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Oct 4, 2009 02:10 AM

103 Years After "The Jungle" Was Published We Have Not Come Very Far

This article is deeply disturbing and certainly makes me think I will never eat a pre-formed burger ever again:

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  1. I think that's a good policy in any case. Get your ground beef from someone who grinds it in-house.

    It's disgusting to think we have put these companies in charge of regulating themselves, and then are surprised that they aren't too diligent about it. Sure, the market takes care of it...after people get sick or die.

    1. I've been avoiding pre-formed patties for years for this very reason, and am on the verge of never buying ground meat either. I've found it's not that hard to grind at home.

      9 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        What do you use for a meat grinder. I tried a manual which was useless.

        1. re: StriperGuy

          Food processor. It's tricky not to overprocess, but I find I'm getting better with practice. And the equipment all gets sterilized in the dishwasher afterward.

          Good basic instructions here:

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            The texture of food processed meat, even when done perfectly, is not what I seek. I really like ground for certain things.

          2. re: StriperGuy

            I have a KA stand mixer and bought the grinder attachment for about $50. The burgers are SO good, we don't eat them in restos anymore. You'll never go back.

            1. re: c oliver

              I have had a KA grinder for a couple of years. It spelled then end of buying pre-ground beef for me. I will no longer eat a burger that I haven't personally ground, it's just not worth the risk.

              1. re: c oliver

                I have the KA and the grinder attachment but, I'm embarrassed to admit this, I've not yet used the grinder and I've had it for months. I bought it because I will only order medium rare burgers at places where they grind their own and I trust the staff. I wanted to be able to make my own burgers that I know are safe.

                Any advice for a grinding novice? Best cuts/parts of meat to use? For burgers? For pork? Chicken? Turkey?

                1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

                  IMO the ideal cut for hamburgers is the seven-bone chuck roast. It tends to run about 20% fat, which is just right, and the flavor is fantastic.

                  It's bonehead simple - just cut the meat into chunks or strips that will fit easily in the feed tube, chill them well, and run them through. Keep the mixer at low speed. I use the coarse plate and only grind once. If you get some spatter from the end, a piece of plastic wrap will contain it.

                  Don't handle the meat any more than is absolutely necessary to form patties. It helps if you wet your hands with cold water. Add salt and pepper to taste, pop the patty on a hot pan or grill, and in a few minutes you'll have a better burger than can be found in any restaurant.

                  If you want to go upscale, get a chunk of tenderloin and run it through the grinder. Mix it with raw egg yolk, dijon mustard, anchovies, capers, and shallots. Voila, steak tartare.

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Oh, honeybunny, this is the first thing I'm having when we get home. Rare with some sharp Cheddar and maybe some grilled onions. Ooooo weeeeee.

            2. I have never understood the preground beef sold commonly now in chubs, let alone the preformed burgers. Give me fresh ground, from a small butcher..or better yet, I'll grind my own at home.

              Just how many cows end up in one burger of pre-ground beef anyways? Any guesses? Or is it like Caesar's last breath?

              1. I'm not usually one to buy into scaremongering articles, but this one was a real eye opener and served to reinforce what I had already been told by people I know in the industry and who have worked in plants like the ones reported on. Be best way to know what you're getting in your hamburger meat is to do what I do... I grind or chop my own. I use either a KitchenAid with the grinder attachment or the good ol' Cuisinart processor. I'm starting to prefer the latter for many dishes, since chopping the meat rather gives a more interesting texture than when extruding it through the grinder blade and plate.

                3 Replies
                1. re: The Professor

                  Ditto on the scaremongering articles, but the descriptions, treating fatty bits with ammonia, etc. were unspeakable, and right out of The Jungle. Nevermind that Cargill, the main packer in the article, and Archer Daniels Midland have both, repeatedly proven themselves to be evil, unethical food monsters.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    Living a severe allergy to corn & all its derivatives, I had to learn a lot about food processing because, as this article shows, not everything ends up on the label. Its amazing what can slip by as a 'processing aid' under Codex rules. That ground beef falls under USDA and not FDA labeling, makes things even worse.

                    Being allergic to corn & derivatives puts Archer Daniels Midland at the bottom of companies I trust.

                    1. re: StriperGuy

                      Occasionally it happens on the local level...some years ago there was a northeastern supermarket chain that was busted for selling chicken that was soaked in a weak bleach wash to try and get away with selling it despite the fact that it was clearly going 'over the hill'. This 'treatment' was evidently a matter of company policy! Sometimes the press does overdo it, but stories like this one and the aforementioned NY Times story can really make one wonder sometimes.

                  2. We now have a greater disparity of wealth than the Guilded Age when The Jungle was written.
                    Thank you Ronald Regan (who first prohibited FDA meat inspectors from inspecting meat)