I was reading the label on a package of ground animal carcass (aka hamburger) that someone was purchasing at the store yesterday and something stood out to me that I had always seen; but, never given more than a cursory amount of attention. The label which reads cook to a minimum of 165 degrees.
18 February 2009
It seems that 165 degrees is the magical temperature at which all of the bad bacteria kick the bucket, and meat which before then was to be treated as a hazardous substance- ding! suddenly transforms itself into a yummy dinner.
Most of this sustained high heat cooking is targeted at public enemy number one. That pesky little bug known as Escherichia Coliform bacteria, or E.Coli for short. So where does this little monster come from? E.Coli likes to hang out inside the intestinal tract of living things, like you and I, for example. Where it gets dicey is that none of this bacteria is found in muscle tissue. So somehow, the coliform bacteria has to make its way from the intestinal tract and into the muscle or meat.
This all to easily happens when to satisfy the ever increasing demand, a top commercial slaughterhouse will process over fifteen thousand head of cattle a day. That's a lot of work, and it has to be done quickly! Usually, too quickly. And due to the sloppy evisceration techniques, the intestines of the animal being processed will often get sliced, exploding their contents, namely feces and billions of E.Coli bacteria all over your future meal.
But, not to worry though. The plant inspectors will catch this little poo poo right? Wrong! That package of hamburger you're eyeing in the fridge is not just the product of one unlucky steer. Oh no, in fact, it contains ground muscle tissue from up to 100 different head of cattle. The meat is first ground, then collected into large containers, some holding up to nearly a ton of beef. The testing occurs when a small amount of meat, sometimes just skimmed off the top, is examined for traces of bacteria. If there are no bacteria in that one small sample, then away the entire container goes, green-lighted for the dinner table.
According to some estimates less than one percent of all hamburger consumed annually is physically tested for E.Coli contamination. That leaves room for a lot of bacteria, along with the tiny amounts of feces that transmit it, to sneak through the system. More than that, even though heat kills the bacteria, no amount of heating will rid your juicy burger of the tiny bits of feces tucked away inside. Although, judging from the sales numbers, it's a proposition that many are willing to accept.
I say to them, eat up. Just know that the next time you bite into that hamburger, you could very well end up with a mouthful of sh... Bon Apetit!
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