Food safety is something that the public is becoming more and more concerned about now more than ever before. And USDA (FSIS) understands this as well as the people processing and making your food, specifically meat. But to make statements such as, “our meat needs more inspection, stricter standards, or tighter restrictions” is just simply, false. I recently watched Food, Inc. and one of my qualms with the slaughterhouse portion of the movie is that it never once explains to you about inspection. Now let me be clear here, our plant is under Custom exempt state inspection which means that animals slaughtered at our plant are for the individual’s use only or his immediate family. USDA defines it as “when the animal is slaughtered or processed by someone other than the owner for the personal use of the owner of the animal”.
It cannot be re-sold or served in a restaurant. Meat and carcasses that can be resold, served in restaurants, etc. must be killed under the classification, federal inspection. This type of classification requires many things. First one being an FSIS (USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service) personnel present at all times while slaughter operations are taking place. Animals being inspected LIVE as well as carcass by carcass inspection, organ biopsy sent off for testing of antibiotics, etc. Basically, FSIS ensures that the plant is maintaining the most stringent of food safety standards and that is something the majority of people don’t realize.
Now I don’t know all the specifics due to the fact that we aren’t under that classification of inspection BUT I had the opportunity of witnessing this process firsthand over at the CSU Chico Meats Lab while watching three hogs being slaughtered, harvested, whatever you want to call it these days. And let me tell you, we should have no fear when eating meat because these babies were INSPECTED. Let me give you a little idea of the process. Before we could even begin, all information about what was being slaughtered that day. The inspector had paperwork of how many animals, their live weights, who dropped them off, etc. Then the animals were inspected LIVE, yes I said LIVE. Meaning she made sure things like the animals could walk properly and were in healthy condition. Then once the inspector approved, the process started. I will spare you and won’t go into the process but she was there watching the entire thing. Once the internal organs were removed, she inspected the organs as well as took a sample of the liver and kidneys to send off for testing. This ensures there is no antibiotic residue in the organs, etc. Hogs in which samples were taken from are marked, “retained” which means that the hog falls out of production until the results from her testing come back approved. Then the hog can move onto being processed, etc. Finally, once the carcass was complete, before it could be rolled into the cooler, she must make a final inspection. And she can also ask one of the slaughterers to remove anything that she doesn’t think should be left on the carcass (maybe bruising, etc.) And of course ALL of these things are documented which are then passed onto her superiors. Lots and lots and lots of paperwork passing through many different hands at many different levels of inspection is required under any sort of inspection.
Another thing to note is that these hogs will also be inspected during the time they are processed (cut up essentially) and more testing will be done on them as well. And if some of the products are then sold to people like us at Chico Locker, the products we make out of the meat (ie: sausage, etc.) will also be inspected by OUR own inspector. So if this little crash course, firsthand witness experience in food safety doesn’t key you into the fact that our food is indeed pretty darn safe and that there are people out there who’s sole life work is to continually attempt to make our food AS SAFE AS POSSIBLE then I don’t know what will. I don’t think our food will ever be able to make it into the realm of PERFECTLY safe but from my post a few months ago, http://chicolockersausage.com/2011/08/18/is-it-really-something-to-be-afraid-of/ I would venture to say that our food can be deemed safe and it isn’t something that people should be worrying about on a day to day basis while eating their three meals a day.
Also check out this short video about inspection where Dr. Chris Raines, Penn State gives us a good explanation of what inspection means:
What other industries can say their product was inspected LITERALLY from start to finish!? Happy Thursday everyone, enjoy your weekend coming up. I will be working, hopefully, on a sausage blog for next week.