Remember that questionable meat the lunch ladies served at your school cafeteria — the kind that always seemed, well, horribly off? It turns there was plenty of reason to be afraid.
USA Today reports that meat in public school lunches frequently “wouldn’t meet the quality or safety standards of many fast-food restaurants, from Jack in the Box and other burger places to chicken chains such as KFC.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the meat it buys for the National School Lunch Program “meets or exceeds standards in commercial products.”
That isn’t always the case. McDonald’s, Burger King, and Costco, for instance, are far more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens. They test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day.
And the limits Jack in the Box and other big retailers set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to 10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef.
For chicken, the USDA has supplied schools with thousands of tons of meat from old birds that might otherwise go to compost or pet food. Called “spent hens” because they’re past their egg-laying prime, the chickens don’t pass muster with Colonel Sanders — KFC won’t buy them — and they don’t pass the soup test, either. The Campbell Soup Company says it stopped using them a decade ago based on “quality considerations.”
Holy cow. Or maybe that should be unholy cow.
Update: Oh that fickle finger of fate. The Washington Post says that the USDA will treat some lucky lawmakers and congressional staffers to a school lunch next week — to show “the improvements the department has made in the nutritional quality — and taste — of the $1.2 billion of school commodity foods and to win support to fund further improvements.”
My advice: have some Tums handy.
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