Thursday, October 4, 2012

Competing topics

There's been a bunch of blog topics swirling around my brain these days. So much to write about, so little time.

First though. What I had for dinner, because I couldn't resist showing off Linda's cooking. The smell was tempting me the entire time I was on the bike.

Organic duck roasted in a honey lime sauce, on rice, with mixed veg, and wine of course.

The workout day started with a swim. 30 minutes overall. 18:40 K done 500 easy, then 5x25 all out with 75 recovery. Then 4x50 all out on 1:15, which were not as fast as I'd like. Backstroke cool down.

The bike was 15 warmup, an hour steady at about 150 watts, which kept my heart rate nice and low, and 15 cool down. All while watching The Princess Bride. It's been 25 years since it was made, and it's as good as ever. And the book is still better. I remember reading it for the first time, having picked it up totally by accident, and nearly peeing myself laughing.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you will have heard about the XL beef recalls. I've lost count of how many. Last I looked, they had recalled 1.5 million pounds of beef and beef products because it either was contaminated with E Coli, or they couldn't prove that it hadn't been. Let's think about that for a moment. That's enough meat to feed everyone in Calgary and surrounding area for a week, assuming that other fruit, veg, and stuff goes with it.

Beef is a little less dense than water, at 950 Kg per 1 M3. (Goes away and does some math.) That is a cube of beef 7.867 m on a side, or for the metrically challenged, 25.8 feet on a side. That's a lot of beef contaminated with shit.

So far the company has sent out one paltry news release. Compare that to Maple Leaf during the listeriosis crisis. They haven't even apologized. Some government lackey puts an end to media questioning of the federal government minister responsible for that department. I guess they didn't have a script approved by Harper so they didn't know what to say.

This was all done under industry self regulation. So was the Walkerton tragedy. So was the Maple Leaf Listeriosis crises. Is there anyone left, other than neo-con apologists that think industry self regulation is still a good idea? Need I remind you that the only reason corporations exist is to make a profit for the owners and shield the owners from losses. To that end they will cut whatever costs they can get away with, and employ whatever accounting tricks they think they can get away with, and probably do a lot of other stuff that us hoi polloi don't know about.

The only reason they push for industry self regulation is that they figure it will be cheaper than having government inspectors, or they can get away with not doing the inspections, or fudging the results. There are no other reasons. Certainly it offers them the chance to push for a lower standard, and governments cave in.

In XL Beef's case, it appears they run the kill line faster than humans can properly deal with, and they don't do the required checks. They stonewalled the federal regulator, who said that they have no powers to compel a company to hand over the required paperwork. WTF? How did that happen?

It happened because governments abdicated their responsibility to the citizens. Government regulation is supposed to provide a level playing field to require all corporations to play by the same rules and the same standards. Any self regulating industry will cut corners. Some smart accountant will show a manager that it's cheaper to cut back on the inspections, and then if they get caught to delay in the courts, and finally if necessary to eventually cough up a settlement, and guess what? That's what they'll do. It doesn't matter what industry. They fear that if they don't, their competitor will and they'll lose business.

So where are we now? We don't even know if they've tracked down all the stuff that needs to be recalled. We don't know if the company has, or will comply with the various orders. We don't know if they will actually change their behaviors. So far, all we know is various people bleating that Alberta beef is safe (and most of it might have been, but here, you eat the first burger), and that that plant does some very large fraction of the cattle slaughtering and we have to get that plant going, think of the ranchers still recovering from Mad Cow disease and there are all those immigrants in Brooks working at the plant that need the job, and everybody else in the chain from truckers to janitors to chain store retail butchers. Who in the case of an Edmonton Costco, appear to have their own problems.

Yeah, ok, some real people are suffering now because the plant is shut down. But lets get a grip. That plant lets product out the door that has cow shit in it. Shit makes people sick, and can potentially cause serious organ damage or even death. And they stall the regulator trying to investigate it. The people in Brooks can get on UI and look for other work. The ranchers and other people in the beef product chain might have a tough year. Someone killed by contaminated product isn't going to get their life back.

The stupid thing is that we've seen this before. In the early 1900 conditions were terrible in the meat packing plants, leading to federal regulation. Now the conditions have been driving companies toward recreating those same conditions, all in a race to the bottom line. People seem to think it's more important to have cheap meat, rather than safe meat. I guess that's ok to think like that as long as it's someone else's kid that gets sick.

I won't have any part of that system any more. The only red meat I buy is bison from a farmer's market, where the bison are treated essentially as the wild animals as they were before white men showed up. I guess lamb is a red meat as well, and we have a source for organic lamb, slaughtered and marketed on a small scale by people involved at every step of the process. Same for other animal proteins, and you know what? We're eating less of all of them, and more plant foods.

What I'm having trouble understanding is why anyone would ever have anything to do with XL Beef ever again. The company by it's actions puts profit to the private owners ahead of the health of their customers, and certainly ahead of the workers. Working in a meat packing plant is a dangerous trade, and I sometimes wonder how much real human blood is in the food chain. Yes, I hope that fast food burger you just took a bite of went down sideways. There are all sorts of people who have the skills to open their own butcher shops. Many were driven out of the business by the huge slaughter houses, and maybe how those huge slaughter houses will be driven out of business because nobody will buy their products. I can't wait.

Oh, that would assume that people want quality ahead of cheapness, and given the behaviors of the consumer over the last few decades, that's not the way to bet. Still, maybe a direct threat to the health of themselves and their children will drive people to change their habits. What's paying a little more for food that is better quality, compared to getting something cheaper that might kill you? That's a no brainer to me. Let's see what happens.

Unrelated photos, for no other reason than I want to. Linda getting ready for her tour underneath Talisman Centre. The hard hats were a necessity.

My whiteboard at work. I like cryptic diagrams with squares connected by arrows. It's sort of a combination process flow diagram, and database map.

I got this as I was walking in to work this morning. No Snapseed filters or anything. I loved how the light was coming off Banker's Hall and 8th Ave Place, though the camera didn't capture the gleam running down the left side of the buildings.


  1. where to start...first off, good rant. I am not sure if you know that the livestock lobbyists have mucho power...they are the ones, along with the dairy lobbyists who dictated the Canada food guide. oh, and the American food guide, for our friends south of the border. its no wonder the federal regulators 'have no power'! people should watch 'food inc.'. I recommend it all the time but the response is 'I don't want to know how the meat gets to the market'. seriously??!! but this is something you eat!! as one who follows a vegan diet for ethical reasons, as well as for health and environmental, I personally have more respect for the hunter who kills only what he needs and knows where his food is coming from, than those who support the supermarket chains. my theory, if you are going to eat meat, at least know where it's coming from. I could go on for hours, but will stop there. love the photo of Linda!

  2. We have seen Food Inc, and others of it's ilk. The corporate food machine is horrifying in some ways. Which is why we get our meat and lots of other stuff from the small producers at the farmer's market. We tell everyone this, and just hope they don't get into line in front of us for that rack of lamb.

  3. First up...any chance you could share the duck recipe? Hubby and I love duck!

    Second of all...XL beef... We are getting part of a buffalo from Neil's dad so I think that should take care of our need for beef. I used to buy most beef at Costco as I felt their quality and price was pretty good, but then tainted beef was sold at Costco... Sigh.

  4. I'll have to talk to Linda to see what she did. No doubt it was marinade she whipped up on the spur of the moment. I think it had mustard in it. Some honey. Plus her magic touch.

  5. We have seen Food Inc, and others of it's ilk. The corporate food machine is horrifying in some ways. Which is why we get our meat and lots of other stuff from the small producers at the farmer's market. We tell everyone this, and just hope they don't get into line in front of us for that rack of lamb.


Looking forward to reading your comment!