Over 37 million of the 143 million pounds of meat recalled on Feb. 1 went to make hamburger, chili and tacos for school lunches around the country, some of which found its way to local schools.
Although the Federal government has banned "downer cows" from the United States meat supply, millions of these animals have provided meat for schools for many years as the public found out with the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company recall. The recall was the largest in the United States to date.
Thayer School District Food Service Director Connie Ward said that their school received 90 pounds of the recalled product in their February delivery.
"We had about three cases, 90 pounds of some processed taco meat that was recalled. We had just gotten it in on our Feb. 10 government commodity truck," Ward said.
"Commodity" shipments is a term that refers to the meat allocated to schools by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Labels on the recalled boxes read, "Contains commodities donated by the United States Department of Agriculture. This product shall be sold only to eligible recipient agencies."
The agencies this label refers to are state or federally funded programs likes schools and prisons.
The notice sent to Thayer by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education stated, "All beef products from the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company produced between Feb. 1, 2006, and February of 2008 have been recalled."
Although there was a hold on the meat sent to schools as of Jan. 31, a day before the actual recall was announced in the national media, the notice that the meat would have to be collected and "destroyed" was not sent out until Feb. 22.
Fortunately, although the recall was named a "low-risk recall" by Department of Agriculture officials, none of the tainted meat had been served to Thayer students.
Superintendent of Thayer School District, Rod Priest, said that because of the recall, the school had to seek out more expensive means of feeding the students.
Priest said that the commodity meat is allocated to the schools so lunch can be affordable for students and their families.
"The commodity food is why we can keep our prices so low," Priest explained. "We didn't have that commodity food so we have to go buy food from wholesale to replace it."
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has promised local education agencies full reimbursement for the processed food but no action has been determined yet.
The letter sent to Thayer school district about the recall states that the "USDA will pursue every avenue available to provide replacement raw commodity."
According to Melinda Steward, the Highland schools food services director, she received information that stated no Arkansas schools had received the recalled meat. This makes Arkansas one of the few states who were not affected.
According to the letter sent to Thayer schools, state agencies will arrange for the affected products to be picked up by food distribution associates by the next scheduled commodity delivery or through a special pick-up. The products will then be taken to a central location to be destroyed. Ward said although this is the case, they haven't received notice on when the meat will be picked up, and it currently sits in their lunch room freezer with the words "HOLD/RECALL" written on the side.