Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My thoughts on "Pink Slime"

"Pink slime" has been in the news lately, with not much good being said about it. For those of you who missed it - don't you people read the newspaper?! - here's what wikipedia has to say about the product: "Pink slime is a slang word for a type of mechanically recovered meat product. It's also known as boneless lean beef trimmings or lean finely textured beef, and is an industrial byproduct created from low quality beef trimmings treated with ammonia gas to render it acceptable for food health standards...According to The Washington Post, the process involves taking USDA-approved beef trimmings, separating the fat and meat with centrifuges, then squeezing it through a tube the size of a pencil, during which time it is exposed to ammonia gas. The combination of the gas with water in the meat results in a reaction that increases the pH (lowering acidity) and killing pathogens such as E. coli. At the end of the process, the beef is at least 90 percent lean. It is used in meat supplies across the U.S. It rarely comprises more than 25 percent of the final meat product that consumers purchase and eat."

So there you have it: "pink slime" is 90% lean finely textured beef that has been rendered safe to eat through a chemical process which kills the bacteria. Somehow that doesn't sound so bad.

I started thinking about this topic this afternoon as I was browning some ground beef (pink slime content unknown) to make a batch of my world-famous, award-winning chili. It occurred to me that what I was doing was not terribly different from the process that produces "pink slime". I used heat instead of ammonia gas (I don't have any) to kill the bacteria, and since I don't have a centrifuge either I used a spoon to take the fat out of the pan, but otherwise the processes seem remarkably similar.

There's an old saying that making sausage and passing legislation are messy businesses and neither one is pleasant to watch. When I was in "junior high" (now called "middle school") we went on a field trip to the Kirschner plant in Augusta to see how hot dogs are made - it was several years, maybe decades, before I could eat another hot dog. I think we can now add "pink slime" to the list of items that the less we know about how they are made, the better. But if the processes utilize products that would otherwise be thrown away or fed to the pigs to produce a food product that is nutritious, safe to eat, and tasty to boot - is that really a bad thing?

I read today that the uproar caused by media reports on the topic have resulted in a substantial loss of orders for the primary producer of "pink slime" and that as a result they have had to lay off workers. That really is a bad thing given the tough unemployment situation that continues to hamper our economy.

So here is what I would like to see the media do: forget about sensational stories (with accompanying disgusting video) concerning the production of safe, nutritious food products and shine a light on the equally disturbing, even more disgusting process by which our laws get made. Believe me, what goes into hot dogs and pink slime is nothing compared to the total bullshit that goes into the legislative process, and they don't even bother to sterilize it!

"Pink slime" may be unsavory but it's way better than anything produced by Congress lately.

1 comment:

  1. Today's paper included a report that AFA Foods, the ground beef processor that produces "pink slime", is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and selling its assets. A spokesman for the company said that "the controversy over the ammonia-treated meat filler has dramatically reduced demand for all ground beef products." Dozens of jobs will be lost due to the closing. Congress, meanwhile, continues to produce its own version of slime (color unspecified, but definitely not "rainbow") with no improvement to its sanitization process. I hope everybody feels better now.