Saturday, February 02, 2008

Where's the Beef?

I had seen a report about this meatpacking plant in California where torture had occurred and this article in the Times reported that various districts around the state, including Seattle, are not using beef coming from this plant. For the time being, no beef is being served in SPS.

The issue is "downer" cows being mistreated. They are not supposed to be used in the food supply (and the government is pretty good on its checks but they can't be there every day).

It was painful to watch the tv report because the cows were run over or harassed by guys in forklifts or sprayed in the face for minutes on end with high-pressure hoses or hit with stun guns. The most important issue is the safety of the meat in the food chain but the treatment of those cows is a close second. Interestingly, the men mistreating the cows were "fired" but I'd like to hear that the owners of the plant are getting heavily fined.


Anonymous said...

Why is this about SPS?

I respect you Melissa, but I think that mission creep is the road to fractionation. I think this site has been a great resource for people who care about education and Seattle's schools. But it can't stay that way if it becomes a venue for everything.

Anonymous said...

I just got an email from SPS about the issue, so yeah, it is of some local interest. Check your spam folder: I wouldn't be surprised if an attachment of BeefLetter dot doc looked funny to your filters. (I had to giggle myself.)

To put this even more on topic, I was pleased to see direct communication happening about something that went slightly wrong but not badly so. That's professional. --Helen Schinske

February 1, 2008

Dear Parents/Guardians of Seattle Students:

This information is being provided to all parents/guardians in the Seattle School District regarding the “Hold on some United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Beef”. USDA issued the “hold” after receiving news on Thursday, January 31, of serious allegations concerning the treatment of cattle processed at the Westland Meat Company in California.

Our response to that information was to remove all beef from the Seattle Public Schools menus as a pro-active, precautionary measure. We were not asked or required to pull all beef from the menu, but made this decision to prevent confusion. Middle and high school lunchrooms pulled all beef products starting Thursday so no beef was served on that day.

However, due to the late notice from USDA, elementary students were served beef teriyaki dippers on Thursday, January 31st. These dippers were processed by Pierre Foods Company. We were informed by state officials that no meat products provided by Pierre Foods contained meat from Westland Meat Company.

District Nutrition Services is continuing to monitor the situation, and will follow the guidance of state officials regarding the results of the USDA investigation. We will not resume using beef until notified by the state that USDA has finished its investigation.

The health and safety of our students is of primary concern. We ask for your understanding and your support of the Seattle School District School Meals Program. Students will find their school favorites on the menu. We will continue to offer variety and options in our lunchrooms each day. The District Registered Dietitian has revised the school menu for the week of Feb. 4th – 7th. Lunchroom staff have the revised menus and/or parents can go on line to www.seattleschools.org/area/nutrition-svc/index.dxml to view the revisions.

If you have questions or concerns that cannot be addressed by my office, please call Anita Finch, Director, Nutrition Services, at 206-252-0685.


Anita Finch
Director, Nutrition Services

Anonymous said...

"Why is this about SPS"

Because this meat was shipped to SPS and being fed to our children. Until Thursday that is, when they pulled it and started feeding the kids a veggie menu!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous 11:01, I'm thinking you didn't read the post. It WAS about SPS and it WAS about food that SPS students eat. This wasn't about some bigger issue about whether we should eat meat or not or serve it in schools but about the food going in students' mouths.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue of compassion, kindness and cruelty are very much relevant to schools. That anybody dismisses for any reason that kind of cruelty to any living being is anathema to me.

If we spent more time teaching empathy, perhaps animal cruelty and kid cruelty (remember Columbine?) wouldn't happen.

I'm with you, Melissa.

Isabel D'Ambrosia said...

I am glad that SPS is being made aware of the treatment of factory-farmed animals that our children eat. The fact is, ALL of the animals that become super-cheap meat are consistently mistreated -- certainly not just the ones at the one slaughterhouse that had the bad luck to be videotaped.

When we buy meat for our kids and the ONLY thing we value in that process is a cheap price, this is what we end up with.

Got to go and pack those sack lunches now....

Anonymous said...

I learned a lot when I read the book "Fast Food Nation". One thing that impressed me most was that the large fast food chains like McDonalds have the SAFEST meat! They are so worried about a scandal, Ecoli, etc., that they send their own inspectors in to monitor the meat packing plants. That's over and above the FDA inspectors. The book points out that public schools get the WORST beef available. The bottom of the barrel. I don't remember all of the reasons the author listed, but they were shocking, and enough to make me pack my kids lunch every day!!

Anonymous said...

The bottom of the barrel might be more literal than you would think. My daughter came home after working in the lunchroom one day and said they had big plastic tubs labeled "Beef paste." Until then "beef paste" had been a joke out of a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book (the I-thought-you-said-ers wilful mishearing of "briefcase").

Helen Schinske