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Letters, Nov. 29, 2012

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Cleanliness and efficiency strange bedfellows

I would like to ask those who think food should be irradiated — why is it that we now have to irradiate the food?

For decades people would get their meat from Mr. Butcher who was a member of the community and made sure his killing floor was very clean. Mr. Butcher did not need the government to supervise him because he had pride and an obligation to his clients.

Eventually Mr. Butcher sold his business to Mr. Corporation. At first things remained the same, but then Mr. Corporation realized it could have more money for the shareholders if it didn’t hire so many people to keep the place spotless.

People got sick, so the government stepped in and dispatched a big number of qualified meat inspectors who did make sure the food remained safe. Then when recessions and deficits happened, the government told all the Mr. Corporations they were good citizens and would have to do the inspections themselves without supervision.

Well it did not take long for Mr. Corporation to realize efficiency and not cleanliness was the way to go, so we ended up with the XL disaster. Our extended family lost a young man because the company he was working for did not require its employees to wear safety hats and be tethered when working on steel bins. It is a fact that business will not promote safety of its employees or customers if it is not forced to do it by inspectors.

Instead of asking to irradiate the food that will only mask the problem, why not require the food be properly prepared in the first place? Instead, we encourage the plants to keep producing the food we eat in a pigsty environment because, as disgusting as it might be, it won’t get you sick.

I’m not against irradiating the food if the plant is inspected by competent outside inspectors to certify the meat is cleanly processed. However, in the meat industry cleanliness and efficiency are strange bedfellows.

Claude Bisson

Brunkild, Man.

Some problems have no solutions

The hog business has always been cyclical. I recall a farmer back in the 1940s who must have been in and out of pigs three or four times in the decade. The price would rise and he would rush out and buy sows, paying top price. But then the price would drop before he was able to market the offspring and he would clear out the whole lot. Then a year or so later, he would start the process all over again.

But his little saga didn’t really matter, because the country was full of farmers who kept pigs for the long haul. And that’s the point. The country was full of farmers.

They grew their own feed and sometimes the pigs didn’t make the price of the barley that went into them, other times the price of barley was multiplied. Everybody who wanted pork was able to buy it, and it probably tasted better than what is grown today.

Then corporations got into the act. Corporations have a very simple philosophy: buy as low as possible, sell as high as possible, and get absolute control wherever you can.

Governments being made up of politicians, like corporations because they are an excellent source of campaign funds and they are usually easier to deal with than a bunch of farmers.

Industrial farming has, notwithstanding the fervid rants of our hyperventilating Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, a very serious downside. To satisfy the simple requirements of corporate pork, the less farmers they must deal with, the better. This then requires that those farmers within the corporate circle of blessing must not be very numerous.

This in turn requires that they must be pretty big, and have spacious facilities. This in turn, multiplies the risk.

So do I have an answer? No. And I doubt anybody else has one, unless we can roll back time and put a farmer with a few sows on every half section. Industrial farming can have problems for which there are no solutions.

John Beckham

Winnipeg, Man.

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