Why I'm giving up hamburgers

You may deserve a break today, but perhaps you should take it with a veggie burger.

I’ve got no moral qualms about eating meat, but after reading today’s New York Times, I’m going to eliminate ground beef from my diet.  Michael Moss tells the harrowing tale of a 22-year-old children’s dance instructor who ended up paralyzed from the waist down simply because she ate a hamburger her mom grilled from a package of frozen patties labeled “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties.”

Read Moss’ account and you may feel that you’re being led back to The Jungle — as in Upton Sinclair’s frightening account of meat-packing plants a century ago. To put it mildly, that premium ground beef you’re eating apparently is more — and less — than the name implies.

Writes Moss, “Ground beef is usually not simply a chunk of meat run through a grinder. Instead, records and interviews show, a single portion of hamburger meat is often an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of cows and even from different slaughterhouses. These cuts of meat are particularly vulnerable to E. Coli contaimination, food experts and officials say.”

So hold the pickle, hold the lettuce and hold the burger, too.  It all reminds me of a lead that writer William Zinsser once wrote and features in his book, On Writing Well.

I’ve often wondered what goes into a hot dog. Now I know and I wish I didn’t.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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7 Responses to Why I'm giving up hamburgers

  1. Caitlin Kelly says:

    Just read the Times’ story. It’s terrifying. Read “Fast Food Nation” and you’ll never even look at ground meat again.

    • Jerry Lanson says:

      It’s on my shelf, Caitlin, but I’ve never had the courage (or should I say stomach) to read it. Perhaps now I shall.

  2. Jerry, frankly, I’m a little surprised at your response. If you were a vegetarian or vegan, I would understand your taking this as confirmation of your stance. But as a meat eater, I would think that you might give up store-bought ground beef and instead take up grinding your own. Better yet, you might see this as a business opportunity to raise cattle in the suburbs.

    • Jerry Lanson says:

      I’ve been looking to supplement my income Jeff and perhaps I could train my dog to be a cattle herder. These are times that demand bold solutions.

  3. Caitlin Kelly says:

    Jerry, I was literally in the middle of eating a beef taco on vacation somewhere, reading that book and stopped mid-mouthful. The waiter came over, worried. I didn’t know what to say.

    I’ve eaten hamburger many times since. I will be curious to see what response the meat industry will have to that.

    • Jerry Lanson says:

      As you can see by my upside down blue-and-white G, I’m actually not a real person anyway so a little contaminated meat shouldn’t hurt too badly. It will be interesting to see how well I hold my resolve come next summer’s barbecues.

  4. maureendezell says:

    Have you seen the multimedia treatment of this story at NYT.com?… even more horrifying. Maureen

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