I’m in crisis mode getting ready for my butcher shop reconnaissance trip/honeymoon – 3 days and counting, try not to miss me too much – it’s funny how something you plan all year for can suddenly sneak up on you. Last weekend I was visiting my parents (happy birthday mom!) to drop off our dog that they’ll be watching while we’re gone (sorry mom!). The great thing about my parents is that they still get Reader’s Digest. The great thing about Reader’s Digest is that it apparently still espouses complete bullshit regarding food safety.
You don’t have to follow that link, and it’s probably better if you don’t give them the ad revenue (and really like half that website is ads). Basically they rank different meats in terms of their relative “safety” from food borne illnesses. Given that Reader’s Digest is essentially bathroom reading anyway I’m probably the only person who would actually take it seriously, but since I’m grumpy about most everything I feel the need to have a bit of a talk about it. I can’t quite figure out what I disagree with more, their findings or their general premise.
First of all, the concept of “processed foods” being the safest is nuts to me. I don’t think anyone who has been paying attention to the news in the last millennium or so would ever say that processed frozen chicken nuggets are inherently safer than a steak. I’m not sure anyone who’s paying attention would say that processed frozen chicken nuggets are even inherently food. It’s no real secret that anytime you are adding additional steps to meat production – cutting, grinding, emulsifying – you are adding additional possible genesis points for food borne illness. Beyond that, to call steak “High Risk” because 10% of them get mechanically tenderized is nuts. Essentially this ranking system is telling you to eat a chicken nugget, which undergoes a million different mechanical whatevers before it hits your plate, over a steak – which even with tenderization has essentially undergone just one process – being cut into a steak.
Really though what bugs me about this article is that exists in the first place. I get to be cynical and read it with detached bemusement but most people who read stuff like this don’t have any perspective on it at all. They read at an article like this, look over the top of their reading glasses at their hard of hearing husband across the table and say “you know Daniel we should really start buying more frozen chicken nuggets.” And the end result is that the general public starts to view meat as something to be terrified of; to be handled in only the most serious manner and cooked to oblivion else it turns their insides into a writhing mush of rapidly reproducing pathogenic bacteria. Yeah buying discount steaks out of the back of someones van on a hot day isn’t the best idea. But buying clean, well raised meat from a butcher you know personally should always instill trust.