One hundred years after a federal law put meat inspectors in every meat-processing plant, most consumers don’t understand the frequency or intensity of U.S. meat inspection.

That’s one finding of an American Meat Institute study conducted by Opinion Dynamics. It showed that 35 percent of consumers thought the banking industry was more heavily regulated and inspected than the meat industry. Twenty-one percent thought the meat industry was more regulated. Yet meat inspectors by law must be present in federally inspected meat-packing plants during every minute of operation.

Sixty percent of consumers also underestimated the frequency of meat inspections, with most saying that inspectors visited plants only “occasionally.”  Only 12 percent understood that meat inspectors are in packing plants continuously.

AMI has developed a brochure that carries the message, “If Upton Sinclair were alive today, he’d be amazed by the U.S. meat industry.”  Upton Sinclair authored the novel “The Jungle” in 1906, which inspired passage of the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the formation of AMI.

According to the brochure:

  • Food safety has improved dramatically. E. coli O157:H7 incidence on ground beef has declined from nearly 1 percent to less than 0.2 percent since 1999; Listeria monocytogenes has declined from 4.5 percent in 1990 on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products to 0.55 percent in 2004.
  • The meat industry’s worker safety profile has been transformed since 1990. Declines in illness and injury have been sustained for 15 years.
  • Each year, Americans spend less of their disposable income on meat – just 2 percent in 2004. U.S. consumers spend less of their disposable income on food than any other nation.
  • The proportion of fat in the diet contributed by meat, poultry and fish fell from 33 percent in the 1950s to 24 percent in 2000.

“Our industry represents a great American success story,” says AMI President J. Patrick Boyle.

“Today, we produce fresh, uncooked products that have lower bacterial counts than many of the cooked products produced in 1970. I am confident that we can tackle future challenges that emerge,” says James Hodges, AMI Foundation president.

To view an electronic version of the new brochure, go to Click on “Centennial Information” in the “Hot Topics” box.