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Modern Meat

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Ratings: 8.76/10 from 17 users.

Storyline

Modern MeatWhat could be simpler than a hamburger? Take a ground beef patty, throw it on a grill, wait a few minutes as the fat sizzles, maybe add some cheese, and stick it on a bun. It's a thoroughly American operation that takes place countless times a day all around the country. The average American, in fact, eats three hamburgers a week. And with more meat available than ever before, today's beef costs 30 percent less than it did in 1970, making it that much more attractive to consumers looking for a quick, cheap meal.

But in Modern Meat, FRONTLINE goes inside the world of the modern American meat industry and shows that this once simple product, the hamburger, is no longer so simple.

Nor can you assume that it's safe. While sweeping changes in the meat industry -- making it vastly more centralized, high-tech, and efficient -- have led to the low prices, the transformation has also introduced new risks. In "Modern Meat," FRONTLINE speaks with scientists and industry observers who say that pooling thousands of cows in feedlots makes it easier for bacteria to spread from one animal to another.

"Cows tend to produce feces [and] feces is primarily bacteria," says Glenn Morris, a microbiologist at the University of Maryland and a former USDA official. "In the larger feedlots," he adds, "there's a greater chance for the passage of microorganisms back and forth. All of that contributes to the spread of microorganisms like E. coli."

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36 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Tyne

    There IS english! Oh thank goodness. I didn't know what was going on at first. That was a great documentary. VERY eye-opening.

  2. Kyrie

    Just confirming that there IS English in this documentary. It starts around 2 min. 30 sec.

  3. hambergerman

    I was the HACCP rep for my department in a beef plant for 3 years. I worked sanitation, and we did a pretty good job. I worked there and I was willing to still eat our own product without hesitation. USDA inspectors are really needed however, but rarely see what we did on sanitation and self inspection before she made her expected but unannouced rounds after we released the machines for inspection before production.

    I suppose the worst example that we fixed ourselves (before I started working there) without discovery was the fact that we didn't realize that the exhaust hoods were so strong they were pulling chucks of hamburger into them and it was pooling in pockets that would rot, get maggots, and then drop back into the hamburger while being mixed. The world may never know how many little maggots got mixed up in the hamburger before we figured out how to clean those hoods. Who would think about looking up rather than down for contamination in a plant?

    I don't think the USDA ever knew, bless her very thorough and dedicated heart. I'm sure she would have shut us down.

    Other than that, we were really quite clean. This documentary didn't talk about my favorit "hazard" however. We had to have metal detectors in all our meat conveyors because all the meat had bullets or pellets or bb's from good old boys or whoever that thought it fun to shoot at the cows and obviously got stuck in the meat.

    This was a very fair documentary. I'm very glad we have the USDA.

  4. P.F.

    hamburgergerman, thats frightening! Food Inc. made me stop eating non-grass fed/organic or Kosher meats and so I'm about to watch this film too. I was looking at it reading it and read your comment. That gives me another reason to switch!!!

  5. P.F.

    I just watched it. Its an older film from the first Bush era and its incredible how nothing has changed! If you go to watch it, start at 2:10 minutes for English.

  6. loltool

    "There IS english! Oh thank goodness" . Kinda hard knowing only your language huh?

  7. kiwi

    That person protecting the meat industry that provides for schools sucks! He should go to freaken jail!!!!! Why would he protect someone that has meat products with salmonella present? Only sick people do that.

  8. Olya

    The whole issue is being approached from the wrong angle.
    Watch "Earthlings" to understand that the problem has much deeper roots. As long as we don't respect animals (making them sick by feeding wrong foods, keep them in the "concentration camps"), over consume and don't educate ourselves on the benefits on plant-based diet, cases mentioned in the documentary will become more prevalent.
    Become vegan and you will do good to yourselves, your family, animals and our environment.

  9. Form the C

    Im daily windblown over the fact how people defending their "rights to eat meat" Its like they think they live on a total different planet. People really wanna industrial the lives of creatures and torture them to death, for a good meal fulled with bad bacteria. And the energy amount thats waste in this type of "killing culture" is like, WOW, you really want to be a part of that? And the answer is mostly yes.

  10. hmm

    irradiated meat sounds dodgy.. I wouldn't buy it off the shelf

    Completely turned off by hamburgers now ..

    I think I'll stick to tofu...

  11. Alexandra

    Have not seen this film but just reading and I have seen all three movie about our foods. Supersize Me, fast food nation and Food Inc.

    Grass Fed Cows and all cows should be allow out in pasture. Also if anyone even thinks of shooting at a cow with bullets or pullets and that horrible to even go there. Did you watch Temple Grandin story and very good and thanks to her Whole Foods adopted her methods and so have others as well.

    All farm animals should be respected and they are God's creature. Until, man can respect animal and maybe we will be able to respect each other....

  12. Sharon Weekes Alleyne

    Really good info!

  13. Just213

    @ 7:00, did the CDC committee really break out in a group chuckle when they heard several girls got sick on stage from dirty meat? Seriously, they laughed..

  14. mikey

    hey ham ure not living up to your name. i couldnt agree more about beef.

    John marus
    you are sadly ignorant of what is happening in the world today by making a comment as you have "meat is inconsequential ...to saving the planet". Conversley, it is the single most effictive way to save the planet. Even if one compares driving a gas fed car to eating meat, meat eating far outstrips the enviromental damage caused by driving a car. If 80 % of the worlds corn is fed to feed animals for meat and 30% of various other grains are also used, were used to feed to humans instead, I believe world starvation would be a thing of the past.Simply put meat eating is entirely unsustainable as a food source.There is nothing more damaging to the enviroment, nothing that wastes more fresh water, destroys forests world wide faster, produces more pollution(entire dead sea off the east coast of usa is causes by animal effluent)and crops sprayed for animal consumption are sprayed 20x more than human crops. Although I could go on for another page or two my point is made.
    The fact is the world can feed more people than it has even now but farming pratices would have to change(ie organic raised beds not gmo and animals) and people who dont want to give up their prized meat would have to. Although those who insist on eating meat will die before they will give it up as I have witnessed on many occasions.Meat contains no nutrients essential for human survival just like sugar that cant be found in another source.The healthiest people on the planet eat less than 5-10% of their diet in meat because they are poor and living in mostly 3rd world countries.Thus most of the medical expenses in the g8 countries could be decreased dramatically too. Heart disease is the #1 killer and is completely unecessary.

    This issue has nothing to do with open minds it has to do with the reality that eating meat is the largest preventable enviromental disaster that the planet is facing today.Perhaps if one was issued a meat ration card for 5-10% of your diet the world could reduce some of the damage.Not to mention if all the subsidies were taken off of meat, 1lb(454grms) is estimated would cost $100.00.Only one of these two changes would save the planet alone.

  15. John Marus

    save the planet by eating less meat? How about having less babies, vegan or otherwise. Until we get women to stop allowing themselves to become baby machines, meat is inconsequential in the discussion of saving the planet. How about some moderation, try eating non-meat 3 or 4 days a week - I know you vegans aren't happy with anything less that no meat, but try to open your minds a bit...

  16. foodnotlawnsandgolf

    if the market and the people in that market were free meat would cost what people would pay for it - have cows and stuff - good soil - eliminate the unnecessary jobs- freedom - ron paul - not a quote

  17. John Marus

    my vegan mikey, (from Beverly Hills, California) no you are wrong - reducing the population to a sustainable number would do the trick. The world was balanced for thousands of years prior to modern history, and yes, they ate meat.

    You think $100 burgers are the answer? and you call me ignorant. We don't need to feed the world, we need to manage our population to the resources. And I bet you think an all raw veg diet cures cancer).

    I'm not down-playing the fact we all should eat less meat, but you're dreaming if you think eating no meat will save the planet.

    And for your most ignorant statement: "The healthiest people on the planet eat less than 5-10% of their diet in meat because they are poor and living in mostly 3rd world countries" BS Alert: give me a break, have you visited any of these? I live in a 3rd world country and no, they are not the healthiest people - get off your high-horse and stop having babies (especially those healthy people in 3rd world countries). Stick that in your pipe and smoke it dude

  18. John Marus

    "Until, man can respect animal and maybe we will be able to respect each other" Hello, McFly? We Are Animals

  19. FIGHTTHEPOWERRR

    Better yet John Marcus, we should cut off men's balls so they no longer have the urge nor the capability to impregnate women and turn them into baby machines. Women just don't go around impregnating themselves.

    ...or we can strive to create better food policies that can handle the population.

  20. mikey

    you really show your ignorance. Its very obvious that you have no clue about what you are talking about.(pretending to be from a third world country) You state "we need to manage our population to resources" well I agree and the best way to manage food, water, and enviromental resources is not to eat meat. Wasting the majority of farm land, fresh water, and half of the world's grains is the most wasteful use of resources possible. So you are in fact admitting that meat as a food source is unsustainable. The world could and can feed itself if ignorant stubborn meat eaters would limit their intake of meat.

    As far as you living in a third world country then you should realize that 3rd world citizens subsist on very low meat diets as meat is too expensive. This is one of the major reasons why 3rd world countries have way less modern diseases such as cancer.(and yes unknown to you but to every cancer researcher including the american cancer society know fresh fruit and vegetables reduce your risk of cancer)I never said starving people are healthier than first world people.

    Ive been to other countries... have you been to the first world and see how much food is wasted and how much meat is consumed? I suggest getting off your high horse and stop protecting the meat you love to eat so much.Have some compassion for the rest of the world that you would like to exterminate rather than giving up your favorate food.

    Most modern diseases are attributed to junk food including meat. Now obviously you are thinking that starving people are what im talking about, not everyone is starving in all third world countries. Look at the indigenous people of the 3 world who are not starving and tell me they are sick and dying. As far as the starving ones are concerned they wouldnt be starving if they were fed the grain that is fed to grow meat.

    Just think for a minute...if 80% of corn and 30% of other grains are used to grow meat that would be around 40% more grain available to eat. If the world lives on 60% of the grains grown now what could be done with 40% more?

    Lets say I agree with your sterlization and castration program just for arguement's sake. Now everyone even in third world country's knows that china's, india's and eastern europe's middle class is growing. Forbes estimates these countries by 2030 will have a combined middle class of about 2 BILLION. Now all thsese 2 BILLION people want to eat msdonalds, kf and c, windys and drink ola ola. Where does all that meat and junk food come from? In order to supply 2 billion more people with meat who are sterilized and castrated (generally fixed pets seem fatter for some reason). Im afraid the majority of the worlds forests will have to be cut down in order to grow grain to feed animals. In addition, the current rate of consumption of meat today will drain the largest fresh water basin in the world (america and canada mid west) in 25 yrs. Now with 2 billion more people eating meat by 2030 that fresh water basin will run dry long before 25 yrs are up. Thus your imaginary forced sterilization and castration program does nothing to solve anything. In fact, things will continue to degenerate as they now are.

    At least by converting the food for raising animals back into food for humans it buys some time. Sure its not a long term solution but its better than what we have right now.

    If you think the world is over populated and people shouldnt be limited to the most wasteful "food " source this planet produces then start a new trend you are welcome to be the first to go.

    Stop smoking crack and eating excessive amounts of meat and maybe you will be able to live a bit longer on this planet you love to destroy.Selfish thinking is precisely what is ruining the world today. People would rather die or kill someone else than give up their favorate foods.

    I find it ironic that someone so called living in the "third world" would be so vehemently opposed to one possible realistic solution. In addition, who is harmed by this solution ?some individuals who raise meat and those who love to eat meat? A small price to pay. Who benifits and what about protecting the enviroment?

  21. Juraj Filkorn

    good documentary. I am a student of agriculture so I already met with this problem and with MANY others too. My field is food technology so I basically learn about the processes in the industry.

    The main issue is the intensification of production and its aspects - fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones antibiotics, additives and supplements. Also the manufacturing process, hygiene and control. This all is under the directives of law, which as seen in the documentary is not perfect and never will be (same goes for the control).

    The industry (both plants and animal) is trying to get the prices as low as possible and that is the main cause of all the problems. I do not see many solutions here, while people are not willing to pay for safe food. It is a mixture of lack of interest (education), insufficient money and often convenience.

    We have all kinds of formulas to keep the plant growing so it looks healthy, using pesticides and herbicides artificial fertilizer but the fact is that we do not fully understand the dynamics of natural systems, and that is why the actual plants usually has less nutrients then its organic counterpart. Same goes for taste. But the industrial plant is much more healthier, there are larger harvests and therefore it is much cheaper.

    Same goes for meat. We can bread special livestock, feed it with hormones and antibiotics, then it grows perfectly and is healthy. Then we reduce its movement so it does not loose weight to further increase growths. Super cheap and efficient. And once again, the results show, the meat is full of water, taste and texture lacks and even the nutrients are not in amounts comparable to the organic counterparts. (welfare is also a huge issue)

    And I did not mention the residues from all the chemicals used. All are under control (in EU definitely), but there are cases when the meat slips into the market (one way or another). All these practices of industrial food manufacture and processing gives us cheap food, but it is potentially dangerous. As I said before there are many other cases like BSE, dioxine, antibiotic residues, and melamin in milk products (for this case china law, gave capital punishment to two factory leaders, hmmm). The worst part is that for some chemicals, we do not know if they are dangerous so we just make a limit. Everything should be safe if we do not surpass it... This is another huge danger.

    Also to the proponents of "getting rid of animal production". From what I learned the plant and animal production goes hand in hand. Instead of using artificial fertilizer (by the way made from oil...) we can use cow manure. If used in reasonable proportions you get healthy agricultural practice. To have it all balanced out in reasonable way we need animal industry. But not in a manner of how we see it today in the intensified production. Having meat in your diet is good, as we get older we should eat less and less meat. And I do agree that we (developed countries) eat too much meat. Also do not forget milk and its products.

    In my opinion the best thing to do is to support your local producers, buying food on local markets (I am not saying it is 100 safe). If you know them personally and can go see their farms, that is the best. But not everybody has the accessibility.

    P.S. tried to keep it as general as possible

  22. Yusiley S

    Ummm... you do realize there are societies within the third world countries in which their main source of food is meat, blood and milk. The Maisi is a good example. They live mainly on cows, which is also their currency.

    I'm only disagreeing with the part... "As far as you living in a third world country then you should realize that 3rd world citizens subsist on very low meat diets as meat is too expensive.This is one of the major reasons why 3rd world countries have way less modern diseases such as cancer."

    As for cancer... hmmm...again I think tribal communities that survive mainly on a animal product food would disagree with you. Maisi and the Mongols are known to live in their later years even past that of 70s.

    Also many of third world countries of which YOU speak of do suffer from diseases, may not be cancer, but are twice as deadly and many occur due to lack of amino acids and other nutrients found in meat.

    Personally I think you're just as bad as the meat eaters of which you speak of. You're pushing your vegan bs propaganda. >_> If it weren't for vitamins and booster shots, you would be dead. Even third world nations know that a little meat is necessary for real survival...not this artificiality BS like vitamins and veggie meds that spoiled over-privileged first world nations have.

  23. Yusiley S

    I actually eat a few vegetarian dishes now and then, but I couldn't give up on meat entirely. I love eating burgers, raw fish, steak, turkey sandwiches, sausages, squid, eel, churrasco, chicken, Mongolian beef, Gallaba (beef kind), ribs, etc. Its too tasty. :P The meat will be wasted anyways in the landfills, if they're not brought and eaten. I mean we are talking about not wasting right? Well I'm not wasting by buying and eating that processed, packaged meat at Winn Dixie. ^_^

    Going vegan is BS! It wouldn't save anyone from the Cosmo force of death known as asteroids, comics, gamma-ray bursts, etc. These vegan propagandists need to close the vale known as their mouths and let people have their burgers. It's their life, NOT YOURS!!!!!>:( These vegans need to step down from their high horses and see that meat is necessary for a balanced healthy life. Anyways vegans only exist due to processed, vitamin induced veggies and fruits and taking vegan friendly vitamins. >_> Seriously if it weren't for the animal by-products their mothers put into their bodies while growing up... booster shots and vaccinations...they wouldn't be alive today, so they need to shut up their pie holes.

    As for this film... This is just another one of those vegan propaganda Nazi garbage films. Just watch it for fun but don't take it seriously. These hermit, shut-in people (vegans) are forgetting that they live on planet Earth... a planet which consist a multitude of diverse cultures, customs and societies. If one of these idiots came to a Argentinian restaurant and complain about the meat...they would be laughed out of the door. G-o-d forbid if they mess with my man while he eats churrasco... actually I would like to see them try to mess with him, just so that I could see their meatless, skinny behinds get beat. XD

    BTW, E. Coli can be found in foods made from plants, so your broccoli isn't any safer than the burger from McDonalds. :P

  24. Dan Young

    has this always been in japanese?

  25. angelikus

    Dude, you serious? It's Chinese, not Japanese.

  26. Tj Peterson Jaggy

    WOW, even retards watch documentaries? seems like a waste of time since there is NO sign of intelligence here! keep on eating that processed crap and supporting what they are doing by spending your dollars on it (or perhaps with this kind of mentality, perhaps it's OUR hard working $ being collected via welfare (mentality is the giveaway). enjoy the glues, the sands, silicates, antibiotics, hormones and God knows what else you're stuffing in YOUR piehole! you WILL be ONE LESS (amongst the living or just ONE MORE on pharmaceutical drugs [which i'm sure you are already] btw, run down and get your HPV vaccine while it's hot! you are just what this gov't wants. and they can HAVE YOU!

  27. Tj Peterson Jaggy

    aaaaahhhh, a breath a fresh air! actual intelligence. thank you

  28. Tj Peterson Jaggy

    i actually saw a video a couple of years ago of a guy with the RIGHT IDEA! i believe, for his 33rd birthday, all he wanted was for everyone that would, give him 33$. he used (to the best of my understanding) 100% if it and went to a village in africa and paid for a well for them. i heard he was continuing to do this, though i i have been out of touch.
    it just seems to me that if these greedy corps, aka, (monsteranto/monsatan) really were interested in HUMANITY?! then they would spend their ('OUR' stolen $-thru lies & deceit) billions on providing WATER to communities and ALLOWING them to do what they've known how to do for centuries before the western world came and f'd it all up for them in the first place! HELLLO!!! IS ANYONE ELSE OUT THERE AWAKE?! I KNOW YOU ARE! I TALKED TO A FEW OF YOU ON THE STREET!
    BREATHE IN! BREATHE OUT! BREathe iiiinnnn, breeeaaatthhee out, aaaaaahhh, now that's better. have a beautiful day

  29. Tj Peterson Jaggy

    "like'n" your handle! ~=)

  30. Tj Peterson Jaggy

    i do not believe, from ALL my studies, that EVERYONE can survive a healthy lifestyle w/o meat. no more would you put an african into the antarctic or an eskimo into africa or a swiss into hawaii or a hawaiian into switzerland. i don't believe i have to elaborate on this. we all have different nutritional needs just as we all have different emotional needs. the ONLY reason that meat is what it is here ONLY in america is because it serves BIG PHARMA! you're not well>? THEY ARE!!! ********************************************************************** EAT LOCAL! 100% NON-GMO!!! ORGANIC WHEN POSSIBLE! NEVER!!!GMO/GE!!!NEVER!!!! SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FARMER! THEY WILL SUPPORT YOUR HEALTH!!! did i mention NEVER EVER GMO!!!

  31. Amy Johanson

    I want to add to the amino acids part. I study protein for a living and there has never been a single amino acid deficiency among vegans or vegetarians ever reported. In fact, protein combining is a pure myth. Long story short...So long as your body gets the proper fats and calories, your body can store or make the other amino acids for you. Protein combining? It was never based on scientific credibility. It was Frances Lappe Moore, an AUTHOR, who started this myth. Scientists questioned her assertion, and she had to rewrite a new edition of her book and apologize and admit it was a false statement she had totally made up on her own.

  32. Amy Johanson

    Well, the "incomplete protein" status was fueled mostly by industries with profit in mind. This notion that vegans and vegetarians need to complete their proteins is fairly absurd. It's a non-issue in the scientific world. Hence why I said the body can store and remake proteins, but that's why it's important to get sufficient calories/fat (and if you live in America, this is also a non-issue). When Barbara Howard, PhD (head of nutrition for the American Heart Association) released a paper saying "... because plants are missing one amino acid, they are therefore incomplete in protein...", several scientists and doctors wrote to her claiming her paper was misleading. In fact, Professor Joe Millward (the world's leading expert in protein) even said that those findings aren't relevant in human nutrition and that the AHA's position was wrong. Besides. There are also plenty of plants that have complete proteins already.
    Kwashiorkor is more of a calorie deficiency than a protein deficiency. When I was an aid in Africa I learned this; we nursed many sick children back to health using beans, squashes and soups, and what little grains we had. Although our group wasn't vegetarian by any means, it was recommended against using meats and dairy products since it can cause health problems if introduced back into a diet too fast. Any protein deficiencies otherwise are genetic traits (usually recessive), and are mostly found in women. My aunt has Protein-C deficiency, and she definitely eats her meat. Birth control (especially one's with high doses of estrogen) is more likely to give you abnormal protein-s/c levels, for example, than any diet. I, my professors or colleagues or any university, nor any published scientific paper or medical reports have ever found this issue in a vegan or vegetarian diet.
    I also had one more thing. I saw someone write about about the Inuit and Maasai. Firstly, the Inuit lived off of a diet of meat because there were little to no plant sources or other food source options in their environment. They lived in the middle of nowhere, in the cold snow. Fishing was their only option, and on rare occasions cannibalism. Their environment and foods also weren't contaminated with near as many toxins as we have today, which is one reason they suffer less diseases and cancers. Also, because they had to wait to fish and a fish is a fairly small animal, they had a lot less caloric intake than the modern human. This isn't evidence we are required to eat meat; just that people can survive off of meat (including human meat). Fish are also rich in omega-3 fats, which has been shown in some studies to reduce heart disease (you can easily find these in plants as well). I can only assume they knew how to cook properly, because that is the only way to get the most benefits out of the fish without destroying the omega-3. Frying fish doesn't cut it. However, as more and more southerners started moving north, diabetes slowly creeped it's way into the Inuit population.
    The Maasai were in a similar situation, except they had a little more plant options around them (most poor cultures lived off of beans, rice and potatoes and some grains; meat was a "sometimes" food since they weren't privileged like we are today). It was the Maasai men (primarily their soldiers) who partook in the most meat eating rituals, whereas the women weren't allowed to and had to wait and live off of more plant based foods until they had permission or were pregnant to eat meat. These people also had less contaminants in their environment, and exercised far more than the average human today, since they had to hunt and wait. Add their lack of refined foods, junk food and piss poor oils, and we have another answer to their longevity.
    Autopsies of both these groups of people have shown they were aged by their 40's, and crippled by their 60's (if they were lucky to still be alive, which was rare since the average life expectancy is below 50 years), with the exception of the Maasai women, who had fairly better bone structure and less fractures than their male counterparts. It's also thought that since both groups killed and impaired children, this also eliminated adult populations that would be affected with diseases and disabilities. If anything, the one thing these two have in common that increased their longevity was the fact that neither of them were particularly obese groups.

  33. mikeysbro

    the people that live in third world countries have different diseases such as malnutrition, not cancers, osteoprosis etc
    why cause they dont eat the four propaganda food groups
    only one high horse riding the meat wagon of destroying forests world wide in favor of their taste buds

  34. Leah Fresh

    This is so misinformed I don't even know where to start. All I'd like to say is that meat is not needed for a balanced healthy diet, in fact more and more literature is now being published with findings that people should be eating less and less, if any meat.
    Meat is a product of supply and demand, just like all produce - the more people buy, the more they make, if fewer people ate meat they would make less of it, it's the only way that makes economical sense.
    Also I've been vegan my entire life, my parents were vegan so I've never had animal products. I've never had any vaccines (parents choice) and I've never had to take supplements. Every single time I've had a blood test at the doctors I have never, not once been deficient in a single thing, in fact they often comment on what good iron levels I have!
    Eat your meat if you want to and let us do our thing, all we are trying to do is help animals lives and the environment, why you have a problem with that is completely beyond me.

  35. Leah Fresh

    Excellent comment, nice to see someone with knowledge, experience and sense! There is so much misinformation out there :/ I had a friend who's DOCTOR told her she needed to be careful what she ate so she would make "full proteins" I was speechless....

  36. Joseph Falco

    Yes, yes, compromise is a start. You're not going to convince everyone to go vegan but cutting back is a good start.

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