BY EMILY MAIN
The flame will sear off any bacteria on the outside of your steak, but it won't kill bugs that were driven in by tenderization.
The meat industry has a lot of dirty little secrets. Chicken producers add the carcinogenic heavy metal arsenic to chicken feed to speed growth. Poultry producers "enhance" their meats with brines that keep the meat moist when cooking but expose you to so much potassium that doctors are worried it could be raising rates of kidney failure. And beef producers routinely use a process called mechanical tenderization that increases the likelihood that you'll be exposed to dangerous E. coli bacteria.
But the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just proposed a new rule that could eliminate some of the risk of that last one. The agency has decided that any cuts of beef that have been mechanically tenderized need to be labeled so consumers can treat them carefully. The rule would also require beef producers to provide instructions on how to cook such beef so that any and all bacteria would be killed. 9 Appalling Facts about Meat
Mechanical tenderization is a risky process, born out of a dirty, unsustainable beef production system. The heavy use of antibiotics and the reliance on corn and other grains as feed produce tough meat, Sarah Klein, a senior attorney in the food-safety program at Centers for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), told Rodale News earlier this year. So before that meat is sold, it's pierced with needles or blades that help cut tough muscle fibers. However, in doing so, she says, those needles or blades drive any bacteria that may be living on the exterior of a piece of meat farther into the flesh. So when that filet or T-bone reaches the restaurant and you order it medium-rare, the bacteria on the outside—usually E. coli—will be killed when the steak is seared, but any E. coli that was driven into the flesh of the meat by needles or blades will continue to thrive.
The new labeling requirements will, at the very least, alert you to cuts of beef that have been tenderized so you (or the chef at your favorite restaurant) will know that those cuts need special handling. According to CSPI, you should cook mechanically tenderized beef until the internal temperature is at least 145ºF (160ºF is safest) and then let it rest for 3 minutes to let the heat destroy any lingering bacteria.How Dirty is the Meat You Eat?
That simple difference in handling could save your life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked five separate E. coli outbreaks back to mechanically tenderized beef in the last 10 years, and in its own independent evaluations, CSPI has determined that half of the 82 outbreaks attributable to steak were caused by E. coli, the bacteria most likely to worm its way inside a mechanically tenderized cut of beef.
The new labels are currently undergoing a 60-day comment period, after which the USDA will determine when they should go into effect.
Until that happens, stick with grass-fed beef, which is raised with neither antibiotics nor corn and therefore, doesn't need to be mechanically tenderized. Buy from farmers certified by the American Grassfed Association.
The New Meat Label that Could Save Your Life | Rodale News