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Sausage: literally and figuratively (new meat safety rules)

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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-11 11:14 PM
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Sausage: literally and figuratively (new meat safety rules)
They say that law is like sausage: you don't want to see how either of them are made. I thought I'd take outside-of-the-beltway DU'ers on a tour.

I'm involved in a couple of steps of this legislation, which is lamentably imperfect, but better than what we have now. Here's what happened.

First, the story:

Now, despite whatever you think, large meat packers love safety regulations and always have, because the indies can't compete with them. This is essentially the last gasp of the independent packers/canners.

The big players here are AMI, the trade assoc for meat packers, and GIPSA, the sub-department of USDA that inspects meat (beef, chicken, canned seafood, and pork, but for some reason not goat. Don't ask me why). But both have somewhat split responsibilities, because both claim to represent small ranchers, canners, packers, and slaughterhouses. (AMI gets roughly 1/3rd of their funding from them; GIPSA/USDA have a statutory responsibility to represent them; neither of those are particularly easy to ignore.)

To oversimplify: during the Bush years, USDA told meat packers to come up with best practices that the whole industry should follow. Vilsack (head of the USDA) has basically said, "fine, those are good standards: come up with metrics for enforcing them." The industry screamed like 12-year-old girls who had their Justin Bieber tickets taken away, despite the fact that these were rules that they wrote.

Several ridiculous lobbying campaigns later, Vilsack stuck to his guns (because this was an explicit campaign promise by Obama). The best practices regulations will have the force of law. Industry will scream like stuck pigs but will mostly end up happier because smaller players will be squeezed out. And so it goes.

It's a shitty world we live in, and I have few illusions about that. These regulations are disappointing but are still better than what we have, despite all their flaws. Big players will make out like bandits, but will produce safer meat products. You can thank me or curse me as you prefer.
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