I asked In-n-Out to comment regarding the major beef recall from Hallmark/Westland Meat Co. I was sent a word doc in response.
A statement from In-N-Out Burger President Mark Taylor:
â??We ended our relationship with Hallmark/Westland on January 30th. There is no meat from them anywhere in our system.
At In-N-Out burger, we have never purchased any processed patties or ground beef from any supplier. We make every one of our hamburger patties ourselves using only whole chucks from premium, select-type cattle. We pay a premium to purchase high quality beef and we require our suppliers to certify that quality in writing. Our suppliers must all sign our purchase specification agreement which prohibits them from using non-ambulatory or â??downerâ? cattle. They all know we would never accept it.
We individually inspect every single chuck we receive to make sure that it meets our standards. Then our own, in-house and highly skilled butchers remove the bones. We grind the meat ourselves and make it into patties ourselves. We do all of this in our own patty making facility on our property in Baldwin Park, Ca. These steps enable us to completely control the patty-making process and be absolutely certain of the quality, freshness and safety of every patty we make. Weâ??ve always made our hamburger patties this way.
We are confident that every hamburger we serve, and have served in the past, is of the utmost quality and is completely safe and wholesome.â?
This is my response:
Thank you for the response. I suggest you band together with other companies and consumer advocates to place inspectors in the facilities of your suppliers. As this incidence demonstrates, you cannot trust suppliers even if they certify they will not provide you with beef from downer/sick cows, and you cannot trust USDA inspectors. Another option would be to buy kosher/halal meat in which observations are made for religious purposes and downer/sick cows would not pass muster.
Although the beef is no longer being served, I’m still concerned about the meat you serve. You are unable to provide guarantees that your other suppliers are not acting similarly to Hallmark/Westland.
We talked about the response from In-n-Out and decided not to eat from its restaurants until it can provide further assurances that downer cows won’t end up in our digestive tracts. Obviously, contractual obligations weren’t enough to stop one supplier from using downer cows. What is to stop other suppliers from behaving similarly? This instance demonstrates that more needs to be done by In-n-Out than relying on its contracts.
We were already concerned about the risk to Mad Cow disease since In-n-Out serves meat that comes from ranchers who might have cows that ate cow. We know this since Mad Cow takes years to incubate and the ban against cows eating meat products barely went into effect a few years ago. As a result, we generally buy from Whole Foods and others who sell Natural Beef (only fed grasses and grains). I sent Whole Foods a similar question but have not heard back from it yet. In-n-Out has been our one detour since it buys cuts of beef it then grinds for itself. That and we trusted In-n-Out. Now we’ve decided it isn’t worth the risk of Mad Cow, in general.