Some of the ick factor generated from The Bee's coverage of two local meat companies delivering pig carcasses to grocery stores may be because some of us don't know where our food comes from.
When we think meat we think chicken thighs, pork roasts or hamburger in plastic packages that we buy at the store. Not a pig carcass.
"People are so far removed from where their meat comes from," said Caleb Sehnert, the meat lab manager at the University of California at Davis' animal science department's meat lab. "You don't take it from the farm and it automatically appears in a Styrofoam tray. There is a lot of work involved."
Sehnert has been the lab manager for a decade and teaches students how to slaughter and butcher beef, pork and lamb in a humane and sanitary manner.
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He emphasized his comments do not apply to the inappropriate conduct reported in The Bee's stories.
Photos of employees of Winton-based Jim's Farm Meat pushing shopping carts with pig carcasses into a San Jose grocery store went viral last weekend. And a Facebook video posted Tuesday showed Yosemite Meat Co. workers carrying pig carcasses into a Chinatown grocery store in San Francisco caused a stir on social media.
Jim's Farm Meat issued a statement Thursday stating the loading dock for the store was closed and its driver made a "misguided decision to use a shopping cart to move the product" into the store.
Sehnert said the Jim's Farm Meat employees should have carried the carcasses into the store or used a stainless steel cart that had been sanitized. "My biggest concern is a grocery cart is not going to be sanitized," he said.
The two Yosemite Meat Co. employees were videographed carrying pig carcasses in butcher paper from a tractor-trailer into the rear entrance of a grocery store.
The company said Thursday that the tractor-trailer was refrigerated, had been cleaned and sanitized and the workers were wearing sanitary smocks and gloves as they removed the carcasses stacked in the trailer. The company said the delivery method followed U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations.
But Yosemite Meat Co. said the employees should have been wearing hard hats and hairnets and should have closed the trailer's doors each time they carried carcasses into the store. Sehnert said that helps keep the refrigerated trailer cold and prevents a bird or other animal from entering.
Jim's Farm Meat and Yosemite Meat both apologized and said they had retrained or were retraining employees.
Sehnert said meat usually is delivered to stores in 40- to 60-pound boxes. For instance, one box might have chicken thighs, another pork loin.
He said with the farm-to-fork movement with its emphasis on where our food comes from, grocery stores that butcher the entire carcass should be celebrated.
"Very few and not many stores get whole carcasses," he said. "Breaking down a whole carcass is a dying art that takes a lot of skill."