Meat Department

If anyone needs more reasons to avoid eating meat, other than how it’s contributing to water scarcity and climate change—I offer a glance through a distant window, a fading illumination on why you might consider avoiding the average grocery store meat department altogether.

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Dates are a big problem in the grocery realm. People who don’t work at grocery stores think they need to trash their food if they don’t eat it by the date stamped on it. Those of us who share the misery of this special cog in the food machine know that the dates aren’t very honest. One meat cutter referred to this constantly as the “gray zone”. Just because a steak turns brown, or green, or needs a tumor cut out of it doesn’t mean it’s inedible, which is why any meat-cutter who can manage a budget is going to cut the nastiest bits off a green rubber steak, soak it in a marinade, and put it back in the case.

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The first meat manager I worked for would rub the dates off the plastic coating around expired meat with rubbing alcohol. If a manager cared enough to inquire, the excuse was easy: manufacturer forgot to stamp a date, happens all the time.

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My last manager, we’ll call him Asshole, had a favorite saying, “Blood on my knife or shit on my dick.” The last time we spoke he had a wife who felt the need the enlarge her breasts, two daughters, and openly joked about raping the women who worked in the department. To Asshole, people were no different than meat and all meat meant to him was money.

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On a few occasions, we received live crawdads, but never with any means of containing them, so we just let them crawl around the sectional seafood case with the cooked and raw food.

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Aging meat is an art enjoyed by many connoisseurs across the world. We charged a modest $21 per pound for an “aged” rib eye steak. Asshole decided that walking another ten feet to store product in the proper cooler wasn’t worth his time and began keeping everything from marinated chicken to veggie kababs behind what was easily $4000 worth of rib eye for “quick access”. Every time Asshole opened the door a thousand microbes, bacteria, viruses, and mold, metals, cleaners, whatever happened to be in the air, rushed in to contaminate your overpriced steak.

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One morning casual conversation with the seafood manager got him on a tangent about sockeye salmon eyes being considered a delicacy in some parts of the world. And in the moment, he reached down and took hold of the salmon I was about to fillet, jabbed his thumb into its eye socket, and plopped the exploded bits of slimy darkness in his mouth and happily exclaimed, “Mmmm, salty!”

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Asshole ordered too many boxes of ground beef a few weeks before he transferred to a different level of Hell. Fresh ground beef is typically pre-ground at a different facility and stuffed in a plastic casing like a sausage. They’re boxed up and shipped to us to regrind at the store. The “gray zone” is a little less cloudy with ground beef because it’s terrible. It’s the only thing in the store that gets logged every time its ground, and if someone forgets to log it more than three times they’re typically fired. So what does one do when they order too much? Grind it anyway and enter a false date into the record. Could it hurt people? Hopefully, not. Is it legal? I really don’t think so. But, when you rip the labels off the boxes nobody can really prove you did anything wrong. Asshole’s assistant took over after he left and was fired a year later for trying to do the same thing.

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A clerk was laughing and chatting with a customer across the seafood counter. He concluded her order and said goodbye, and as she walked away he turned to all of us and said, “check this out” pointing down at his sizable erection.

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The secret ingredient in our holiday ham is corn syrup solids.

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I was rubbing my arms in the chill of the cooler one morning when the meat grinder screamed and gurgled to a halt. I unplugged the machine, opened the hopper lid and dug through all the portions of beef that can’t be fashioned into some over-simplified, streamlined, consumerist driven steak and found a nylon cutting glove.

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I’m not calling anyone a cannibal, but it’s not uncommon for someone to cut themselves and not realize it until they’ve bled all over a good deal of equipment—or cut through—and lose a small chunk of a finger. Very rare. But they’re not going to throw away 20 pork chops because a sliver of someone’s finger might have fallen into the batch.

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Meat

I complain a lot about work. It’s high volume grocery–it’s soul sucking. But today we have a very special reason to celebrate together (kind-of). A coworker came up to me while I was lining up Gala apples, and told me the current meat manager is either being transferred or fired for hiding raw expired chicken by marinating them, and making pre-seasoned meatloaf out of expired ground beef.

This asshole was the assistant manager while I was working in the meat department a couple of years ago. I was a journeyman butcher working as the apprentice of an utter psychopath department manager (it’s complicated), who will remain nameless for legality’s sake. At first it only seemed like they bent the rules a little, but by the time I was done negotiating my transfer to Produce almost two years ago, he was trying to push expired ground beef (I threatened to call OSHA). A few weeks later he transferred to a store downtown. So, it’s no surprise his little, equally as manipulative, lackey got caught doing the same thing.

Those assholes made my life a living hell while I worked in that pit, and I could write a fucking book on all the stupid shit they tried to pull. If people knew the truth about what they paid for they’d likely be outraged. Most of time you’re not even buying what you think you are. The “old times butcher” look just doesn’t work in a grocery store because it’s too corporate.

They’ll hire any idiot they can transfer out, to save the company was much money as possible. In the grand corporate scheme of things this guy will almost certainly be transferred to some scaled down store where the workload’s a joke, and people will forget about all his bullshit, and maybe after a few years he can try again at a grown-up store. It’s either that or fire him, and then hire him back six months later, which is our company’s policy. When it comes to meat and eating right, you want small business, people in touch with their practice and the community.

From a guy who only knows the worst end of retail, you’re doing yourself an extreme disservice mistreating those who of us paid to serve. Only the assholes pay top dollar for a steak that fell on the floor, might have been rinsed in the sink, and put in the cold-case as if it had just been freshly cut. The asshole pays top dollar for organic product that isn’t organic. Nice people get a level of service that is completely unknown to the douche-bag.

If all goes well, our store will good a meat manager with a good reputation since our current fellow is such an ass, but you never know, so just remember this: stay away from ground beef and marinades, they’re constant temptation for the idiots in management who can’t (or won’t) follow an order guide.

Butcher Brown Knows What Women Wanna Hear

Brown doesn’t care about anyone unless he can use them. Consequently he only cares about the Meat Department, and not the side that sells fish. So, Butcher Brown whines and complains until the seafood manager–or in today’s case the Assistant Manager Katie–stop what they’re doing, and help stock beef. Katie decided she wasn’t having any of that shit, and told Brown to fuck off.

“Look, I have too much shit to do today, maybe if your Assistant didn’t take a fucking hour to place an order, you’d have someone to help you.” Katie said.

“Don’t you have someone scheduled at ten?”

“Yeah, and they’re going to be busy with all the shit they need to do. So, suck it up!”

The meat assistant came around the corner, and Brown said to him, “Hey, if you ever want to rape anybody, give ol’ Katie a go–she’s a fighter!”

Butcher Brown on Customer Service

I was separating chicken breasts with Brown late in the evening, about this same time, years back. A customer walked up to the case. “Want me to help him, or you got it?” I asked.

“What?” His eyebrows were up to his hairline. He snickered. “This late? Fuck em, help me finish this shit. They can wait a couple minutes.”

Eventually, the guy just walked away. “Lost one.” I said.

“He was looking at the  pre-made shit, wasn’t gonna buy a T-bone. Fuck ’em.”

Windup Savior

windupjesus

Round and round
the hand that spins
the key that winds,
all the power the
Savior provides.

Here comes the
Butcher three days
later for his lambs,
like we devour
Christmas hams.

As he went by
I saw the key
flash and fume,
his eyes empty
like his tomb.

Our union laid
their hands upon
my Windup Savior,
but no one could
turn the key after.

Everything's Over

Vegan

A douche-bag walks up to me while I’m working and says, “Hey man, where do you guys keep the tofu meat, and Vegan products?” I stop stacking apples, and take a moment to point him in the right direction (which he had trouble figuring out), and I said, “Right over there in Nutrition.”

He walks away, I return to stacking fruit, and I think, wait a minute, vegan? This guy shouldn’t be shopping for anything outside of Produce, but he and so many others, go straight to Nutrition. Where else can you find fake cheese, meat, and other strange, nutritionally void food products. Why do you do this? Animals, the protest against the killing of animals?

What’s wrong with killing animals, Jesus, we kill each other everyday, other animals will kill you, and eat you (like your cats), lots of animals get their food by killing each other in this big, ugly, savage, shit-show called Nature. So please refrain from smearing your elitism on me you goddamn 99% with your 1% attitude.

Do you understand how lucky you are just to be able to eat such dumb shit. Most people have to eat meat, they don’t get a hundred different choices of “tofu meat”, being truly realistic–a lot are very luck to have any food at all. But, I’m sure all that is just beyond your far-reaching scope of humanity, so I won’t hold it against you.

Lastly, for you who say it’s healthy–bullshit; ask a doctor if you should go vegan. Bonus: a lot of you are mean as hell too. Than again, I’d have a shit attitude too if I stopped eating meat.

Natural

Anything can be
called natural.
Plastic’s made of
perfectly natural
chemicals. There isn’t
a single goddamn thing:
iphone, nuclear power,
even you and me that wasn’t
somehow fused, forged, eroded,
irradiated, fissioned, or
philosophized out of this
goddamned rock we call
home. Organic?
It’s the same as anything else,
it’s all in your head
and it makes people
rich. And all that fancy
overpriced, stomach
slowing, fad-diet feeding,
shit is filling up the Earth
with unimaginable amounts
of plastic and Styrofoam
that will never go away.
And that is why
I smile that
big shit-eating
smile; while you
tell me all
about how you’re
saving the planet.