Imagine you order a steak at a restaurant, you bite in and it's soft, flavorful and easy to chew. The meat could have been tenderized by the chef, beating and hammering it right there in the kitchen. Or that steak might have been softened hundreds of miles away at a factory, where machines hack away with blades and needles.
This process, known as mechanical tenderizing, is quite commonplace. It's used to soften and marinate beef that shows up everywhere from your local Applebee's to schools and banquet halls. Mechanical tenderizing is also being linked to the spread of E. Coli and other food-borne illnesses that can prove lethal.
Reporter Mike McGraw has been looking into the beef industry for a series of reports featured in the Kansas City Star.