(in response to this essay by Hannah Hayes: “An open letter to Anthony Bourdain, a chef who hates my dad”)
I applaud and respect your loyalty to your Dad–and your impassioned and articulate defense. As a father myself, I would be very proud. And I do not for a second, see your Dad as some evil mad doctor, deliberately doing bad things to our food supply. I am not even–in principle (unlike many of my chef peers)–opposed to big producers or feed lot raised beef–or even “processed food. I AM, however against the whole idea that any corporate entity did, would, should or could feel it necessary or expedient to use ammonia in a meat product. Especially our beloved national dish, the hamburger. It is, unfortunately, my distinct impression and belief that Cargill has made use of a supplier who DOES treat meat with ammonia. I quote the New York Times below:
“Cargill, one of the nation’s largest hamburger makers, is a big buyer of Beef Products’ ammoniated trimmings for its patties. Company records show that Beef Products, like other suppliers, has periodically exceeded Cargill’s limits on acceptable bacteria levels. That led Cargill to stop buying meat from two Beef Products plants for several months in 2006 after company tests showed excessive levels of salmonella.
But the following year, when Cargill faced an E. coli outbreak, it ruled out Beef Products as a possible culprit, citing the U.S.D.A.’s view that the ammonia treatment provided a “lethality step” for the pathogen. In addition, Cargill officials said recently, they suspect that another supplier, not Beef Products, was the problem. As a result, Beef Products did not face as wide a recall as other Cargill suppliers.”
I’m not even suggesting that Cargill’s ground meat products are necessarily “bad” for you. I’m saying I do not like the whole idea that anyone would use what I believe to be a cleaning product in making hamburger. I believe that a good quality hamburger–suitable for sale to children and adults–should require neither ammonia nor well done cooking to make it considered “safe.” I suspect, judging from your piece, and your stated personal choices for food sourcing, that you feel the same way. My opinion on hamburgers and what I believe to be standard practices by Cargill and other companies do not make me “hate” your Dad, or you–or anyone working hard and trying to do right by their family.
I just think ammonia–anywhere near my burger is bad. And I deeply resent the common restriction in many businesses against ordering burgers anything less than medium well to well done.
Again, I applaud you personally for standing up for your family–and for standing up to me. I enjoy a good argument (no surprise) and thank you for making one. I do, however stand by my opinion.
Very best wishes to you and your family–against whom I bear (I assure you) nothing but good will. Let us hope that this practice is abandoned at whatever level these decisions are made. And as quickly as possible.