Our Perspective: The Biggest Beef Recall Ever
There was a lot of media hype this week surrounding USDA's announced recall of 143 million lbs. of raw and frozen beef products produced from February 2006 to February 2008 by Westland/Hallmark Meat in Chino, CA. The video from an undercover Humane Society operative was extremely damaging.
The recall itself was based on the fact the plant wasn't handling downer animals properly; the media hype was about animal abuse and the federal school lunch program. The various industry organizations responded quickly by both assuring the public that essentially all animals are treated humanely, and by condemning the abuse that occurred.
The disturbing part of this incident isn't that it triggered the largest recall in history, or that it provided plenty of justifiable ammunition for the groups working to eliminate beef production. It isn't even the images and negative publicity that are likely to affect beef demand for some time.
The most disturbing part is that despite the fact that 99.99% of the people involved this industry do things right, our industry's credibility was harmed. The result is that when distorted or non-factual claims about our industry are made in the future, they will resonate more with the public than they otherwise would have.
As an industry we have to embrace the fact that we can't afford to have any more of these types of mistakes. One or two rogue employees can cause irreparable damage to this industry, and because we are a low-margin industry that in part depends upon low wage-earning employees, the responsibility to train and create the proper cultures for those employees is critical.
-- Troy Marshall