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Beef lovers beware!

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The industrial meat production system in the United States, which is spreading internationally, is good at producing large quantities of meat at low price. That is, the price is low if we ignore the many externalities of the production, such as dealing with vast swamps of stinking waste. Another externality is disease caused by salmonella and E. coli O157:H7. When you raise a lot of cows in close proximity and feed them corn rather than their natural diet of grass, you get a lot of sick cows, and the beef from those cows can sicken people. This is particularly true given that rapid slaughter of cows inevitably means the piercing of intestines, which then spreads fecal matter onto the meat. Yum yum! According to the meat industry, it is the responsibility of the consumer to cook the beef sufficiently to kill the germs. In that case, why not require a warning label on industrial beef which says “This product likely contains salmonella and E. coli O157:H7, both of which can cause serious illness and death. Be sure to cook thoroughly.” I would imagine this would have two beneficial results: A big boost to smaller producers and a lot less beef consumption. Those results, in turn, could mean good things for our environment and our health (fewer methane emissions from CAFOs, less grain and water required to feed people, fewer non-communicable diseases related to diets high in meat). The industry also points out that blasting meat with radiation can eliminate the pathogens, which allows for producers to continue the same messy, unhygienic processes but avoid spreading disease. In other words, we could just agree to eat irradiated cow dung. Just be sure to cook it well!