Problem of Scale

Claim: “If you buy a pound of ground beef in the supermarket, you’re buying a composite of hundreds if not thousands of cows.  And so, if any one of those cows had e-coli problems, it’s all mixed up in that same batch and then it goes out in every direction to many states.  It’s a problem of scale.”  

Fact-check-  In an interview with Dr. Robert Tauxe, the Chief of the Food-borne and Diarrheal Diseases Branch of the Centers for Disease Control, PBS questioned Dr. Tauxe about these exact claims.  In the interview, Dr. Tauxe pointed to the changes that have been occurring in the meat industry over the last 50 years.  One major change is the growing size of operations.  This lends itself to the possibility of bacterial or pathogenic spread.  When the meat itself is ground up, bacteria is pooled within a large quantity of meat.  When asked how many animals make up a single burger, Dr. Tauxe replied, “I suspect there are hundreds or even thousands of animals that have contributed to a single hamburger.”


Link to resource:

PBS interview with Dr. Tauxe about meat

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