The beef recall hullabaloo over XL Foods provides strong support for decentralizing our food system. When people all across the country, and into the States, are being affected by e coli from a contaminated plant in Alberta, it’s time to question our food supply system.
It’s a problem when only a few large companies are responsible for the majority of certain types of food. If something goes wrong then the danger is going to be far more widespread and more difficult to address than if you’re purchasing your foods from a small local farm. I would also argue that the risk of something going wrong is much higher with large-scale farms and processing plants. Oh sure, these places have all their HACCP and safety plans but they also have far more people working in them and therefore, more opportunity for errors to be made. I think that people working for local small-scale operations are going to take more pride in their work. They’re more likely to have close connections with their consumers and it’s generally regarded as good business sense not to kill or sicken your customers. In large-scale operations there’s a disconnect between owners, employees, and customers. If you’re an employee working for a large-scale meat-packing plant (or whatever food processing facility) you’re probably not making great money and you probably aren’t overly concerned about the product or the reputation of the company as a whole. It’s also a lot easier to pass the buck, or think that someone else is going to take care of an issue, in a large company.
When the beef recall initially began, it reminded me of Galen Weston’s off-the-cuff remarks that Farmers’ Markets were going to kill people. Even if beef sold at a Farmers’ Market was contaminated, the impact that it would have would be far less widespread than the impact being had by XL Foods. The best way to effect change is to put your money where your mouth is. Next time you’re buying food try to get as much as you can from local producers. The only way we’re going to get rid of these large-scale food production operations is if we stop supporting them.