Covid-19, bird flu, botulism, E-Coli, salmonella, food terrorists, what’s happening to my America?

Are we heading for a major food poisoning outbreak by eating food? Is Doom's Day near? Well, take a deep breath and listen very carefully to what I'm about to say -- NO, NO, NO and NO.

I would like to share a trip I made recently to prove my point. My wife and I were on a trout fishing trip to Clarksville, Ga., where we stayed with some friends. While I was there, I cooked for the family and some friends one night.

During the evening, one of the guests came to me and asked if I would consider taking a tour of his plant, which was nearby and possibly offer him some culinary ideas. I told him I would be happy to. I later found out they had performed a security and background check on me before I was asked to tour the plant. The facility is closed to the public due to very strict security and my friend had set this all up to surprise me beforehand, knowing I would like to tour the plant.

The company was the Fieldale Farms Corp., the largest producer of cut chicken in the world. The packs of cut up chicken you see in Publix and Winn-Dixie are just a few of their products.

The tour began with a brief introduction by the CEO. I was then handed off to a personal security guide for the remainder of the plant tour. I entered the clean room and was given a smock, rubber bootees up to the knee and a hospital-like hair covering. The security guide used a remote-controlled device to open a door to the wash room. As I walked in, a disinfectant foam sprayed across the floor and I walked through it to the sinks, which had a foot-activated control. I was watched as I washed for one minute with antiseptic soap and then I rinsed my hands with an antiseptic solution. I was given sleeve covers, which ran from wrists to elbows and then gloves to overlap at the wrists. An exit door was activated.

I entered a long corridor, first walking through another disinfectant foam spray. This process would be repeated several times as I entered each department. At no time could you smell poultry. It was the cleanest facility I had ever seen!

They process the chicken from egg to fried chicken tenders. All chicks are sprayed with antibacterial growth solution. The feeding sheds are large to prevent overcrowding and stress on the chickens, resulting in a bigger and more tender product. The Human Society of America has awarded them a best practice award for three years running.

All employees are required to go through the same procedures that I had followed. All poultry is X-rayed and run through a metal detector before packaging. The cutting tool is a high-speed water jet that sliced like a knife and can be programmed for any size or shape. Human hands never touch the product; it moved from one area to another by pneumatic plastic tubes and conveyor belts to box. At every stage, the product is tested for temperature and bacteria count.

This company is an example of what is happening in America’s beef, poultry and pork companies. Across the country, food manufacturers are initiating these procedures. So, is our food safe? For those naysayers who tout “food was safer when I was young” or “back in the good old days”, I say the good old days weren’t so good. In the early 1900s people lived to the average ripe old age of 50 and hot dogs were full of mystery meat. Today we have truth in labeling and sanitation policies that are the envy of the world. Is it perfect? No, but it is better than in any time of our history. That’s what I think. Now let’s talk chicken recipe.

Chicken Potato Bake

Ingredients:

8 pieces of cut chicken with bone; mix it up dark and white

¾ cup melted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons oregano leaves

2 cloves of fresh garlic, cleaned and minced small

2 cups chicken stock

The juice from two fresh lemons

2 baking potatoes cut lengthwise cut in four pieces each

1 cup red onions, sliced

1 cup celery cut in 1-inch pieces

1 cup carrots cut in 1-inch pieces

Directions:

Place celery, onions, and carrots on bottom of a shallow roasting pan and pour chicken stock over vegetables. In a bowl, coat all chicken parts and potatoes with the olive oil and butter mixture. Place chicken parts and potatoes in pan with vegetables. Season with lemon juice and salt and pepper. Sprinkle garlic and oregano over all chicken. Cook at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes until chicken is golden brown and potatoes are soft.

Helpful Hints

•Peel medium-size potatoes cut in half then in half again. Place down in the stock. Halfway through the cooking process, using a spoon baste the chicken, continue to cook.

•I like using a whole chicken cut into 8 pieces for better flavor using legs, thighs, wings, and breast pieces

•Microwave fresh whole lemon 10 seconds will yield more juice.

Costa Magoulas is dean of the Mori Hosseini College of Hospitality and Culinary Management at Daytona State College. Contact him at (386) 506-3578 or costa_magoulas@daytonastate.edu.

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