The article, “The Burger That shattered Her Life” from the New York Times,
Stephanie Smith was once a well fitted dance instructor, but her physical fitness did not last too long. During fall 2007 at dinner time, Smith ate a burger that her mother cooked.A day later, Smith began to feel a severe pain, a pain that turned her diarrhea bloody, put her in coma in the hospital. When she recovered from her coma, she was paralyzed for rest of her life (Michael Moss 1). Smith was not the only person who was victimized by burger meat, Kevin Michael Kowalcyk was also victimized. Burger meat never gave a 2 year old boy a chance to grow up, nor gave the little boy a chance to experience what life is about. Based on the same article, Kowalcyk was not the only kid who died from eating burger. In 1997, four other young kids died from eating Jack in the Box restaurants’burgers (1). Based on another article, “Foodborne Illnesses Are on the Rise,” from Gale Cengage Learning more than nine thousand were killed and millions were sickened by eating burger that was contaminated with Escherichia coli, every year (1). So why are so many people dying from simply eating meat, meat that is supposed to be nutritionally helpful for us? So this question began to intrigue me to see what is exactly going on inside the meat industries since our meat is being handled and processed there.In meat industries workers are being mistreated. Because of mistreatment, the workers are not following sanitary procedures, and animals are kept in unclean environment. As a consequence, there are people getting sick and dying.
In slaughterhouses, workers are terribly mistreated by employers, which can make it extremely difficult for workers to perform their duties. For example, when workers are injured, they are either told to get back to work, or they are fired because workers cannot miss work days. For instance, Human Rights Watch interviewed a worker from Smithfield Foods. The Worker said that the employee is always in constant pain in the “neck, shoulder, and arm” at home and at work. The worker is in fear for having x-rays because the worker thinks medical insurance will not cover them. Yet the worker has additional hospital bills from previous injuries. The worker also has a phobia of getting fired from work because absenteeism is prohibited, and if the rule is ignored, the worker will be forced to quit (54). In another example from Human Rights Watch, a worker said the employee “fell and slipped” three times on greasy floor. First and second time, worker was sent back to work after felling. Couple of days later, the worker was hospitalized because the employee could not move when waking up in midnight. When worker was given radiogram, it was found that the worker was diagnosed with “herniated disc.” After returning from the hospital recovery after 2 weeks, the worker was fired because the worker called for emergency service (65). And workers are constantly working at a high speed during their entire shift without having any breaks. For instance, in the article, “HOW SAFE IS OUR MEAT?” author Anne Vassal states, “ Workers are cutting up to 300 cows an hour, working long hours with few breaks.”(3) This automated systems not only proves that workers face terrible conditions, but also show that the workers face poor health conditions because they are performing heavy work with nonstop.
When workers are confronted with complications at work place, or outside work
place, they are much likely to be under stressed, which can be a negative sign for mental stress. For example, according to the article, “ Health: Workplace stress leads to health problems,” states that there are differences between “job stresses” and “challenges.” “challenges” give people strength mentally and physically, which influence individuals to want to aspire for “new skills” and accomplish
responsibilities. Once the “challenges” are executed, the skills and accomplishments fulfill the desires, and that calms the individuals. However, when “challenges” become rigorous, calmness rotates to distress, satisfaction becomes dissatisfaction, which can cause poor health, injuries, and unmet duties. (Health: Workplace stress leads to health problems 1) For example, Human Rights Watch interviewed an anonymous medical specialist from Arkansas, who stated that the patients, who work overtime, six days a week, experience “ psychological problems,” in addition to physical wounds. The overtime makes them suffer from “depression” and “exhaustion” (43) Vassal goes on to say that “since union membership is discouraged and workers are worried about job security, nothing is done to remedy dangerous working environment. Consequently, there is more opportunity for bacteria to multiply and diseased animals to wiz by unnoticed.” (3) This means that if workers are stress, depressed, and fatigued in the workplace, not only will they not complete the job, but they can put peoples’ health in danger by disregarding sick and ailing animals.
Therefore, when workers are strained, and drained at workplace, they are less likely not to complete their duties, or even follow sanitary procedures, which can be very dangerous when handling food, especially in a unsanitary place like slaughterhouses, which can easily contaminate the meat. for instance, an ex-Perdue worker, Donna Bazemore described slaughterhouses during attestation to parliament in the book Slaughterhouse, author Gail A. Eisnitz. Bazemore said that inside the plants there are soil, flab and grease on the floor, crawling insects on walls and floors, four to five inches flying roaches, huge blowflies, rats, snakes, and maggots. Workers “relieve” themselves during the shifts if they cannot go to the bathroom because employers are worried that bathroom breaks will slow down the production line, and workers chew and spit tobacco on the floor during the shift (172,173). During the testimony, Bazemore described the meat industries as “filthy.” However, I believe that any words related to “filthy” are not strong enough to describe these unspeakable, disgusting meat industries for sickening, and killing thousands of people each year. Can you imagine yourself not knowing that there could be dead rats, insects, huge flying roaches, animals’ and workers’ excrement,and tobacco spit on your meat, and eating it? This image is in fact is a reality inside the slaughterhouses. In North Carolina, six poultry plants were investigated under USDA’s Good Agricultural Practice, which tries to prevent food contamination. During the investigation, GAP has found chickens were covered with flies, maggots on chicken boxes, chickens covered with feces, decaying meat was mixed with new meat for babies’ food, and meats were grounded up with maggots, and employees would pick up meat from drain and put it back for processing (174, 175). This shows that the meat people buy or eat from restaurants could possibly be contaminated if the meat are not being inspected, or even if the meat is not handled right by workers for not following sanitary Procedures.
In additional to meat contamination due to workers’ mishandling the meat in
assembly line, meat can also be infected if farmers keep animals under unsanitary
conditions. For instance, according to Human Rights Watch a report from USDA
“visible ingesta on the brisket areas of carcass sides;”
“visible fecal material on the neck, armpit, underneath the foreshanks, and underneath the brisket area of two carcass sides;”
“a carcass was observed with an 11 ½ x 1” fecal contamination smear above the shoulder;”
“several pieces of greenish fecal matter in the belly area; …”(40)
The reason why this report proves us that the cattle are kept in a dirty, and unhygienic environment is because the cattle are covered with feed, manure, and abrasion. It is also disturbing because the cattle are covered with greenish material, which perhaps indicates that the cattle have been covered with digestion of grass for long time; however, the part of this matter is extremely nauseous is the fact that if these obnoxious matters gets on the meat, it not only can make the meat contaminated, but can cause people outbreaks, and deaths, as it dose happen when cattle are brought to slaughterhouses as Michael Moss states on the article, The Burger That shattered Her Life, “workers slicing away the hide can inadvertently spread feces to the meat, … sometimes slip and smear the meat with feces, …” (3) This could be one of the possible reason why Stephanie Smith was ill, and paralyzed; Smith could have eaten carcass meat, which could have been covered in feces, and the fecal could have spread into the meat somewhere in the assembly line.
In conclusion, in the United States there are two different types of government
agencies, whose jobs are to protect the American people; Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s job is to protect employees at workplace so that workers are not troubled by employers; United States Department of Agriculture’s duty is to protect food from contamination. However, what if both government and agencies fail the American people from consuming tainted meat? For instance, in the
article, “Inspections: Struggling to Do Their Jobs,” from goveg.com, interview Dr. Paul Johnson states, “Instead of maintaining or slowing line speeds, the government is approving higher speeds.”(1) This is a prove that government is more concern about the economy then Americans’ welfare. And due to governments’ failure, agencies are reluctant to play their part as a inspector. For example, in the same site, an interviewed government agency food-safety director states that when inspectors are on their inspections, they just look through paper works, not checking for any food violations what so ever; inspectors do not prevent removing feces and other infections before the meat are stamped with USDA approval seal.(Inspectors: Struggling to Do their Jobs 1) So we should ask ourselves, what can we do to help ourselves, or what can we do? We can’t do much because people are still buying meat because they don’t know what is happening behind the close doors of these meat industries. Only way to know what exactly is happening is if media pays more attention so that they can televise what is actually happening and inform the public, and educating ourselves.
Human Rights Watch, Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Workers Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry
Plants ( New York: Human Rights Watch, 2004)
Anne, Vassal. “How safe is our meat?” Mother Earth News 159 (1996): 20. Academic
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“Health: Workplace stress leads to health problems.” The Pakistan Newswire 19
April. 2010: 1-4. Print.
“Inspectors: Struggling to Do their Jobs.” www. Goveg.com. Peta. n.d.
Eisnitz Gail A. Slaughterhouse: The shocking story of greed, neglect, and inhumane treatment
inside the U.S. meat industry. New York: Prometheus Book, 1997. Print.
Moss Michael. “The Burger That Shattered Her Life” The New York Times 4 October.2009, Late
Edition– Final. LexisNexis Academic. Web.14 May. 2010
Robinson, Robert A. “Foodborne Illnesses Are on the Rise.” At Issue: Food Safety. ED. Laura K.
Egendorf. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. Rpt. with permission from the House of Representatives,
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight Subcommitte on Human Resources and
Intergovernmental Relations, 23 May 1996. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Web. 27 April 2010.