasis is on assuring consumers that their food is safe. But we can ask for better. New rules being considered by USDA can be stronger, and the Senate can amend the Food Safety Enhancement Act now in committee to create a single food safety agency.
Links to many FDA-related matters are at http://www.plu.edu/~olufsdw/FDAthings.htm.