Meat of the Matter: Prime beef bashing

It's not news when activist websites demonize meat safety. But it's over the top when so-called food 'gourmets' start spouting the worst, most outrageous garbage about supermarket beef.

If you're a typical consumer, you probably have at least some vague concerns about meat safety and wholesomeness.

How could you not? Rarely a week goes by that online "media" — and I use quotes because we're really talking about info sources that don't bother with journalistic principles — isn't promoting an article that looks like objective reporting, only it's a scare story of epic proportions.

Here's a great example, from a website titled The Daily Meal. Who or what is that, you ask? We know the site's run by Brits or Europeans, because they reference "minced meat," rather than ground beef, but unless you're clued in to such terminology, the site otherwise seems like a plausible American foodie infohub.

"Knowledgeable gourmets" is how the site's messaging is positioned. For example, check out their mission statement:

"The Daily Meal's passionate team canvasses the world to bring you the best food and drink experiences, [to] deliver a fresh take on dining news and trends and help you succeed in the kitchen, while highlighting the unifying aspects of food and drink and celebrating the people who create them."

Let's explore their "fresh take" on food, specifically beef, as highlighted in an article titled, "19 Reasons Why You Might Want to Stop Buying Supermarket Meat — There's a lot more to the meat you're buying at the supermarket than meets the eye."

Industry participants could easily list a dozen or so items on that list, because they've become well-worn talking points activists recite as easily as a Catholic completing the prayer beginning "Our Father Who art in heaven . . . "

Environmental damage, harmful pathogens, horrific conditions at feedlots and packing plants, beef "pumped full of hormones, and antibiotics," etc., etc., etc.

Seen it, done it, surfed it.

However, the so-called gourmets at The Daily Meal added several seriously shocking eye-openers on their beefy black list that appear to have been pulled from the oldie-but-goodie archives of activist rhetoric. For example:

  • Beef keeps its rosy-pink color thanks to being treated with carbon monoxide.
  • Beef sold to the public is contaminated with 211 different drug residues.
  • Packages of raw beef can be E. coli farms.
  • Expiration dates on meat packaging are generally meaningless.

And just for added shock value, The Daily Meal tossed in a poultry bombshell: "Chickens are pumped with potentially dangerous drugs; by studying the feathers of imported chickens (?), Johns Hopkins researchers found painkillers, antidepressants, banned antibiotics, caffeine and even Prozac."

Wow. According to their explanation, Prozac reduces stress, which supports faster growth, while the caffeine keeps them awake — for faster growth, you see.

Now, most shoppers won't swallow such statements wholesale, but they tend to plant a seed of doubt, a subconscious concern that maybe — just maybe — there is some truth to such seemingly outrageous accusations.

A simple solution

So, what's a concerned consumer to do? How can people avoid the horrors of supermarket beef and poultry?

Glad you asked, because The Daily Meal has an answer that reveals who's really behind the site:

"Thankfully, several companies are producing high-quality raw meat these days. Niman Ranch, Laura's Lean Beef, and D'Artagnan products, for example, are being made available in an increasing number of grocery stores, and they're all reputable; the meat is sold in non-branded, cellophane-wrapped packages and is often far less expensive than the name-brand meat."

Far less expensive? Seriously?

Now, nothing against any of those brands mentioned above. They sell a quality product that, contrary to the shills at The Daily Meal, undergoes the exact same USDA inspection as any other package of beef in any of those (allegedly) increasing number of grocery stores.

But "far less expensive?" Are you kidding me?

Here's a sampling of online prices from one of Niman Ranch's designated distributors:

  • Beef tenderloin:

    $38 a pound
  • Boneless ribeye steak:

    $34 a pound
  • Skirt steak:

    $33 a pound
  • Filet mignon:

    $80 a pound

Granted, some of that product is dry-aged, which won't ever be sold in "non-branded, cellophane-wrapped packages," so you'd expect to pay a premium, but I'm sorry: $33 to $80 a pound doesn't qualify as a price point that anyone other than seriously affluent shoppers could ever afford to pay.

So, to summarize: Conventional beef is gassed with carbon monoxide, loaded with unhealthy residues, teeming with deadly bacteria and sold in packaging with misleading sell-by dates.

Whereas, in some mythical grocery stores somewhere in North America, a few lucky shoppers are unknowingly picking up unbranded packages of high-quality, totally reputable beef from producers who have magically eliminated all of the above in their products.

Which they're selling at below-market prices.

Actually, it's The Daily Meal's "fresh take on dining trends" that's seriously past its pull date. ‚ñ°

Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator