The reality of Fast Food Meat Essay

This essay has a total of 3230 words and 13 pages.

The reality of Fast Food Meat

According to Eric Schlosser author of Fast Food Nation, "Fast food has had an enormous
impact not only on our eating habits but on our economy, our culture, and our values"(3).
According to Lois Williams on any given day, about one quarter of U.S. adults visit a
fast-food restaurant. The typical American now eats about three hamburgers each week (2).
Schlosser also writes that "thirty years ago Americans spent about six billion dollars
annually on fast food. In 2000 they spent over one-hundred and ten billion dollars, more
than on higher education, personal computers, or new cars (3). The reality of fast food is
regarding the spreading and feeding of illness and disease; as well as the inhumane
treatment of animals through modern meat farming practices. Our society imagines images of
happy animals living on farms where the cows graze in lush green fields and the chickens
run around as they please. This vision of free-roaming animals living out their days in
sunny fields is very far from the reality. A majority of the animals that are raised for
food live miserable lives in dark and overcrowded facilities. These facilities are
commonly called "factory farms"(Maguire 5).

Factory farming began in the 1920s soon after the discovery of vitamins A and D. Shirley
Leung said, when these vitamins are added to feed, animals no longer require exercise and
sunlight for growth (B2). This allowed large numbers of animals to be raised indoors
year-round. The greatest problem that was faced in raising these animals indoors was the
spread of disease, which was fought against in the 1940s with the development of
antibiotics. Farmers found they could increase productivity and reduce the operating costs
by using machines and assembly-line techniques. Unfortunately, this trend of mass
production has resulted in incredible pain and suffering for the animals. Animals today
raised on factory farms have had their genes manipulated and pumped full of antibiotics,
hormones, and other chemicals to encourage high productivity. In the fast food industry,
animals are not considered animals at all; "they are food producing machines" (Baldwin).
They are confined to small cages with metal bars, ammonia-filled air and artificial
lighting or no lighting at all. They are subjected to horrible mutilations: beak searing,
tail docking, ear cutting and castration. The worst thing is that humans consume these
products everyday in a so called "Happy meal." Far too many people close their minds and
their consciousness to the situation. Instead they literally feed their own bodies with
disease and support this inhumane treatment of animals. Despite new federal safety
regulations, more than one-hundred million pounds of meat has been recalled since 1998 due
to suspected bacterial contamination. And just last summer, the nation's largest meat
processor had to recall five-hundred thousand pounds of beef contaminated with bacteria
from seventeen states (Maguire 5). Have dramatic changes in the U.S. meat industry
compromised the overall safety of American beef? McDonald's, which is only one of many
different fast food industries, uses 2.5 billion pounds of this chicken, beef and pork
annually. Perhaps, the most interesting question that I am sure most Americans have never
asked themselves while stuffing a delicious juicy Big Mac into their mouth, is where the
meat in the burger came from? How often do you think about the origin of the food you eat
every day? What do you know about those six billion cows, chickens, and other animals who
are only brought into this world to be enslaved and slaughtered each year in order to make
an extra buck satisfy your appetite ?

Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, Double Cheeseburgers and any other burgers sold at fast food
restaurants, are made of the ground up flesh of a cow. This cow was taken from its mother
at birth and raised either for slaughter or milk production. A male calf raised for
slaughter has his testicles and horns removed by painfully brutal methods. He is also
repeatedly branded, all with no type of pain killers. In addition, he is crowded with
other calves in a feedlot with pools of manure, allowed little exercise, and fed an
unnatural diet to fatten more quickly. This diet is usually due to a rise in grain prices
which has encouraged the feeding of less expensive materials to cattle, especially
substances with a high protein content that accelerate growth. Currently the Food and Drug
Administration ( FDA ) regulations allow dead pigs and dead horses to be rendered into
cattle feed, along with dead poultry (Hamilton). The regulations not only allow cattle to
be fed dead poultry, they allow poultry to be fed dead cattle. According to a documentary
on these cattle, Alec Baldwin states that "the U.S. Department of Agriculture ( USDA )
allows cattle with cancerous lesions and puss filled wounds to be approved for slaughter
therefore, injuries and illnesses go untreated" (Baldwin). A female cow, which is also
known as a diary cattle is sent to a dairy farm to produce milk. She is confined to an
indoor stall where she is treated as a milk machine rather than a live animal. Dairy
cattle are also impregnated annually in order to keep the milk flowing. They are hooked up
to machines that injure them and often times milked about three times a day. Injuries from
the machines usually allow puss from lesions to mix in with our milk. After five to six
years, she is slaughtered and her flesh is ground into hamburger: your Big Mac. "More than
one-hundred thousand of these cattle are unable to walk off the truck sent to the
slaughter house, however they are still slaughtered for human food anyway" (Baldwin).

The recent changes in how cattle are raised, slaughtered, and processed have created an
ideal means for pathogens to spread. Pathogens are an agent that causes disease,
especially a living microorganism such as a bacterium, virus, or fungus ("Pathogens"). The
problem begins in today's feedlots. A feedlot is where the cattle are fed and raised (
"Feedlot"). A government health official who was interviewed for an article in the Wall
Street Journal by Shirley Leung, and preferred not to be named, compared the sanitary
conditions in a modern feedlot to those in a crowded European city during the Middle Ages.
These were the times when people dumped their chamber pots out the window, raw sewage ran
in the streets, and epidemics raged ( B2). The cattle now packed into feedlots get little
exercise and live in pools of manure. Feedlots have become an extremely efficient
mechanism for "recirculating the manure," which is unfortunate, since Escherichia coli
O157:H7 or E.coli can replicate in cattle troughs and survive in manure for up to ninety
days ( Leung B2). Schlosser defined E.coli as "a mutated version of a bacterium found
abundantly in the human digestive system. The E.coli bacteria in our digestive system help
the body synthesize vitamins and ward off dangerous organisms. E.coli, on the other hand
also, releases a powerful toxin that can destroy the lining of the intestine" (199). In
most cases, people have very bad cramps which then leads to bloody diarrhea. "In about
four percent of the cases, the toxins produced by E.coli enter the bloodstream,
interfering with kidney function and causing Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)" (Schlosser
199). Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to developing HUS - although
perfectly healthy adults can develop it, as well. The illness can cause kidney failure,
anemia, internal bleeding and the destruction of vital organs (Schlosser 199). It can
cause anyone to suffer seizures or strokes, or to lapse into a coma (Schlosser 199). The
painful and debilitating symptoms of the illness may last for weeks. About five percent of
the people who develop HUS are killed by it. Those who survive often have permanent
disabilities, such as blindness or brain damage (Schlosser 200). E.coli is now the leading
cause of kidney failure among American children. Far from their natural habitat, the
cattle in feedlots become more prone to all sorts of illnesses. And what they are being
fed often contributes to the spread of disease to the slaughter houses.

The slaughterhouse tasks most likely to contaminate meat are the removal of an animal's
hide and the evisceration of its digestive system. A hide is basically the skin of the
cattle and removal of the eviscertion of its digestive system means to cleans out its
bowels. The hides are now removed by machine but if a hide has not been cleaned well
first, pieces of dirt and manure may fall from it onto the meat. Stomachs and intestines
are still pulled out of cattle by hand however, if the job is not performed carefully, the
contents of the digestive system may spill everywhere. Since workers are being rushed they
are bound to make mistakes. The consequences of one error are quickly multiplied. Knives
are supposed to be cleaned and disinfected every few minutes, something that workers tend
to forget. According to Steven Bjerklie, editor of The Meat Processing Journal "If a knife
gets contaminated, then it's just going to spread that contamination to everything it
touches" (101). The causes of food poisoning is usually full of scientific terms that
nobody understands. However, behind them all lies a simple explanation for why most people
get sick: There is feces on the meat.

In January 1993, doctors at a hospital in Seattle noticed that a large number of children
were being admitted with bloody diarrhea. Some were suffering from HUS. Health officials
soon traced the outbreak of food poisoning to under-cooked hamburgers served at Jack in
the Box restaurants ( Santora B1). The hamburgers contained a potentially lethal microbe:
E coli. Jack in the Box issued an immediate recall of the contaminated ground beef, which
had been supplied by the Vons Co. in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, "more than 700 people in
five different states got sick by Jack in the Box hamburgers, about 195 were hospitalized,
and four died" ( Santora B1). Most of the victims were children. Jack in the Box accepted
responsibility for their medical costs, and the chain was nearly destroyed by the
publicity surrounding the outbreak. But this was not the first outbreak of E.coli linked
to fast-food hamburgers. As Nichols Fox reveals in her book on food-borne pathogens,
"dozens of children got sick in 1982 by contaminated McDonald's hamburgers in Oregon and
Michigan (78). The only difference is that McDonald's had quietly cooperated with
investigators , providing ground-beef samples that proved to be tainted with E.coli . In
public, however, the McDonald's Corp. denied that its hamburgers were responsible for any
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