Recently I received a letter from a Tallgrass customer who was concerned about the danger of E. coli bacteria in beef because of this article in The New York Times. Here is her letter and my response:
I just read a very frightening article about the processing of ground beef products in the New York Times. My family enjoys your beef products, but after reading this article, I am concerned about how your hamburgers/ground beef are processed. Do you have your own processing facility? Do you test the beef before grinding for E. coli contamination? Has Tallgrass ever had recall or had a claim filled against it for illness due to possible contamination of its beef products? I look forward to your reply.
Good Morning Suzanne,
I read the same article, and I can assure you that there is nothing to worry about with Tallgrass Beef. There are several reasons why you can feel very safe with our ground beef:
1. We do not use a large corporate-owned processing plant, but rather a local family-owned processing plant. Almost all of the recalls and issues come from the large corporate-owned plants. Small, family-run plants tend to be very clean and sanitary. Our plant is 100% USDA Inspected.
2. Grass-fed cattle are inherently free of the pathogenic forms of E. coli (0157:H7 is the pathogenic strain that causes the majority of the recalls and sickness). Because our cattle are not fed grain and are not confined to feedlots, they are relatively clean, both inside and out. The majority of E. coli comes into processing plants on the dirty hides of grain-fed feedlot cattle and in their gut. The pathogenic forms of E. coli are acid-resistant strains that cannot exist in the guts of grass-fed cattle. Grain feeding changes the gut pH from a more neutral pH to an acidic pH. This is what allows the acid-resistant E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria to grow and thrive. (Read more about this.)
3. Our cattle are the very first cattle processed each day in the family-owned plant we use. That means they are not mixed with any other cattle and the plant is completely clean and sanitary when our cattle are processed. There is no chance of cross-contamination between our cattle and other cattle.
4. The plant we use is heavily inspected and routinely audited to assure safe, wholesome meat processing. They have passed, with very high marks, every audit ever conducted at the plant. They are also routinely audited for animal care and welfare, plus worker safety and welfare.
5. Even with all of these safeguards and checks and balances, we do still test EVERY single batch of hamburger produced to be certain there is NO presence of any pathogenic bacteria or other pathogenic organisms. EVERY batch of our product comes with what is called a COA or Certificate of Analysis, guaranteeing that the meat is free of pathogens and perfectly safe to eat.
6. We have NEVER had a recall of any of our products, nor has anyone ever filed a complaint of sickness.
7. We have a complete traceback system in place that allows us to trace every pound of beef that we produce back to the processing plant, to the farm where it was born and raised, to the individual animal, and to the specific date of processing. (Read more about this.)
8. Finally, Tallgrass Beef is the ONLY beef that my family eats. We do not have any other beef products in our home and have not since the inception of Tallgrass Beef Company. I do have children at home and they eat no beef but Tallgrass Beef.
If you need further information, please do not hesitate to contact me. We care greatly about our customers and do appreciate your concern and your inquiry.
Tallgrass Beef Company, LLC