Understanding Ecoli and the Food Industry

Posted on Categories Grass-fed Beef

The recent XL Foods recall has a lot of people worried. We have received several calls and emails from consumers wanting to know if the meat from TK Ranch is safe to eat. Understanding how e-coli gets into the food chain is the best place to start.

Cattle that are fed grain often develop unhealthy bacteria in their system because they are not designed to digest high carbohydrate diets — ruminant animals should be fed grass and forages to keep them healthy.

There are three large processing facilities in Alberta — the Cargill plant in High River processes 4,500 head per day, the Lakeside Packers (XL Foods) plant in Brooks that processes 4,500 head per day, and the XL Meats plant in Calgary that processes 1,000 head per day. When a plant processes high volumes of grain fed cattle every day, and they use high pressure hot water to clean the carcasses and the surrounding areas, small particles of potentially e-coli infected manure can be suspended in steam in the air. When this happens, carcasses can potentially be infected leading to recalls and consumer uncertainty.

For many years, we at TK Ranch have understood the inherent risks associated with factory produced food. As such we have created our own gate-to-plate value chain that ensures our TK Ranch products are produced in a low risk processing environment that meets our stringent program protocols. Instead of using large processing, plants we use small family owned provincially inspected abattoirs that can control all aspects of the processing chain better. We use Alberta Prairie Meats in Duchess, Alberta to process all of our beef, lamb and pork — they only process a total of 40 head of beef and 50 lambs every week (and only process pigs for us on an occasional basis). We have been working with Alberta Prairie Meats since 1998 and they are very progressive — they work closely with us to ensure they meet all of our animal welfare and quality protocols: They allow us to handle all of our animals right to the point of process to decrease stress; they dry age our beef for 21 days; they use our recipes to make our gluten, MSG, dairy and nitrite free processed meats, and; they are fastidiously clean! Small plants are at low risk for e-coli because they do things slowly and methodically — they do not have to meet a daily quota like the larger factory plants that need to process an animal every 20 seconds.

In addition to all of this TK Ranch beef is GRASS FINISHED — this means that there is very little risk of e-coli contamination because our cattle are not being fed grain. So rest assured, we have taken every step possible to decrease the risks associated with e-coli and our TK Ranch products.