My beef about the XL Foods fiascoTuesday, October 9
This time of year, one might expect me to be writing about how to use turkey leftovers or how to turn that glob of cranberry jelly into something tasty, but not this year.
It’s all been done before and there is something far more important to discuss this week.
It’s time we take a closer look at the massive beef recall that has been making headlines for the past few weeks. It has been over a month now since the whole incident started at the XL Foods plant in Brooks, AB. which has raised many questions about the facility, the inspection process, and the lack of transparency and prompt reaction to the outbreak.
There has been a great deal of finger pointing and passing the buck when it comes to who is responsible for this happening and in my humble opinion there are a lot of people to blame.
It has to be up to the ownership and leadership of the plant to ensure the plant is well maintained, up to date, with the focus on quality and product safety, rather than speed and volume. Then there are the inspectors who are responsible for ensuring that the laws and standards are being upheld at all times. Only now are we hearing that the CFIA has been underfunded and overworked more and more in recent years. That responsibility falls on our members of parliament, in particular our minister of agriculture, to ensure that our inspection agency has the capital and the manpower to do its job. Unfortunately, the buck doesn’t stop there. It also falls on us, the average consumer and taxpayer. We continue to push for lower taxes, all the while expecting our government to do more with less.
There was a time when a middle class family couldn’t afford to eat beef every day, and having a steak for dinner was a rare treat. Now it seems that it is expected that we can all have steak for dinner, night after night if we choose.
It’s time we start asking the tough questions, like what kind of sacrifices have to be made to allow us to buy a $5 steak? What corners have to be cut to make that happen? You see, we all share some responsibility for what we consume. no matter what our involvement, because at the end of the day the consumer still has the power to dictate what products make it to market.
Although XL Foods is responsible for about 30 per cent of the beef produced in Canada, there are many other options out there.
One of them is Cargill Meat Solutions in High River where our restaurants buy their beef.
This facility has a strong reputation for quality rather than volume. All of our AAA and prime cuts come from this facility and I have the utmost faith that they will continue to provide us with safely handled beef.
We also work with Christoph Weder of Spirit View Ranch, serving his hormone and antibiotic free Heritage Angus Beef. All of his beef is processed at Canadian Premium Meats, a small meat processing plant specializing in custom cuts and preparations specifically tailored to their customers’ needs. Their processing lines are run slow, focusing on safety, quality control and maintaining their strong reputation. They seldom process more than 150 head a day. Not only has his beef become synonymous with quality, but Christoph’s beef is served throughout the Asian market, on menus in five-star hotels in Switzerland and throughout the Middle East, as the top of the line Alberta beef.
The morale of this week’s story; Alberta beef is safe, and your faith in its safety should not be shaken. You should, however, know that quality beef comes at a price. As is often the case when terrible things like this happen, we will learn from this and I am confident that our inspection system will improve.
Much like the BSE scare many years ago, this too shall pass.
In an effort to show my faith in our beef, I have prepared a classic steak tartar for this week’s recipe. I can tell you that once I took the pictures for this recipe, all of this tartar was devoured and we are all alive and well!
Prep time: 20 minutes
Feeds: 2-4 or one really hungry chef!
8 oz. fresh beef tenderloin
1 Tbsp. shallots
1 tsp. capers
1 tsp. Dijon
1 Tbsp. fresh shaved horseradish
1 tsp. Worcestershire
1 tsp. Tabasco
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. brandy
4 Tbsp. olive oil or clarified butter
It’s imperative that you use fresh beef tenderloin for this. Buy it from a reputable supplier and ensure the colour of the beef is a deep ruby red, without any discolouration, as a result of oxidation. That’s a sign that the beef has been sitting around to long.
Preheat the oven to 450F
Mince the shallots and the capers, set aside
Using a sharp knife, minced the beef into small dice
Slice the baguette thinly, brush with butter or olive oil, season and bake until crispy, 3-4 minutes
In a bowl combine the beef and the remaining ingredients, stir until evenly combined
Adjust the seasoning to your liking, you can also increase the Tabasco, or horseradish, to your liking
In the picture I set aside the yolk and placed it on top of the steak tartar for presentation purposes, this is definitely optional.
Enjoy this tasty classic, knowing that you have prepared it with the world’s best, and safest beef.