SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Slaughter Pounder; Enjoy Your Barbecue This Weekend? Our Expose of the Meat Processing Industry Could Change Your Mind

The Mirror (London, England), August 11, 2003 | Go to article overview

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Slaughter Pounder; Enjoy Your Barbecue This Weekend? Our Expose of the Meat Processing Industry Could Change Your Mind


Byline: RYAN PARRY

DRIPPING with blood and oozing thick layers of defrosting fat, 31 giant chunks of compacted "meat" trundle up the conveyor belt.

An unpleasant stench hangs in the air and I rip open yet another pallet crammed with boxes.

It's my first day on the production line of a meat factory, and I'm feeding a giant stainless-steel mixer with the vital ingredients for an Iceland quarter-pound burger.

But as I load another huge 20kg block of white fat into the machine the wholesome image of a juicy beef burger nestled between a golden sesame-seed bun is quickly shattered.

Sweating in the factory light, the fat is enough to churn the strongest of stomachs.

Every summer, we stock up on burgers, sausages, steaks and chicken to cook on the BBQ.

The sizzling food goes down a treat on a hot summer's day and if it tastes good we take its contents for granted. But none of us really knows what's actually in it.

I and a team of workers empty box after box of what is labelled "body fat" and dump it on the conveyor belt.

One employee shouts to a forklift driver: "We're running short on fat and could do with another pallet of 70s" - blocks of meat consisting of 70 per cent meat and 30 per cent fat.

For Iceland's quarter-pounders, the mix for each batch comprises 15 25kg chunks of 70 per cent meat, 16 25kg blocks of 80 per cent meat, five bags of onions and seven 20kg blocks of body fat.

But perhaps the most shocking ingredient is three blocks of "rework" - a grotesque mush of burgers and meat that has at some point been rejected in production.

"No point wasting it," says a supervisor. "It's not essential to the mix, but we might as well use it."

The rework, which resembles and smells like dog food, is all thrown in as the continuous line of meat heads for the mixer.

I'm working in a small team in the de-box section of Wessex Foods, a meat firm in Lowestoft, Suffolk.

I've joined a staff of some 300, many of Portuguese origin, in the large factory as a mince operator. Earning pounds 4.35 an hour, I'm working the 2pm to midnight shift.

Wessex Foods mainly produces burgers but also makes mince and other products. It has large contracts with Sainsbury, Iceland, Safeway and Aldi and is the main supplier of Burger King and Whitbread.

BURGERS are an institution. Britons spend pounds 1.26billion on them every year, devouring around 985,000 tonnes of beef. But just two hours into my shift I'm sick of the sight of them.

Another team feeds a mixer for a range of Sainsbury's burgers. The mix is slightly different from the Iceland range: 16 blocks of 80 per cent meat, 18 blocks of 70 per cent, eight blocks of fat. And no rework.

On my line, the last four blocks we are about to feed into the machine have blue polythene - freezer plastic - trapped in the meat.

I and fellow worker Terry hack away at the defrosting meat with knives, trying to free the plastic. But we need to feed the line quickly.

To my horror, Terry sends a block into the mixer with fragments of plastic clearly jutting from its side.

Believing we're on the Burger King line, Londoner Terry jokes: "I don't care what goes in - I eat McDonald's anyway."

Hygiene is generally good. Workers wear protective clothing, boots are washed in an anti-bacteria machine at the door and staff must wash their hands before entering.

New employees are taken through a comprehensive health and safety induction, but hygiene is not as airtight as it at first seemed. Staff wear black gloves known as "dirty" gloves to tear open boxes and cut plastic ties. The boxes have spent hours on a lorry, exposed to germs and bacteria. But often workers then fail to change to the hygienic blue gloves stipulated in the factory rules.

Terry says: "We're supposed to change gloves, but it's just not practical. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Slaughter Pounder; Enjoy Your Barbecue This Weekend? Our Expose of the Meat Processing Industry Could Change Your Mind
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.