Government and Meat and E.Coli OH MY!

Hello Everyone,

Over the past month we have been hearing alot about the E.coli scare in Western Canada. Since I am a butcher’s daughter I hear many comments about what is happening in the industry.

Questions Like:

Are we safe?

Is this a huge deal?

Who is to blame?

Where should we buy our meats?

and comments like:

Those slaughtering plants are just too large.

They kill hundreds of cattle a day.

I will be buying a lot more local meats now.

It’s sad that the small abbitoirs were so quick to vanish.

Since small abattoirs have such a small voice because so little of us are left, I thought I would speak out for the small slaughter houses across Ontario about this matter.

Your first questions:  Why are there so few small abattoirs left in Ontario and even across Canada?

Running a small abattoir with today’s goverment standard is incredibly hard and frustrating. Starting one is next to impossible because of all the demands pressed by society and the government.

Meat can cause a huge health risk to buyers, which concerns the goverment. Canada’s has free health care, allowing Canadians to take whatever health care they need, leading to lots of taxpayer dollars. If people are getting sick from a meat product it is the government who has to put the tax dollars towards the health care. However, this is only a small bump in the road. The meat in Canada is inspected by goverment inspectors who allow the animals to be passed for human consumption. Abattoirs cannot slaughter animals without the inspector on site watching the acts of the butchers. This means that any animal passed into consumption is done by that of a goverment official. They are educated in the various problem areas of the beef, pork, lamb, etc. The inspectors in these many small plants cost the goverment alot of money every year. To help all these costs the goverment makes it extremely costly to open a provincially run,and even federally run, small abittoir. The book of rules is so large that everyone runs away because it will take FOREVER to make the investment back.

But WHY? What is the logic behind this?

With fewer, larger, federally inspected plants, it requires fewer inspectors than many smaller , local abbatoirs. Many of the meat processes can then be done by machines rather than actual people, so there are fewer workers to pay.  Management costs are lower too, since there is only one management group to deal with if there is a problem.   However, these changes create more of a gap between consumers and farmers.

But why do consumers buy from the large plants instead of the small ones?

In short, it’s cheaper!  Since these large plants process such a large amount of product everyday they can have lower costs compared to the small abattoirs. Consumers begin to make it a regular purchase – buying something they know with a cheap price tag. Small abattoirs are normally quite expensive, but give you the fresh-off-the-farm meat instead of the I-have-no-idea-where-this-animal-came-from meat.

The large abattoirs were once small as well, but it was at a time when the goverment standards and cost of production were lower and more consistent. For my family’s plant things can change daily! I remember when I was younger; the rules for the drains changed, so my dad had to tear apart the whole plant to put in the new drains. Luckily our plant was doing well enough to pay for the costs. The scary thing is if we did not have the money to pay for the drains we would have lost everything because we would have been shut down. If you are just starting out and they change a rule, you must comply or leave the business, nothing more and nothing less.

One main question that everyone should know the answer to, What is E.coli? How does it make you sick?

If I was to explain this it would take all day so here are some great links that will tell you everything you need to know.

Overall, Escherichia coli is a species of bacteria that lives in the intestinal tract of warm blooded mammals. This means that is it transferred with fecal matter from any warm blooded animal. The problem with this is that it is everywhere! All of our fruits and veggies are covered with it, our meats, not to mention our pets and even YOU, but do not be alarmed. In small amounts E.Coli is basically harmless. Most strains of E.Coli cannot even make you sick, but there are a few which cause food recalls like the one we are discussing.

How did these strains of E.Coli evolve and why are we just hearing of them over the past ten years?

Since most – if not all- livestock is given various shots and treatment keeping them from getting sick – much like humans – the E.Coli bacteria are regularly brought face to face with their “treatment” this means that they can evolve over time and learn what they can do to get around this treatment. The evolution of the E.Coli brings them to be more harmful to their animal host. Since people’s sanitiary methods are much better than those of animals, the E.Coli become even more harmful to us, since our immune systems are not prepared to handle this change in bacteria.  Now, something that used to be totally harmless can make us sick. In some cases, E.coli can even be deadly.

“If you would like a more scientific response to these questions please check out the links I have given above.”

The next question is, where did the E.Coli come from?

The ecoli was found in one of the meat plants tenderizer machines which pulverizes the meat so that it will stay more tender when cooked. How did it get onto the machine? It most likely was not on the machine, but on the meat that was put through it. Most meats have E.Coli on the outer layer which is exposed to oxygen.  Many people do not realize that once that outer layer is ground or pushed into the centre of the meat the bacteria can then inhabit the inner portion of the meat.  If this meat is not cooked enough, the bacteria can survive, and people get sick.

If E.Coli is in everything why did these people get sick now.  Would cooking the meat not kill the bacteria?

The most sensible cause for the sicknesses by the recent E.Coli outbreak is that the tenderizer pushed the E.Coli into the centre of the meat and stayed there until it was cooked and eaten. This means the meat that was eaten was most likely beef. Beef is the only red meat that most people can handle eating raw through the middle without becoming incredibly sick. However, E.Coli is easily destroyed by heat. Likely, whoever had bought the meat did not cook it to the proper temperature all the way through. Tenderized meats and hamburger are especially dangerous because the outer layer of the meat is pushed/ground into the middle where the meat may not reach the correct temperature for a long enough period of time to kill bacteria.

Who is to blame?

The entire meat industry is to blame of course! Government, inspectors, butchers and consumers! We are not educating our buyers and buyers are not wanting to be educated enough about how to cook their meats. No matter how sanitary we are there will always be accidents. Being overly sanitary can also be harmful because our body’s immune system may not be able to handle any – even small amounts – of bacteria that may arise. With our sanitary methods bacteria are only going to get stronger. Our overly sanitary food industries are one reason why uncurable diseases arise, the bacteria will find a way to change and adapt to survive.  Ten, even twenty years ago you never heard of the many sanitary things we do in the food industry’s today, but why? Because most of today’s society is so far away from the farm many young children never get the chance to see or touch a cow in real life. Some do not even know they are eating a cow when they have a hamburger! This is a HUGE problem! Farming needs to stay relevant in everyone’s mind. Those of us who are not in agricultural industries often forget (or never knew!) what happens with our food.

Questions? Comments?

Let me know!!

Happy Farming,

Jessica Oelschlagel


Raw Milk. What gives?

Interesting Topic !

Unpasteurized Milk

Over the last few years the fight for the right to legally sell and consume unpasteurized milk has been a huge rural issue. This prohibition does not apply to the producer of the product; however, they are not allowed to make profit off of the product, even to customers that would willingly buy the product. Unpasteurized milk has been targeted as a home for bacteria which can cause potentially deadly diseases. However, on the other end of the scale we have the farmers fighting the case that milk is much healthier before it is pasteurized, but there is much debate to which statement is more true. How can one know who is right?

What is Pasteurization?

Pasteurization was named after the man who invented it, Louis Pasteur. He discovered that if you heat every particle in a substance to a particular temperature that all the bacteria and harmful substance will be destroyed. There are two reasons for the pasteurization of milk:

  1. Public Health Aspect – By destroying harmful bacteria and substances within milk product can increase the safety of product consumption.
  2. Quality Aspect – By killing any bacteria that can make the milk products spoil the shelf life can increase drastically to up to 16 days.

To make sure that a milk product has been properly pasteurized the product must be held at a set temperature for a certain length of time. These temperatures and time lengths are chosen because of studies that have been done on the most heat tolerant pathogens in milk, Coxelliae burnettii. These temperatures and times must be monitored extremely well because any drop in temperature can allow pathogens to survive.

Pasteurization Charts

Temperature (‘C) Length of Time (mins/secs)

Frozen Dairy

69′C 30 minutes
80′C 0.25 second


63′C 30minutes
72′C 16seconds

Other Milk Based Products

66′C 30 minutes
75′C 16 seconds

There are two methods of pasteurization that can be put into effect by farmers. Both methods are passed by the Milk Act, and the Ministry of Health.

  1. The Batch Method- This is a vat (cylinder which holds the milk) that is surrounded by heated circulating water, steam or coils of heated water which allows the milk to be agitated;therefore, evenly heated throughout. This method is seen more for frozen dairy products or specialized dairy products. 
  2. Continuous Method – This method is very time and energy efficient because it is a high temperature of a short period of time. This method is accomplished by a heat plate exchanger. These are a staircase of steel plates at a hot temperature which the milk must flow down.

Continuos Pasteurization

The History
8000- 6000 B.C The wild ancestor of the modern day cow was first domesticated at this time period. They were found in large herds in Asia, Europe and North America. However, they were only for meat consumption at this time.

4000 B.C By biologically testing degraded fats in unearthed remains we know that this time period was estimated to be when the first cows were being milked. This lead to a civilization experimenting with the different uses of dairy products.

300-2500 B.C Farming cattle for their milk had now became an norm in society. The demand for dairy products slowly rose as the idea of dairy farming became desirable.

1700 – 63 B.C The bible contained over fifty references to milk as if it was a necessity of life.

1525 A.D The first cattle were shipped to the “New World” – now know as Vera Cruz, Mexico – during the colonization by Britain. Some of these cattle made it across the Rio Grande, landing in Texas, this was the birth of the very popular breed, Texas Long Horn .

1679 -1776 A.D Dairy became very popular in the “New World” , the Native American’s learned to make many cheeses. The British military forces were said to be blessed with the quantity of milk they had by their well fed cattle.

Early 1800′s Europeans noticed that Milk Maids (woman who milked the cows) were immune to small pox, this lead to the knowledge of a smallpox vaccine.

1822- 1895 Louis Pasteur, a french chemist, helped prove that food-borne illness and infectious diseases are caused by germs, also know as the “germ theory”. Pasteurization was invented due to his discovery.

1840 -1920 The alcohol distillery industry grew rapidly, which lead to more swill (left over grain product). To dispose of this swill the alcohol distillery industry alliances with the dairy industry to feed the swill to the cattle. Dairy cattle begin to get very sickly and give very poor quality milk. This causes out- breaks in illness in humans as well. This event later leads to the pasteurization procedure to be practiced on dairy products.

March 23 1883 Milk farmers had a “war” with milk distributors demanding higher prices. The distributors refused causing road blocks by farmers to cover all delivery routes. This forced the distributing companies to pay the farmers more for their milk.

1884 The first glass milk bottle was patented by Dr. Henry Thatcher.

1889 The glass bottle became an industry standard.

1893 Milk-Born illnesses became a huge problem throughout North America. Many production facilities were not regulated and unhygienic. Infant moralities were at an all time high because of the lack of regulation for milk products. Now it was a standard that milk must to be certified before it could be sold to the public.

1895 Pasteurization machines were made for the dairy industry.

1899 The first Homogenizer was introduced into industry to help break down fats and allow milk to have a smoother texture.

1914 The first “ milk truck” was introduced because of the growing demand for dairy products in the growing population.

1917 Cows that were not proven to be free of vices were highly recommended to have their milk pasteurized. Over 50% of milk at this time was pasteurized.

1922 The Capper-Volstead Act was introduced to agricultural producers. This allowed them to work together in associations. This act was very significant because it allowed farmers to have special exemptions from monopoly laws to help to manage (especially increase) product prices.

1933 Iowa farmers strike against the low milk prices. They blockaded the roads and opened fire on some truck drivers trying to pass blockades.

1937 The Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act was set into place so that their was a legislation that would help to monitor the conditions of the agricultural market; therefore, allowing price stability for the farmers.

August 28 1939 At the time of the great depression the farmers were being paid less for their milk then it was costing to produce. The Dairy Farmers Union was then created to bring up a strike against the distributors. The strike was led by Archie Wright the president of the DFU.

June 4th 1940 This was when the first school milk program was introduced.

1950-1860 The cardboard, square milk carton was introduced into the market.

1974 The FDA insisted that all foods were to be labeled with a nutritional value label.

1983 The Dairy Production Stabilization Act became a research center for dairy products world-wide.

1987 The law against unpasteurized milk was passed into the Milk Act.

1990 The Fluid Milk Promotion Act began to help to promote milk sales across North America. This started dairy as its own food group.

1992 The Department of Agriculture started promoting healthy eating with the introduction of the food group pyramid.

1993 The “Got Milk?” campaign was introduced to help promote milk sales. Over 90% of North Americans are familiar with these ads making them one of the most valuable in history.

1995 The dairy industry allowed the Dairy Export Council to invest in North American dairy products to have sales internationally.

1996 Harvard had finished their 12 year study on the calcium content in milk products. This study was to see if a higher intake of calcium would improve bone strength and help to prevent osteoporosis. Unsatisfactorily, the studies were inconclusive.

1998 The “Real Milk Campaign” was initiated by the Weston A. Price Foundation. This campaign was to promote the legalization and sales of raw milk.

2002 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was after the “ Happy Cows of California” because they claimed it was false advertising that the cows were living a fulfilled and happy life style.

2005 Organic farming became very popular and was becoming very high in demand throughout North America.

2007 A huge lawsuit was made by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicines and the Federal trade Commission that milk does not aid in weight-loss.

April 16th 2007 The organic milk provider to Walmart and Costco violate the Organic Food Production Act.

January 8th  2008 Milk from cloned cows becomes approved by the FDA.

(Pros and Cons)


The Issue

Raw milk has been claimed by health professionals to carry disease ridden pathogens that can potentially cause death. It is obvious to farmers all over North American that the Food and Drug Administration, which recently determined that it is safe to drink milk from cloned cows, take a tougher stand on unprocessed milk. People are beginning to wonder if the government is going to far with regulations for personal choices. The government allows people to smoke cigarettes as long as they pay their taxes on it ;therefore, the government is making a profit. They allow us to harm our selves by smoking, but it is illegal to drink unprocessed milk. Some people believe that this is against our right to freedom and is discriminatory against farmers and their ability to sell to make a profit to willing consumers. On the other hand, “Health Authorities say that when milk isn’t pasteurized, it can contain potentially lethal, disease-causing bacteria” because some bacterias milk may carry are E.coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. Other experts say that unpasteurized milk can lead to improved health. These bacteria will leave us less susceptible to the disease because are immune system will be boosted with the ability to fight off bacteria on its own. The main reason for this debate is about freedom of personal choice. Our right to freedom is violated with this law because the government is beginning to tell the country what it can and cannot eat. This thought leaves many uncomfortable.

The Law

Food and Drug Act

Section B.08.002.2 (1) No person shall sell the normal lacteal secretion obtained from the mammary gland of the cow, genus Bos, or of any other animal, or sell a dairy product made with any such secretion, unless the secretion or dairy product has been pasteurized by being held at a temperature and for a period that ensure the reduction of the alkaline phosphatase activity so as to meet the tolerances specified in official method MFO-3, Determination of Phosphatase Activity in Dairy Products, dated November 30, 1981.

This law, however does not extend to cheese, the law states that raw cheese may be sold if aged more then two months (60days).

This law does not change through the provincial government because it is enforced throughout Canada as a whole.

Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act, subsection 18(1) reads: No person shall sell, offer for sale, deliver or distribute milk or cream that has not been pasteurized or sterilized in a plant that is licensed under the Milk Act or in a plant outside Ontario that meets the standards for plants licensed under the Milk Act.


Michael Schmidt, of Durham, Ontario, was faced with 20 charges under the Milk Act and Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act. He was found guilty of illegally producing, storing and distributing unprocessed milk. Schmidt was selling “shares” in his cows so that those who have these shares can obtain raw milk; this way they are not directly buying the raw milk, but buying “shares” in the cows. Schmidt’s farm was raided by the government and his equipment was seized. The raid occurred in November of 2006, it was in October of 2008 that Schmidt was caught again for the sales of unpasteurized milk. Therefore, he was now guilty of contempt of court leading to another court hearing in January 2009 this time it was not for Schmidt, but for the government. He had decided to file a charter challenge on the ground that the police violated his right to liberty in their investigation on his property. Schmidt stated at the hearing that, “The only thing that will stop me is if we — through a constructive dialogue — actually find out that milk might be dangerous,” he told reporters. “And I can guarantee it is not.” On the brilliant day of January 21st 2010 the justice of peace agreed with Schmidt and allowed him to continue his practise’s with raw milk. It was ruled that a cow co-op is exempt from the legislation in the Milk Act and Food and Drug Act.

The Raw Side of Milk

There is much debate over the topic of raw milk. However, is this the real case that we are fighting for. There is some questioning that goes along with this debate.

  • If the government allows us to consume impairing alcohol and cancer-causing cigarettes to make money for themselves are they really in the right to tell us what we can consume?
  • Will this ignite consumers losing many other choices in foods we eat every day?
  • Do we want to make food choices or would we rather leave it to a government?
  • Will taking away foods like unpasterized milk effect our body’s ability to fight off bacteria leaving continuing generations more prone to illness?

There are so many debates about this topic of pasteurization and its reasoning because it could be shielding us from harm or leaving us more vulnerable.

What do REAL Ontario Farmers have to say?

Hope to hear form you,

Jessica Oelschlagel