Tracing the “mystery meat” back to the farm


Wednesday update: The school district has verified that none of its 15 beef products come from Westland Meat Co.


Amid the frenzy over the largest beef recall in the nation’s history, Oakland school district officials appear calm and collected. After all, the district moved to stop serving beef – temporarily – nearly three weeks ago after allegations of animal abuse arose about Westland Meat Co., and no health problems have been reported.

Troy Flint, the district’s spokesman, says Oakland is in a better position than many other school districts. Years ago, it was part of a USDA pilot program that gave lunch ladies cash to buy meat from vendors, rather than relying on the government’s commodity supply that contained much of the now-recalled meat.

(Of the 143 million pounds of recalled meat, about 37 million went to school lunches and other public food programs.)

Here’s the catch: Modern agribusiness is so complicated that after weeks of investigation, Oakland’s food services staff have yet to confirm the origins of three of its 15 beef dishes. So, until all of the items from all of its six vendors are cleared, school lunches in Oakland will make do without the mystery meat.

What do you think? Should Oakland schools continue to serve beef after this public health fiasco, or should they stick to turkey burgers?

image from Katsoulis’s profile on flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Sue

    Stick to turkey, maybe.

    I grew up on a family farm. I’ve eaten beef, pork, chicken, turkey, goose, duck, and rabbit that my family raised.

    All, absolutely all, types of meat can be mishandled during butchering and processing and can become unsafe to eat.

    My kids are still eating school lunches, but not because of overwhelming confidence that the food will always be good. The simple fact is that eating anything one didn’t raise oneself, involves trusting that some unknown people will be responsible for the wholesomeness of the food.

    Remember the E. coli contamination of spinach last year? Maybe we need more school gardens supplying school lunches. Maybe we can figure out a way to have FFA and 4-H livestock projects at urban schools.

    Or maybe we just have to *hope* that the grocery stores and the schools aren’t going to poison us all one day.