Friday, February 11, 2011

Germ Phobia

There's an article on the web about a farmer that took over a small food business. They serve their meat there, in addition to drive-through coffee and breakfast burritos.

They aren't raising Mangalitsa pigs. I wouldn't mention them except for something I saw in the comments. Someone writes:
I do not want a person who looks that unkempt handling my food with his bare hands. Sorry, but when you're dealing with food and serving the public, clean it up. Especially handling pork! Groom yourself, cover your hair, wear a clean apron and wear disposable gloves.

When I read that, I thought, "isn't the meat going to get cooked?" That's one reason I'm not super careful about the cutting boards in my kitchen; I figure anything I cut on them I sear right after, killing any germs.

Of course, if I processed meat for other people, I'd follow the rules. But when it comes to me and my own health, what I care about is staying healthy, not keeping things unnecessarily clean.

I was thinking about that criticism, and then I thought back to one of my visits to the Wiesner farm in Goellersdorf, Austria. Christoph showed me how he makes his speck, which he sells to people. Here's the video:

Yep, that's the kitchen sink. I think Christoph looks kempt enough. But he's not wearing a hat to keep his hair away from all food - which I think is a requirement in a USDA-inspected facility, and whose absence would trouble a mysophobe.

Christoph knows his stuff though - among other things, that product will dry out before people eat it. Germs die when that happens. If sanitation was such a life and death issue, we wouldn't exist, because our ancestors couldn't keep things germ-free the way we can now.

Christoph Wiesner's products

From a business perspective, Christoph does fine. He makes incredible speck. He hasn't made people sick. People keep buying it. I think you'd have a hard time convincing him to do things differently. He's certainly aware that the first time he makes someone sick, he's probably going to be out of business.

I think some people worry too much about germs.

Postscript: I thought about this a bit more. When I first traveled in Central Europe, to eastern Slovakia, I was offered a lot of homemade food that would normally be made by heavily regulated food companies in the USA. E.g. distilled alcohol, pastries, klobasa, etc. I remember eating that food and wondering if it was going to harm me. The thing you learn quickly is that normally that stuff tastes better than the heavily regulated food, and it costs less.


BlogsRPew? said...

Christoph is awesome. I went to one of the classes they did this fall and I never felt like there would be an issue. And we ate stuff completely raw which certainly is not common practice around here. I think people over-react a bit to germs as we are seeing with the Raw-Milk cheese backlash.

Rae said...

I attribute my healthy immune system to being completely germ-unaware growing up, not washing my hands often enough, and playing outside with the animals. I have coworkers that are repeatedly ill every winter. They are the same coworkers that compulsively reach for hand sanitizer every time they touch something "icky". Sometimes, a little icky does a body good. :) I've had one sick day in 6.5 years. Let's hear it for all the times I didn't wash my hands before I ate. Lol.