The effects of efficiency: 12+ million pounds of ground beef recalled.


Henry Ford didn’t invent the assembly line to build a better car but yet to efficiently build something that was once very time-consuming. Most people have interpreted this as an altruistic quest to make cars accessible to everyone. This could be true, I didn’t know the dude. Or, maybe he just wanted to sell more cars. Because after all Ford motor company does just that, sells cars… lot’s of cars. 

Despite what you believe Ford’s motivations to be we can all agree that he sped up the process of building a car, that’s undeniable. Thusly assembly lines became our solution for all products that took just too damn long to make. Insert the beef industry. 

Packing plants too found that if they slaughter cattle in high enough volumes they can improve their bottom line, and take something that is by nature very inefficient and speed it up a bit. Just line everyone up and have them carve off the most desirable portions or cuts as the carcass passes down the line. Towards the end of the line is where they catch the “trim". These are all the pieces of meat that were cut away to expose our favorite cuts (ribeye, filet, etc.) That trim is then put in a pile, ground up and made burger ready. It’s all very efficient. But, one annoying little lesson that we just can’t seem to accept though is that, quality rarely accompanies efficiency. 

Shutting down the line to grind up one cow at a time would be inefficient enough to cause ol' Henry to roll over in his grave. So, to stay on track they grind multiple animals at a time. How many? Some studies suggest that the average package of ground beef contains meat from over 100 animals. When discussing this fact about the beef industry I often use the raffle analogy. If you were looking to win the door prize in a raffle you would much rather have 100 tickets in the hat than 1. However, in this case, the door prize is a hamburger patty pre-seasoned with e. Coli and salmonella. So, it may be better to have just one ticket. 

The fact of the matter is bacteria is everywhere. There will always be risks. However, some things deserve a little more time and attention to detail. So, maybe just buy burger patties made from the ONE cow of your chosing. 

 

-Ryan