Concerns Growing Over Foreign Material in Beef

Foreign materials in beef and injection site lesions impact the food chain and seem to be an increasing issue, according to Jake Nelson, Food Safety Coordinator at Ralph’s Packing Company.

Nelson started working at Ralph’s in Perkins, Oklahoma, in January of 2021. While this issue isn’t new, it is becoming a more prevalent topic of conversation in the packing industry. “The issue that seems to be creeping back up to us right now is the presence of lead shot, birdshot, buckshot, and things that come out of the shotgun, out of a firearm. And, the origins are unknown and it’s hard to pinpoint that just because of the scale, the scope of the beef industry. But we see that, we see it present, it’s not a regular occurrence, but it’s not rare,” according to Nelson.

And it’s something that seems to be happening more and more.

“When I talk to colleagues across the industry, unfortunately, they’re starting to see an uptick in frequency as well. And we don’t know why. There’s been pushes and efforts to get that message out to whomever can have influence on that, whether it’s the beef production sector, whether it’s the hunting community, whether its kids out having fun, we don’t know. Things happen, and we see it, but we really need to stop because this is our food supply.”

Finding foreign materials in meat is a serious issue that calls for drastic action. While it’s near impossible to track where this uptick in foreign materials is coming from, Nelson urges everyone to do their part in stopping this issue.

Nelson says, “The first and foremost is that it is immediately is recognized as an adulterated product. That has a legal definition and a legal implication. And so, then we have to go and segregate that, differentiate it from that which is suitable for food, make a determination, and file a report with the USDA. USDA then contacts the supplier, and there’s a traceability exercise that goes on. It’s a loss in revenue because the product can’t be sold. And again, human health, we don’t need to be eating lead shot.”

Another issue causing hassle in the packing plants is injection site lesions. Nelson said understands the importance of animal health, however, he says proper execution is vital.

Nelson says, “Animal health and injections are a great, useful tool. The Beef Quality Assurance Program, though, needs to continue to be delivered to producers to understand the proper way to administer injections. The proper method, proper timing, proper location, we can’t relax on that message, we have to keep getting that message out there.”

The best thing producers and others can do to combat this issue, according to Nelson, is to keep talking about it and make sure to follow best practices. As Nelson said “just do the right thing.”

Story provided by Maci Carter, Radio Oklahoma Network Intern, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and NAFB News Service