Food Safety vs Paranoia... Where's the Line?

Expiration dates, proper cooking temps, and refrigeration are all tools we are probably using on a daily basis to keep our food "safe" for consumption right Jamie?

Which of these are truly important and what are we missing?

That's what I want to talk- well, actually, write- about in my next couple of emails.

A photo from when I used to work at our local USDA Meat Processing Plant in Laramie, WY.

It's sort of exhausting to keep up with all of the things we "must" do to "stay safe" when it comes to food, according to authorities.

The list seems to get longer every day.

I recently attended an online webinar about the PRIME Act, which is a proposed piece of legislation that- if passed- would make it legal to sell cuts of meat processed in a Custom or State-Inspected meat processing plant. Currently in most states, only the owner of the animal can pay for meat processing and receive the meat back from an animal cut and wrapped at anything less than a USDA Inspected plant.

In Wyoming, it is legal to sell down to the 1/4 of a beef through a Custom/State Inspected plant. With the PRIME act, individual cuts would be legal to be sold under this level of inspection also.

The biggest difference between a Custom Plant and a USDA Plant is that there is no inspector on site. If you have ever been in a USDA inspected facility, you may have noticed that there is always a USDA employee, with a hard-hat, a hairnet, and a clipboard- watching what the employees are doing, taking notes and moving around the plant all day.

When I worked at 307 Meat Company for a few months (to help fill in the gaps so I could get butcher dates when there were no available slots during the COVID shutdowns) it seemed like the inspector had a new problem for us to solve daily. It was frustrating for all of the staff. Especially when it did not seem very relevant to food safety...

I appreciate the level of cleanliness USDA plants like 307 Meat Company maintain, but as someone who butchers most of the meat my family consumes, myself, I can tell you those high standards are not 100% necessary to stay healthy and safe.

I definitely take every possible measure I can to ensure the food we sell through Taste of the Wind is clean and safe.

Food safety tools are great, but when you consider how inside-out the food system is in our country, you may want to reconsider your actions when it comes to your food.

Instead of fretting over possible recalls and bacterial contaminations, consider the fact that heat kills bacteria.

If you are following recommended cooking temperature guidelines, all bacteria should be killed by the time your food is ready to consume.

One topic covered in the Webinar on the PRIME Act is that it is a "right of passage" for employees in a poultry processing plant to contract a Campylobacter infection, which is an infection accompanied by typical food-poisoning-type symptoms.

I have probably butchered close to a couple thousand birds in my life by now Jamie, and while that may not be close to what a poultry processing plant employee butchers in their lifetime, I have NEVER gotten sick from processing poultry, even though I have not been in a refrigerated building, not wearing extensive PPE, not continuously dousing all surfaces in copious amounts of antimicrobial disinfectant, and the processed birds are not submerged in a chlorine solution as they are in big industry plants...

Hand-processed chickens drying and ready to go into the freezer- at the ranch where I learned to butcher chickens in Cody, WY,

So why haven't I gotten sick?

Why hasn't anyone I know- who has eaten pastured poultry from operations just like ours, who are processing their birds outside, with minimal equipment, just like we do- gotten sick from processing and/or eating pastured broilers?

Why is processed poultry commonly found to have salmonella and campylobacter, but outbreaks only happen every once and a while?

One theory expressed in the book Big Chicken by Maryn Makenna is that antibiotic use has a big role in causing employees, and animals to become infected with super-bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

Folks who have recently taken antibiotics are also more susceptible to bacterial infections because their gut microbiome has been disrupted, and it takes time to build that mini-ecosystem inside our bodies back up to full resilience.

Why is this not considered a major step in food safety?

Building our own bodies' resilience by increasing our exposure to good bacteria, so when we are exposed to bacteria that can cause more harm, we are not as affected by it.

Along with cooking poultry products to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, or washing our birds with a 50-50 vinegar and water solution, or cleaning surfaces that raw meats have touched, we should be making sure to eat fermented foods like yogurts, kefir, kvass, kombucha, kraut, and kimchi, on a regular basis, so when our bodies are exposed to bacteria that could cause harm, there are not big holes in our own gut microbiome for these bacteria to conveniently move into and overpopulate.

What is your favorite fermented food or drink?

It is a tie between home-made yogurt, kimchi, and beet kvass for me!

Home-made beet Kvass! Yummmmmm!

My goal with this topic is not to spread fear, but to share knowledge and skills.

I hope this discussion has informed you about some of the things to look out for when it comes to food safety. But, most of all, I hope it has given you a sense of peace and a way forward with a list of tools we have to prevent foodborne illness in our homes and communities.

I hope you feel better equipped to improve your own health and keep your own home and family safe and healthy in your own cooking endeavors.

What I'm Bringing to the Farmer's Market this Week!

My friend Helen, from Wheatland! She will be bringing some of her free-range eggs from her beautiful chickens (since we have been selling out before the end of the market every week, I hope this gives some folks who cannot make it to the market as early, a chance to get some really tasty eggs!)

Helen will also be bringing Fresh Goat's Milk from her nubian goats.

I will also have Fresh Cow's Milk with priority given to those who pre-order by replying to this email.

I will also have Grill Bundles again this week.

Beef Snack Packs- including Jerky, Snack Sticks, and Summer Sausage.

and Beef Bouquets with handmade Wildflower Mugs from Sadie Winters here in Laramie.

If you have any special requests, please send me an email and I will do my best to accommodate them!

Until next week, when I will write some more about a couple other food safety strategies, what they are missing, and what is maybe a bit irrelevant... In the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts.

-BJ, Peter, and the Taste of the Wind Crew

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