where’s the poop?

We’ve been asking for ages Where’s the beef?

But we’re in a new era now. That’s not the right question anymore, at least not if you’re talking industrial food.

Really, the question we all need to be asking is

Where’s the poop?

Cause turns out, for lots of unfortunate Canadians of late, its on their plate.


I’ve been listening to CBC Radio One pretty constantly this week while I unpack and clean the house, and the current beef recall from XL Foods has been a hot topic of conversation on the airwaves. Per usual, our government, rather than losing their shit over a completely unacceptable breakdown of our food system, they’re loosing the shit on us.

It is ironic in the worst pay possible.

What’s that they say about stuff rolling downhill? Look out folks, we’re at the bottom and it’s already on its way.

All the hot air coming from Harper and other high muckety-mucks makes me crazy. All he keeps saying is the “net increase” of inspectors his government has put in place since the last food contamination tragedy in our country.The head of the inspectors’ union pointed out that no one says these new inspectors are actually inspecting meat.

Even if they were, would it matter if no one is “analyzing the data”? (I’ve heard that phrase a lot in the last few days. From what I can tell, what they mean is no one bothers to review the tests. Not much point in testing then, is there?)

I laughed out loud at a rare moment of straightforwardness in the whole mess – the show guest summed it up pretty well :

There’s poop in our food.


Kinda sucks, don’t it.

The recall now covers over 1000 products and stretches across the entire country. We’re not even just talking ground beef. Steaks. Steaks!??

My mum said she found four products in her freezer that she had bought from three different stores, all on the recall list. My dad went to the butcher today, hoping to find some ground beef from a smaller supplier, meat that didn’t pass through the contaminated XL Foods plant. Even at his tiny, old-school local butcher there was no beef. They buy it in from there, too.

Doesn’t that strike you as kind of wrong?

Our system is built by the measure of efficiency only, not sanity. When you sacrifice sanity for efficiency, insane things happen. It’s only logical.

Consumers are suffering, and I can only imagine the stress cattle farmers are facing right now. It’s not our fault and it’s not their fault, but together we will bear the brunt of the consequences.

Unless we’re all prepared to start supporting small farmers, demand easier creation of small abattoirs and processors, start putting sanity and quality over efficiency and cheapness, we’d better get used to insanity and the contamination of our food.

Pass the poop.

25 thoughts on “where’s the poop?

  1. Growing Up in the Garden

    Wow. Truly astounding and sad. We seem to have recalls here every other month. The latest was a bunch of peanut and almond butter tainted with salmonella. There was cross contamination with eggs at the plant where the peanut and almond butters were processed.

    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      Yikes. That’s even scarier given the fact that eggs are also an allergen. Even if they didn’t have salmonella that could have been very dangerous – and given that those foods are most often eaten by kids, pretty serious . . . Sad.

      1. Growing Up in the Garden

        Yes. We do have a labeling law here that requires food processors to indicate on packages if foods have been processed in plants with known allergens. The labels read something like – Processed on equipment that also processes eggs (or whatever).

  2. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Used to be (when I was a kid) that there were lots of small abbatoire: pretty much one in every small community, but definitely enough to handle the animals produced locally and sold within the community and a large slaughter house to supply each city (where it was located). Then “the rules” started to change and, one by one, the small independant butchers were either nickle and dimed out if business or bought out by the bigger guys until eventually we have the situation where we are today, that allows 3/4 of the country’s meat to come from 4, yes F O U R main slaughter houses.
    It is NOT more efficient to do business this way; efficiency, to me at least, would mean trucking animals the shortest distance from the farm to the market, not half way across the country… Better for the animals’ health – therefore better quality and a greater variety of meats/cuts available to the consumer; better for the environment: less transport waste, wear and tear on infrastructure; less concentration of waste product and resulting disposal difficulties. I could go on, but I’m sure you get my point…
    The 100 mile diet has caught on and swept across the country/continent like a wildfire. Isn’t it also time to use the public opinion generated by this event, yet another “Walkerton” (with my apologies to the town), to force “our federal government, the Conservative Party of Canada” to enable small, local, safe and contained abbatoire to service OUR communities once again so we can know the face and perhaps even the name of the person(s) responsible for the meat that graces our table and feeds our families?

    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      You’re very right, it isn’t more efficient.

      It’s only more efficient in terms of the labour / profits measure. Until we reevaluate the notion that the only purpose of business is to generate the most profits possible, this won’t change.

      The other thing I didn’t mention is the fact that the people who work in these production plants have one of the most dangerous jobs out there. This system has taken what once was a skilled craft to reducing these workers to machines on factory assembly lines.

      1. the food fighters

        I’m glad you brought that up–working conditions for US plants are grim. Jonathan Safron Foer’s Eating Animals details the psychological and physical stress workers experience–it’s horrific.

  3. df

    Anyone who doesn’t feel extremely vulnerable on the food-front with the monopolies that we’ve created is foolish indeed.

      1. df

        I really think they don’t. Most people I know, my family among them, seem to value saving money at places like Costco over safeguarding their family’s health (thankfully there are exceptions, but they are a minority). I think it’s hard to take seriously until something has a direct impact on most people. What’s it like with the people you know?

      2. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

        I find it’s pretty mixed out here. It’s also tough to tell cause I live in a bit of a food-bubble.

        Vancouver is very much a city of foodies, and I think a lot of people know about pastured meats, eating local and all that, but I don’t think they’re very informed as to why its important. They do it because its “the thing to do”. It’s a status thing. I’ve found that having our urban farm has helped us talk to friends and family about the industrial food system. They can taste the difference between our chicken and store-bought. Not everyone gets that opportunity. The old adage “When you know better, you do better” seems to hold true.

        Unfortunately, many of our friends are comfortable financially – they have the luxury of choice. As far as young families like ours go – I see more of us choosing to eat less meat so we can afford pastured / organic and growing some of our own food.

        That said, my father worked in a local dairy plant my whole life – from milk man right up to COO, and I’ve found that even with his insight into industrial food, not everyone in my family can wrap their head around paying $5.99 a pound for ground beef. And it’s not that they’re not health conscious or anything like that. I think you’re right – it really comes down to a false sense of security and a lack of meaningful motivation to change.

      3. df

        I think you make some very good points, particularly about affluence.

        For anyone living in poverty, these choices don’t really exist. It is possible to get affordable produce in the prime growing months at some farmer’s markets, but most organic options are simply far more expensive. It is more affordable to eat Kraft dinner and big, cheap carrots than it is to make mac and cheese with real pasta and a good block of cheese with organic veggies on the side.

        For people with more choices in their spending habits, it seems that many would rather buy more stuff or travel or whatever than allocate more money to their monthly food budget. I know that whenever I look at budget-focused food blogs I get depressed, because I know I’m limited in how much I can trim my family’s monthly food budget with the commitment I have to buying local, organic dairy, meat, etc.

        Great topic and conversation!

  4. Alex @ northstory

    Great post! Once upon a time ago when I worked in my field, I was gathering up materials to do a TV special on the Slow Foods movement. We had interviewed the who’s who of the entire Food culture that has slowly been causing people to really stop and think about what they’re eating. Then I changed lives and it was never completed which is a crying shame b/c there’s vaults and tapes of seriously great footage sitting in the library of an I won’t name it tv station waiting to be used.
    Then one day a host by the name of Oprah did this massive special and I remember sitting back (this was ironically the same week I watched Food Inc.) and thinking ok something needs to change. Ever since then my meat loving self has consciously increased the ratio of vegetarian to meat meals in my week. It’s one of the reasons I started my garden. I wanted vastly more control over what I was eating. I am actually so sad that the season has ended and I am not being forced to go back to the grocery store to buy tomatoes and lettuce b/c I don’t have the room for an indoor container garden. When I hear crap *literally* like this it just makes me go Ok this is why I buy my dried beans. And you’re talking to a woman who loves a good steak, potatoes and red wine. I

    1. Deb Weyrich-Cody

      Hi Alex, You may also be interested in the (ongoing) conversation on FarmGal’s blog posting(s) over the past few days (previously linked in comments).
      To your health, D.

    2. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      Oooh I wish we could get our hands on that footage – what a shame! It seems like just before the financial crisis got revved up in 2008, people were starting to pay attention to the food crisis, and then it got lost to bigger headlines.

      I hear you about loving the steak and potatoes . . . It’s tough to juggle. I had a brief bout of vegetarianism after I worked at McDonald’s in my teens. Bacon broke me. My hubby is a meat and potatoes Southern Ontario farm boy. He grew up raising cattle – there is no way I’d get him to stop eating meat. We make do by eating less meat, growing as much of our own as we can and saving in other places so we can afford pastured meat when we do eat it. You’d be amazed how much of your own meat you can raise even in the city. We ate a lot of quail and chicken, and if we had stayed we would have raised rabbits as well. The trick is not letting the neighbours know!

      As for your veggies – put Elliot Coleman’s the Four Season Harvest on your winter reading list. It will change your life. The guy grows veggies year round in MAINE. He’s amazing.

  5. oceannah

    Stacey I’ve been listening in on this conversation as well. It reeks of all the problems we have down here w/ the industrial food supply system. The best thing one can do in these times is to KNOW THY FARMER. It matters very little how many ‘inspectors’ there are at a given plant….when the whole of the operation is utterly out of balance.
    As a bit of dark comic relief, I offer you this link: The japanese poop burger! I mean, hell if we’re going to be buying crap anyhow…. (not)

    1. Deb Weyrich-Cody

      Speaking of eaves-dropping (and there’s another weird expression hey?)…
      Holy crap Anna!! Haven’t looked yet, but laughing while I can; )

      1. Deb Weyrich-Cody

        Oh but hey – here’s the best part – they (the meat inspectors) are doing test sampling, but apparently no one’s looking at the results… SNAFU!!!!

      2. oceannah

        it’s beyond gross, which is about the only reason it’s even slightly funny. The system is so broken that I pray no innocent bystanders have to die to bring about change.

      3. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

        You’re very right. Thankfully no one has died from this outbreak. But it wasn’t that long ago 20 people died from the listeria outbreak here . . . and despite the government’s big talk, not a lot of change seems to have happened as a result.

      4. Deb Weyrich-Cody

        The really stupid part of this e-coli mess is that it could’ve all been avoided by cooking the meat properly. But, having said that, I don’t know why anyone’s surprised really… With the sheer scale of this place consider the law of averages ultimately ruled by throughput, add in all the things that could possibly go wrong with Murphy’s Law, and then, throw in ANY lack of oversight; this was bound to happen. It’s time to decentralise before this happens again, ’cause the next time we might not be so lucky.

      5. oceannah

        big talk, little action…we get the same rubbish down here…
        Maybe you can raise some animals for yourself now on your farm.

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