In a home kitchen, tenderizing a steak is typically done with a mallet adorned with points that pierce the surface of the meat. In the beef industry, however, tenderization involves moving meat through machines with automated double-edged blades that shred the meat’s muscle fibers and connective tissues. Sometimes the industry also uses hollow needles to inject the meat with flavorings.
The process helps the meat industry market tougher cuts, but it can hurt consumers. “Although blading and injecting marinades into meat add value for the beef industry, that also can drive pathogens […] deeper into the meat,” reports The Star, where they often aren’t exposed to temperatures high enough to kill them. All of the big four meat packers—which together slaughter 87 percent of the country’s beef cattle—reported tenderizing their beef at some point during production.
Carlotta Medus, principal epidemiologist for Minnesota’s health department, told The Star that mechanically tenderized meat is linked to foodborne illness outbreaks. “We have seen it [mechanically tenderized meat] as a vehicle for outbreaks since 2003,” she said. “It’s not as risky as ground beef, but it is definitely riskier than an intact steak.
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