This cartoon from the Facebook page Fake Science made me laugh, then made me think about how little most folks know about how much work goes in to making sure their food is safe. The one person I didn't really talk about in my post about our tour of the locker was the state inspector.
All meat that is processed for sale in the United States must be inspected by either a state or federal inspector. The only time this isn't done is when you buy a quarter, half, or whole animal, as we are legally selling you a live animal. Of course, you can still pay the locker to inspect your custom slaughter animal if it makes you feel better!
It is illegal to slaughter for human use an animal that can't walk (a downer), showing any sign of neurological impairment (shaking), or obviously ill animals. This helps protect us all from illnesses such as BSE (Mad Cow), tuberculosis, etc.
The inspector looks at the animal standing still and moving, then post-slaughter will check the carcass for things like lesions, pneumonia, and abscesses. They can also cut a carcass to remove areas damaged by bruising, arthritis, or contamination from the slaughter process itself. The inspector also makes sure that the slaughter facility is sanitary and in good working order.
If you're like me, you're probably wondering what happens to a carcass that is condemned. These remains can be rendered for inedible grease, turned in to fertilizer, and even processed in to kerosene and diesel fuel!