That's a lot of meat. Meat used in school lunch programs, meat sold in supermarkets. The largest recall in US food history. And I have just one question:
Of the millions of pounds in circulation (most of which has already been consumed), not one person reported getting sick.
Not one of the thousands of cows that entered the slaughterhouse was ever diagnosed with an illness that is transmissable to human beings through consumption.
So why the hysteria and recall?
Nasty videotapes. Videos that upset us, because cows were shown to be lame, or being dragged or pushed with forklifts. For anyone with a heart for animals, the tape was upsetting.
But that doesnt mean that the public is at danger.
Every serious economist knows that Perfection is not an option in any endeavor. In huge corn silos, an occasional mouse will turn up and ground up along with the corn. In fields of broccoli, an occasional worm might get ground up with the veggies before being thrown into the frozen food aisle. That is the reality of life; and while it might make us squeamish, it is not a legitimate reason for society to incur enormous costs in an effort to 'make the icky go away.'
Even if the video showed 100 lame cows, that is a drop in the bucket compared to the volume of meat processed at that plant over the years. Even if the cows were diseased (as opposed to lame), there is no evidence that they carried diseases that could be contracted by humans. And two years after the incident, no one has reported any outbreak of illness attributable to this plant or lot of meat.
Slaughterhouses are not pleasant places. They smell awful, and are pits of blood and hair and warm organ smells...and generally pretty sickening places to the uninitiated. But our revulsion at them should not be the basis of sound decision-making.
The costs of this recall are astronomical, and widespread: the meat company is not the only one incurring those costs. Retail outlets and wholesalers must scour their product and pull them from the shelves. Schools must do the same. And as the stock of meat decreases, you an expect all consumers to end up paying more for meat becasue of the constricted supply.
And the benefit of all this?
Well, you can't say that the benefit of the action is to prevent human sickness...since there wasn't any human sickness, or even a likelihood of it, to begin with.
The only benefit is that we get to assuage our consciences at brutal slaughterhouse practices. We get to 'make the icky go away..'
Politicians will beat their breasts and call for stronger government regulation and inspections, and we will once again hand over power to the federal government to Make Things Right.
And once again, we will value Style and Symbol over substance.