Activities for Module III Fur, Feathers, and Fins – Animals in our food
Activities for Section E: Regulation and handling of animal products
Activity 1: Where do you put the groceries?
Purpose: Students will put together the practical knowledge they already have about food safety and animal products.
Advance preparation: None
Estimated time: 5 to 10 minutes
Ask students the following questions:
Imagine you are putting away the groceries. Where do you put the following items? (You can write each item on a sticky note and ask students to place them on the board under one of 3 headings (refrigerator, freezer, pantry), or you can draw a refrigerator and freezer and some shelves on the board. Feel free to add to the list.)
- Bulk rolled oats
- Canned peaches
- Ground beef
- Ice cream
- Vegetable oil
Why did you choose to put certain items in the refrigerator or freezer, and others in an uncooled storage place? What types of items did you put in the refrigerator? What would happen if you did not put them in the refrigerator or freezer?
Now say you are hungry. Which items would you have to prepare before you would eat them? What type of preparation would you have to do? (Wash? Cook? Other?) Why do you have to do this preparation?
Are there differences between the way we treat animal-based foods and the way we treat plant-based foods? If so, what are they and why?
We typically cook some plant products such as the oats, onions, pasta, and potatoes for improved tenderness, digestibility, or flavor, but with very few exceptions we would not expect to get sick from eating them raw. However, we cook or otherwise process most animal products because we might get sick from eating them raw. This is not because the animal products are inherently unhealthy raw*, but because they are more likely to contain or grow pathogens without noticeable changes in appearance or flavor. Because they are relatively likely to host human pathogens, they are subject to much more regulation and oversight in the food system than most plant products.
Similarly, we cool some plant products to preserve them longer, but we are not as concerned about keeping them cooled as we are for animal products (except for heavily processed items such as beef jerky or hard cheeses).
Fruits and vegetables can carry pathogens, but usually thorough washing of the surface with clean water is sufficient to remove the pathogens. However, cantaloupes, unpasteurized apple juice, alfalfa sprouts, and imported raspberries are examples of fruits and vegetables that have been associated with serious incidents of foodborne illness from surface contamination.
*Under certain conditions people do eat raw animal products with no ill effects. Japanese eat raw fish as a delicacy, traditional mayonnaise and mousse are made with raw eggs, and recipes for raw ground beef (called tartar steak in the US and boef americain (American beef) in France) can be found in cookbooks from 40 or more years ago.
Activity 2: What Are the Rules?
Purpose: Students will exercise critical reading and problem solving skills to learn about the regulations covering direct marketing of animal products.
Advance preparation: Get the summary of rules on direct-marketing meats for your state and make copies. A summary Wisconsin’s rules is at http://datcp.state.wi.us/fs/business/food/publications/pdf/dfs-6036-0401.pdf, and a summary of Iowa’s rules is available at http://www.agriculture.state.ia.us/meat&poultry.htm (click on “the basics”).
Estimated time: 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on whether you cover the discussion questions as well as the scenarios.
Read scenario 1 to the class:
Peter and Vanessa raise Angus cattle. Their cows and steers are on pasture pretty much year-round, they use no hormones or antibiotics, and their beef tastes great. Several friends and neighbors have said they would be interested in buying their beef. Peter and Vanessa are frustrated with the often low prices they have received for their steers over the past ten years, and they want to explore direct-marketing their beef at a local farmer’s market.
Ask the class to figure out what Peter and Vanessa need to do based on the summary rules they have. If necessary, help them answer the question using the key below.
- Because they do not plan to sell their meat across state lines and they live in a state that offers state meat inspection, they can use the local state-inspected meat processing/locker plant. These small plants handle small numbers of livestock and are willing to work with livestock producers that want to direct market their meats. Even though state inspected plants follow the same rules and regulations as do USDA/FSIS (federally) inspected plants, the product produced at state-inspected plants can not be sold across state lines. Federally-inspected plants are usually large-scale operations that are not willing to handle and track small numbers of livestock, however some smaller ones are willing to work with small-scale livestock producers.
- Because they will be selling at a farmers market, they need to meet state regulations for retail sale of meat. These regulations are similar in Iowa and Wisconsin. First of all, the animals must be butchered in a state-inspected processing facility. The state department of agriculture maintains a list of state-inspected meat processors. State-inspected meat processors are regulated and inspected by an agency in the state department of agriculture or health or inspections. The processing of beef includes: butchering, cutting/processing the carcass into cuts (roasts, steaks, ground beef, etc.), weighing, packaging, labeling, freezing and storage.
- Meat must be packaged and labeled at the plant. Meat is sold by weight and must be weighed on a state-inspected scale. The producer can have the meat weighed at the processing plant, or they can use an inspected scale to weigh the meat themselves.
- The processing plant will put its label on the meat packages. If Peter and Vanessa also want to put their own label on the meat packages, this is called a 3rd party private label. They will need to work directly with the plant to design the label so that it meets all regulatory requirements. The 3rd party label will need to be submitted to the state meat inspection agency for review and approval. Any claims on the label must be submitted with documentation that supports the claims to be true to the state inspection agency at the time the label is reviewed (or the USDA/FSIS if they use a federally-inspected plant). There are special US Department of Agriculture definitions for many of the terms they might want to use on the label. (See http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Meat_&_Poultry_Labeling_Terms/index.asp, http://www.newhope.com/nfm-online/nfm_backs/btl_03/meat.cfm, http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_environment/sustainable_agriculture/page.cfm?pageID=1266.
- For Peter and Vanessa to sell and/or store their product from home they must store the meat in an inspected and approved storage facility. This facility can be as simple as a dedicated freezer chest that meets temperature standards or as elaborate as a walk-in cooler with temperature monitoring and an automatic alarm system should the temperature go above a certain level. Storage during transport and at the market must also be approved. Storage of products is usually regulated by the local/county health inspector or state agency, so requirements may vary. In many places a well-insulated cooler with dry ice is considered sufficient for short term storage, but some areas require mechanical refrigeration to transport and store product.
- They should check with their county government to see if the county regulates direct marketing of agricultural products, including meat. The county health inspector should be able to tell them whether the county has additional requirements.
- Finally, they must contact the market manager for the farmers market to find out what special requirements the market may have for the sale of meat. Each market has its own rules that all vendors must follow. The market manager may also know if the local government has regulations on the sale of meat.
The decision of which plant should processes Peter and Vanessa’s beef is an important business decision. What factors do they need to consider when they select a plant?
- Will it allow them to sell in the markets they want to reach?
- How far is the plant from the farm? How far from their markets?
- Will the plant accommodate their wishes? (for example, how they want the meat butchered and packaged, when they need the work done, and any additional services they may want, such as storage or development of a special label)
- Is the plant reliable? Is it clean?
- How much do they charge for processing?
- Do they get along with the people at the plant?
You can handle scenario 2 in the same way as scenario 1, or you can ask the students to figure and write down the answers on their own or in small groups.
Joe started raising chickens as a 4-H project a few years ago. The family ate the chickens themselves, and enjoyed the flavor so much that Joe has been raising a batch every year since. Word of Joe’s chickens has spread, and now Joe is considering expanding his production so he can sell some to friends and neighbors. What will Joe need to do?
- Most states, including Iowa and Wisconsin, allow farmers to butcher and sell up to 1,000 chickens on their farm without state licensing. So, if Joe is willing to do all the butchering himself and if he does not plan to raise more than 1,000 birds per year, he can take this route. The packages should be labeled “not inspected” and should have Joe’s name and address on them. These birds can only be sold from the farm to household consumers (end users that will not resell the birds).
- If Joe decides that he does not enjoy butchering chickens, in Wisconsin he can take them to a licensed poultry processing facility* to have them killed, plucked, cleaned, packaged, and labeled. As long as Joe sells all the chickens directly to the end consumer and does not handle more than 1,000 birds per year, he does not have to get any other approvals. If the processing plant is not state-inspected, the packages should be labeled “not inspected” and should have Joe’s name and address on them.
- If Joe lives in Iowa or if he decides to handle more than 1,000 chickens or if he wants to sell to anyone who will re-sell them, such as a restaurant or store, he will have to get the chickens processed in a state-inspected plant and meet much the same requirements as Peter and Vanessa have to for their beef sales.
- A licensed or custom processing facility is periodically inspected by the state to ensure that it is clean and set up in a way to minimize health risks. A state-inspected or official processing facility, is one where a state inspector looks at all the animals both before and after butchering to check that they appear free of disease. All state-inspected facilities are also licensed. For more information on regulation of meat processing in Iowa click on “The Basics” at http://www.agriculture.state.ia.us/meat&poultry.htm. The Iowa Family Farm Meats Directory lists many farmers who direct market meat products http://www.agriculture.state.ia.us/meatdirectory1.htm. For more information on direct marketing meat and poultry in Wisconsin see http://datcp.state.wi.us/fs/business/food/publications/pdf/dfs-6036-0401.pdf or http://datcp.state.wi.us/fs/business/food/publications/.
What is the purpose of all this regulation?
This regulation is intended to protect the public from unsafe or poor quality meat. Rules on meat processing were initially passed partly in response to public outrage over the disgusting conditions in packing plants described in Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle published in 1906, but also in response to pressure from large processing companies concerned about the export market (see http://vi.uh.edu/pages/buzzmat/htdtisupton.html).
Why does it make a difference how many chickens are being sold?
There is not a good answer to this question, and in fact different states set very different limits on the number of chickens the farmer can kill and sell on the farm without using a licensed facility. Perhaps there was a sense that if the farmer is handling more than a certain number of birds the business goes from a casual “friends and neighbors” status to a more anonymous commercial enterprise. Still, that does not explain why some states make that number as low as 1000 birds, while others allow up to 20,000.
Why does it make a difference whether the chickens are sold directly to the consumer or to a store or restaurant?
If the meat is sold directly to the consumer, then the consumer will have an opportunity to ask the farmer about the chickens, and the buyer will also see the packaging with the stamp saying the chickens were not inspected. Thus, the idea is the consumers will have access to the information they need to decide if the chicken is safe. If they are served the chicken in a restaurant or if they buy it in a store, they have no reasonable way of getting that information.
Scenario 3 should be handled as a guided class discussion, since the summary of meat rules does not address the rules covering dairy products.
Emily has a small goat dairy. She has been selling her milk to a nearby cheese co-op. Recently, she has had calls from several people interested in purchasing raw goat milk at a very attractive price. What does she need to do to accommodate these potential customers?
- Neither Iowa nor Wisconsin allow the sale of raw milk, because of concerns that the milk could contain pathogens such as listeria or salmonella.
- Some consumers believe that raw milk from healthy cows is more nutritious than pasteurized milk (http://www.veggieplace.com/animals/articles.asp?cid=235). To serve these people a few farms in Wisconsin have instituted “cow share” programs (http://www.realmilk.com/where2.html). The idea is that several consumers buy shares in a cow, entitling them to a certain number of gallons each week of milk from that animal. Because they are part owners of the cow, the milk is technically not being sold to them and so is not subject to laws requiring pasteurization. A similar set-up might work for goats. However, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection now seeks to prohibit these arrangements, although they initially approved them (http://www.realmilk.com/happening.html, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5125a2.htm). The state of Iowa stopped a cow share arrangement through the courts, and no such arrangements are listed in the state.
- There are several farmers both in Wisconsin and Iowa who direct market dairy products processed on their farm, such as cheese, pasteurized milk, and pasteurized milk products like yogurt, cream, and ice cream mix.