Your government hates you: meat recalls forever  »

What is going on with meat inspection? In the past month, there’ve been seven recalls due to listeria contamination, three because of E. coli, and three for salmonella, nearly 36,723,700 pounds of food, almost of it meat. The number’s sort of enormous thanks to Cargill’s recall of 36 million pounds of “ground turkey products” on Aug. 3 because of salmonella contamination. Disgusting.

How does this contamination even happen? The Centers for Disease Control have a section on food-borne illnesses that’s pretty helpful, though their explanation for how foods become contaminated isn’t super-illuminating:

Many foodborne microbes are present in healthy animals (usually in their intestines) raised for food. Meat and poultry carcasses can become contaminated during slaughter by contact with small amounts of intestinal contents. Similarly, fresh fruits and vegetables can be contaminated if they are washed or irrigated with water that is contaminated with animal manure or human sewage.

Right, we know that, CDC. It’d be nice to know how the shit-water gets to the produce, or how the carcasses come into “contact with small amounts” of unexpressed poop. Over a century since The Jungle exposed the horrible conditions of the meatpacking industry and people are still getting shit teeming with bacteria in our food. You think after another 100 years the agriculture industry will stop making us sick?


The meat industry is terrifying, and it knows it!  »

According to Gene Baur’s blog,* some of the most-read articles of 2010 on are the following:

"Bomb found in employee locker at Hormel plant"
"Man dies after fall at Cargill beef plant"
"Worker killed at Wis. beef plant"
"Worker loses legs in meat grinder accident"

The violence, you guys, the violence! Obviously the meat industry is violence, but the workers are subjected to horrific conditions and are any of them even unionized? Not from what I can tell. Obviously we’re socialist lunatics over here and believe very strongly in the power of unions and The Worker, but for real, if you want safer meat, omnivores, you want the people in charge of the animals you’re eating—as in, from kill to cuts—to be physically able to follow Food Safety and Inspection Services guidelines. But of course, unionized workers have to be paid a decent wage and provided with safe working conditions, both of which items cost money, and how are you gonna get your $5 Meat Lover’s pizza if the people working the sausage grinders aren’t at risk of losing their limbs?

The most infuriating part is that the white-collar workers in the meat industry knows this; they write about these issues themselves and apparently read all about it—but they refuse to do anything about it. Lobbyists fight against safety regulations, corporations refuse to spend any money to care for their workers beyond the bare minimum; we’ve read our generation’s The Jungle and ignored its warnings. Everyone has. And now look what we’ve got: the industry knows it’s corrupt and disgusting, and it apparently doesn’t care.

*We’d link to them, but there’s a ridiculously involved registration process to access hardly anything on Meating Place, and your Vegansaurus neither wanted to invent an elaborate false identity, nor share so many personal details with “an online meat industry site,” so we’re trusting our hero Gene Baur on this.

[photo by Lachlan Hardy]


Jenn Shagrin of Veganize It…Don’t Criticize It and new cookbook Veganize This!  »

Introducing Jenn Shagrin (aka, Jenn Shaggy!) from the fantastic vegan blog/vegan blog with BEST NAME EVER, Veganize It…Don’t Criticize It! and the upcoming cookbook, Veganize This!. We love her and her blog, her new cookbook appears to be UNSANE; this lady can veganize pretty much anything and her recipes freak us out, in a totally good way. You need to get to know her and then buy her book and bookmark her blog and be a better/fatter person because of it!

Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal rights reasons, or a combination?
I’m definitely a vegan for a combination of reasons. First and foremost, I’m against cruelty to animals of any kind. I even feel guilty when I have to yell at my dog for chewing up my undies. I also don’t want to contribute to the negative impact that animal-product consumption has on the environment. As for health reasons, that’s probably the lowest on the list. It’s great that I’ll most likely have low cholesterol, but I also occasionally veganize some fried or comfort foodie goodness, so I’ll leave it up to chance.

How long have you been vegan? Why did you become vegan?
I’ve been a vegan for about six years now. My path to veganism started many moons ago when I read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and realized exactly where that steak on my plate was sourced. Reading that book sparked my interest in animal rights, and vegetarianism onto veganism seemed the obvious path to travel. My best friend going vegetarian in our early teens additionally motivated me to cut meat out initially, then meeting my first vegan friend when I moved to California helped me realize I could make the full transition.

Do you have any companion animals? Where are they from?
I have two adorable dogs. Izzy, a Cairn terrier mix, who we rescued from a shelter here in Los Angeles. He’s a lucky dog, as he was abandoned as a puppy and fell ill with parvo. He’s definitely our little survivor. Our second dog, Pepper, we rescued from Louisiana just days before he was going to be dropped off at the pound. He’s a Miniature Pinscher mix, but believes he’s the size of a Bullmastiff.

Do you have any super-cute photos of animals to share with us? Favorite animal videos on YouTube?
Here’s a great picture of our pups laying together. All right, maybe it’s a little TMI (which you’re used to if you read my blog), but they’re total gay lovers.

What is your favorite animal? I know, this one is REALLY TOUGH.
Well punch me in the gut and call me sissy, because I couldn’t pick one from the other. Actually, I take that back. My family’s dog, a bluetick Beagle named Farfel, was my favorite animal ever. He was such a bad ass. No one could tell him what to do.

When did you start Veganize It…Don’t Criticize It!? What’s your favorite recipe from the blog?
I started Veganize It…Don’t Criticize It! in April of 2008. It’s my weekly creative release. My current favorite recipe is the "Turkey," Tarragon, and "Mascarpone" Lasagna, but that’ll probably change in about a week, so you may want to check back.

How did your upcoming cookbook, Veganize This! come about? What’s your favorite recipe from the book?
Veganize This!
 was definitely the spawn of my blog. Everyone I knew kept asking why on earth I didn’t just put all my recipes and ramblings together, and I finally just sat down and compiled the first manuscript in two very sleepless weeks. The process of finding a literary agent and publisher happened so fast after that, I’m inclined to believe someone sprinkled fairy dust on my mom’s womb prior to my birth. My favorite recipe has to be a fusion dish called "Chicken" Marsala Masala with Fresh Morels. It’s divine.

What’s your favorite other vegan cookbook?
To be perfectly honest (and I’ll probably get my ass kicked for this one), I don’t read a lot of vegan cookbooks because I’m so focused on veganizing the un-vegan. But if I had to pick just one, I’d have to say Vegan with a Vengeance. It really inspired me.

Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant? 
This also changes constantly, but as of late, Masa of Echo Park’s vegan Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza is off the chain.

Favorite vegan restaurant?
In Los Angeles, I’m a huge fan of Madeleine Bistro and Vinh Loi Tofu. Not only is the cuisine amazing at both, but I highly respect the chefs that run both establishments.

Are you willing to have Vegansaurus over and cook us a vegan feast? If so, what day?
No. Haha…gotcha! Of course I will. Next time I go visit my parents in SF, I’ll whip up a buffet.

Any questions for Vegansaurus? Anything!
Boxers or briefs? Wait, wait. I can do better. What am I missing out on food-wise when I visit SF? What’s the best of the best? Some of my favorites are MillenniumIke’s Place, Herbivore and Cha-Ya…just so you know where I’ve already hit up. (Ed.; That’s hard! Email me and let me know what your favorite kind of food is and I’ll customize a  SF restaurant guide for you!)

Yay, thanks Jenn! Check out our other Vegansaurus interviews and apply to be interviewed YOURSELF! Just email and we’ll totally interview your fascinating ass.

[All photos from Jenn Shagrin, except that delicious Vihn Loi Tofu shot from quarrygirl!]


Movie review: Meat, the thinking person’s slaughterhouse documentary  »

This is a pretty obscure film, but I’ve LOVED Frederick Wiseman’s documentaries* ever since I saw Welfare in law school. So when I learned he once pointed his camera at the inner workings of a slaughterhouse and meatpacking facility in 1970s Massachusetts, I knew I had to watch it. Not only does Wiseman show cattle and lambs rounded up, fed, slaughtered, and turned into meat products, but we also see footage of animal auctions, the rather mundane administration of the company, labor meetings, and marketing discussions—Meat made me feel like I was a part of every aspect of a meatpacking company.

Wiseman refuses to provide narration, thereby forcing the viewer to take what they will from Meat. Thus, the movie plays like a seemingly unbiased, unemotional exposé of an industry typically unexposed to the vast majority of the country. The veil between animal and meat product is the disconnect animal rights activists fight against on a daily basis—despite what the dairy industry would have you believe, I’m pretty sure none of their cows in California are happy. In lifting the veil, Meat felt to me like a precursor to PETA videos. But while that horrific footage will never find their way into a high school classroom or aired on television due to their overtly politicized message, Wiseman presents Meat so evenhandedly that one could actually imagine such market penetration, much to the meat industry’s dismay.

But oh dear god; watching Meat is no less unsettling. Trust me when I say Wiseman doesn’t pull any punches. I’m stating the obvious, but the slaughterhouse scenes are beyond ghastly. I can’t describe my revulsion at watching a cow’s skin, intestines and head being ripped from its body. I’m bracing myself for the inevitable nightmares; the film’s visceral impact is crushing.

I also have to admit feeling really bad for the employees on the slaughterhouse floor, dismembering cows for 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. Can you imagine the psychic trauma of that job? The Texas Chainsaw Massacre analogized slaughterhouse workers to a nation besieged by bloody images from Vietnam for very, very good reason. You might think “Well, they should just get another job,” but keep in mind that it’s rarely a seamless process to transfer jobs, particularly in this job market, particularly in certain parts of the country and especially for the undereducated. Anyhow, in addition to screaming “WHY ARE THEY CUTTING UP THAT VERY CUTE LAMB?” Meat also made me ponder the abusive psychological and economic power dynamic involved in the production of every steak.

Put it this way: if PETA videos are the porno of animal abuse videos, designed to grab the viewer’s attention and heighten their emotions, Meat is the calm, investigative PBS special. This is the thinking person’s slaughterhouse documentary—there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write—best for educating your friends and family about the reality of meat production and animal commodification. In this respect, I thought Meat was an utterly engrossing masterpiece. Alternately, in the sense that Meat required me to watch a lot of grisly, gruesome footage of harmless creatures being killed and dismembered like a real-life horror movie, I really hated it.

Damn. Someone owes me some vegan booze for making it through this one! I promise my next installment will be more upbeat! [Ed note: If you would like to watch Meat, Jonas reports having seen a copy at Lost Weekend Video.]

*Wiseman’s fantastic La Danse: Paris Opera Ballet is currently playing at the Roxie. Don’t miss it!

Zach Cincotta is a vegan movie obsessive who, along with his vegan brother, discusses his thoughts on every movie he watches at Le Souvenir d’un avenir. When he’s not slowly burning out his projector bulb, Zach is an entertainment and business attorney representing awesome bands, record labels, and other small businesses. His previous movie reviews for Vegansaurus can be found here, you can contact him here, and follow him on Twitter here. Phew.

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