Don't Buy Beef at Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart's most famous anti-worker case came back a couple of decades ago. The meatcutters in one particular store actually got as far along in the organizing process as to vote to join a union. In response the company closed, not just that meat department but all meat departments at all their stores. All their meat cutting, grinding, processing, etc., is now done at a central location and the packaged product distributed.
That's for fresh meat of course. Much more of their meat products are sold frozen, and those are bought from, sigh, whoever will sell at the lowest prices. The big recall you've been hearing about involves beef from Topps Meat Co. of (soon to be "formerly of" since they're going out of business) Elizabeth NJ. Their products were sold under their own name and at a wide variety of stores besides Wal-Mart.
The other recall, which is just starting to get publicity, is of the same product, frozen hamburger patties, but sold under the name American Chef's Selection Angus Beef Patties. That one is sold pretty exclusively at Wal-Mart-owned Sam's Club, although not in the WM stores themselves.
American Chef is produced by a little mom-n-pop outfit called Cargill. And Topps?
You'll see the "president" of the company quoted, and mention that they were "family founded" in ..well, let's just clip here (from the NYT piece linked above):
Topps opened in 1940 in Manhattan. The founder, Benjamin Sachs, later sold the company to his son, Steven Sachs, according to Ann Sachs, the founder’s former daughter-in-law. A few years before the company moved to New Jersey, Joseph D’Urso became vice president.
After Mr. D’Urso died in 2003, the company was bought by Strategic Investment and Holdings, a large investment firm in Buffalo that has stakes in dozens of companies. The firm declined to answer any questions.
Most of the Topps employees quoted in the stories about the recall, and now the closure, have Hispanic sounding names. And one is specifically mentioned as being a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 342-50.
So we have a small company which managed for almost 60 years to provide UNION jobs in one of the most expensive areas in the country to live in. They did one thing and they did it well. Then a mere four years after being bought out by "a large investment firm" the are hit by a recall which covers pretty much a year's worth of product, on top of which they face lawsuits. (Which lawsuits, it should be pointed out, would be a lot less necessary to cover the horrid medical expenses an e. coli victim incurs if we had universal healthcare in this country.)
Cargill on the other hand faces no such danger of being put out of business.
I've seen a certain amount of, shall we say, class snobbishness over this story, of the "well, who would buy frozen beef patties after all" sort of tone. To which I say humbug. They are a perfectly sensible product in at least two circumstances: those who are cooking for a large group at once, as at a picnic or school sports event or the like, and those who live alone or in very small households, like in particular the elderly.
Neither group deserves to be poisoned by their food for the sake of making higher profits for corporations. I'm not saying "don't shop at Wal-Mart at all", ideal though that situation would be. There are too many people who have no real alternative. But it just makes sense to buy as little there as you can practicably manage. And buy meat somewhere else, m'kay?