I have so much catching up to do here on my little blog, but before I can think about doing that I have to get something off my chest that has been driving me crazy with fury for quite some time now.
My husband is a lorry driver. He worked for a very long time in general haulage, but when we moved up to Yorkshire the type of work he does changed, as the area we live in produces more in the way of food and aggregates.
For several years he drove a milk tanker, and frankly the stories that he came home with about the way our milk is collected and stored would regularly set my teeth on edge. It made a difference to his buying habits both at home and out on the road. I’m not going to name any names, but let’s just say that he wouldn’t buy a cup of tea from certain hot drinks franchises in motorway services because he knew exactly where the milk came from and what shocking quality it was.
Milk tankers are supposed to be thoroughly washed out every 24 hours. In reality, this doesn’t always happen. One particular dairy would happily take milk from tankers that hadn’t been washed in 5 or 6 days.
Before milk is pumped into the collection tanks at the dairies, samples have to be taken from the tanker and lab tested. In many dairies, tipping of milk took place before the sample results had come through. Effectively this means that an entire silo of milk could be contaminated by a bad batch. How many companies would scrap such a silo? Not many.
One particular dairy would take milk, even if it had failed its lab sample for antibiotics, theoretically this shouldn’t be able to happen, but the safety system was bypassed by a simple to execute fraud – if the sample failed, they would simply take a sample from another tanker and record that as the result!
Now organic milk ‘should’ avoid contamination with these products, as each time a tanker was to carry organic milk, the pipes and the tanker, should have been washed out. In practice, this doesn’t always happen, although in fairness certain dairies were very strict on this.
In recent years my husband has been driving a tipper lorry, mostly with stone, sand and salt, however he has started to work for a couple of companies who do mixed loads, including animal feed.
If you consider that, as Michael Pollen says:
“You are what what you eat eats”
then as health concious consumers of meat, we should be worried. As ethical consumers, we should be gravely concerned.
My husband, having delivered animal feed, is adamant that we absolutely must buy only organic meat because he knows that none of the feed that he has delivered, would be allowed to be fed to registered organic animals.
Distilled wheat – waste from whiskey distilleries delivered direct to farms from the distilleries – at a push, not SO terrible, but surely hardly healthy food for ruminants?
Stored, distilled wheat – not entirely sure of the provenance of this, but presumably it comes from distilleries and is stored. During storage mould grows on the top of the wheat, this mould is scraped off before being delivered to farms. Not great, but not horrendous, I suppose… However, some farmers buy the scrapings. Yes, some farmers buy the mouldy residue, not the ‘clean’ stuff underneath, but the mould ridden scrapings that ought to be classified as waste, and feed that to their animals.
The floor sweepings from dock warehouses storing rice for human consumption. This includes all manner of detritus including dead vermin and their faeces.
The next one my husband could not simply not believe.
Have you ever thought about what happens to the stale, mouldy, out of date bread that supermarkets have left over? At least some of it is ground up and turned into animal feed. Not THAT bad, I suppose. Except that the plastic wrappers aren’t removed, so the animals are eating not only the left over bread products, but a fairly hefty quantity of plastics too. Funnily enough, DH delivered some of this feed to a dairy farmer that he had collected milk from years ago, a farm that was notorious for producing very poor quality milk and having very poorly looked after stock. Figures, huh?
Maybe it’s just us, maybe you’re happy for the animals you eat, to eat (quite literally in some cases) shit. We’re not though, and whilst we know that eating organic doesn’t offer a 100% guarantee of avoiding contamination with these types of things, it a least gives you a fighting chance of eating well cared for, well fed meat, and the more people who are prepared to spend their money buying organic, the more farmers will feel that they can confidently move over to a more humane and healthier way of food production.
I just cannot fathom how, particularly in a country that has suffered terrible losses from BSE and foot and mouth disease, we haven’t learnt the lesson that it is imperative to feed and care for our livestock in the best manner possible because the consequences for not doing that are just too high to pay.
Have we been fooled by things like the British Tractor symbol and Freedom Foods into thinking that we have a food industry that cares about more than profit?
What do you think? Are you happier paying more for organic food? Has this post shocked you, or did you already know that these are common practices? Let me know in the comments section, and take our poll, I’m really interested to know what you think about this important issue.