Agricultural news became consumer news last week, when 25 million pounds of hamburger meat were recalled by one of the nation’s largest meat processors. The meat was recalled because of possible contamination by a potentially, deadly bacteria. Being a consumer, as well as a producer of beef, I felt good that our system of food inspection had caught this problem before the masses became sick. But, I couldn’t help wondering why I didn’t die as a child.
Every Sunday morning of my childhood, Dad or Mom would go to the chicken house and catch the noon meal. They would take the chicken to the old block of wood (that was stained with the blood of hundreds of Sunday meals before), take a rusty ax, and chop off the head of the fowl. The headless chicken would then flop around on the dirty ground for a few seconds before it was plucked, gutted, and cut up to fry. It was good.
There was also the annual autumn ritual of hog-killin’. Friends and neighbors would gather at our farm to insure the winter’s meat supply by processing a couple of 250-pound hogs. The sanitary processing included scalding the carcass in a rusty, 55-gallon barrel (that probably once contained something poisonous), laying the carcass on some old wooden planks in order to cut it up with that same rusty ax and an old handsaw that Dad retained just for this job. There had to be some bacteria somewhere, but it was delicious.
I’ve been inside modern meat processing plants. There is absolutely no comparison between them and the primitive ways we used to handle meat. Today’s meat plants are the epitome of cleanliness and sanitation – so why didn’t I die, or at least get sick as a child?
Answer: Mom cooked the meat!
Mom’s fried chicken was done. Through and through. The ham was fried until it had the texture of jerky, but it was great! There was no such thing as “rare” steak. Well-done was your only selection.
With today’s trendy orders of raw fish, barely cooked steaks, and squishy chicken, I’m surprised the entire population hasn’t come down with some disease associated with undercooked food.
In the meantime, I was hoping that meat company would give us, free of charge, some of that tainted meat. I believe Mom could cook it to safety.
Editor’s note: This column was originally written in 1997.
Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’