Where’s the (Good) Beef?

August 2, 2007 at 5:53 pm

The U.S. meat industry fell under congressional scrutiny this week for its usage of carbon monoxide to perk up the color of raw beef. Although carbon monoxide poisoning has become the ‘silent killer‘ in millions of households, they say that only a smidgen is used in beef. But the thought of it is still unsettling, isn’t it?

The questionability of this country’s meat industry reminds me of the squabble between the U.S. and Japan over beef trade a few years back. Japan has dealt with a number of mass food-borne illnesses over the years, enough to get people on-edge about where their food comes from. So when inspectors discovered a shipment of U.S. cows with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a.k.a., “mad cow” disease, they panicked, and it set off a ban on U.S. beef imports.

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So for two years, Japanese people were asking, “Where’s the beef?” Of course, there was domestic beef and beef from countries deemed safe, like Australia. But United States was the main supplier of cheap meat dished over rice at a restaurant called Yoshinoya. The Japanese have a close kinship with the chain, so lines were out the door when word spread about the last remaining bowls being served. People were so worked up about trying to get a bowl that even a fist fight broke out.

And then the country fell into mourning. In its place arrived the steamy pork bowl. They topped it with kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage) to spruce it up, and at one point dropped the price. I sampled the pork bowl when I was in town one day. It looked and smelled like the original, but there was definitely something missing. Maybe it was the lack of “Moo~.”

Japan is the largest market for the U.S. beef industry so you could only imagine the amount of “persuasion” it took to reopen their market. They resisted at first but relented after agreeing that only cattle 20 months or younger could be allowed in.

There’s still a lot of wariness about American beef, and I don’t blame them with all I’ve heard in the news. But so long as the U.S. is my homeland, I’d like to be an optimist and hope for more meat manufacturers to abide by higher standards of practice. I mean, really, wouldn’t it be nice to say one day, “This meat is so fresh and healthy … and it’s from the U.S.!” (^_^)/

Himawari

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Entry filed under: Japanese Culture, Japanese Foods.

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