I’ve (no doubt) been (pink) slimed
I suspect that for every hand-crafted, 100% grass-fed Kobe beef slider I’ve downed, I’ve had a dozen All-American hamburgers that have contained All-American pink slime. Some have come from my rare but not unknown stop-ins at McDonald’s or Burger King. Sure, mostly I go the “virtuous” salad or broiled chicken route, but sometimes I do have a burger. And every five years or so, I wash that burger down with a chocolate shake. (If something as viscous as a McDonald’s shake can actually wash anything down.)
More often, though, I consume my burgers at one of the two bar-cum-burger joints my husband and I occasioned in that far away time (i.e., last fall) before he figured out he had gluten intolerance and can no longer eat a bun. I have no illusions that the delicious burgers I wolfed down over the years at the Pour House and the Red Hat – loaded with onions, tomato, lettuce, ketchup, pickles, and (at the Pour House) blue cheese – started life as anything other than a frozen patty containing pink slime.
So, yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been slimed.
For those who haven’t been following the pink slime story, ABC had a recent news segment on Beef Products Inc. (BPI) a South Dakota company that produces something called “lean finely textured beef”. This is made up of beef trimmings that get purified with ammonia and water, so that the consumer doesn’t get an e-coli infection, then extruded into something that looks like regular old hamburger meat. (Beef trimmings! You’d think the toe-to-tail gastronomes would be happy, what with nothing going to waste. But you know those toe-to-tail gastronomes…)
“The lean finely textured beef”is then mixed in with ground beef to create the product that appears in the meat lockers of an awful lot of grocery chains and food wholesalers.
Not, I will hasten to inform you, Whole Foods.
Whole Foods Market does not sell any fresh or frozen meat containing lean finely textured beef (“pink slime”) as the company’s stringent quality standards do not allow for it.
What a relief!
I have a pound in my freezer of Whole Food 97% lean ground beef, and, although I don’t fear and loathe pink slime all that much, I’m just as happy that my beef comes from contented cows. Who, before they voluntarily sacrificed themselves for our pleasure at a Temple Grandin-approved slaughter house where Vivaldi was piped in, spent their brief but happy lives gamboling in pastures, munching on buttercups and debating whether they’d prefer a slaughterhouse that played Vivaldi to one that favored Big Band music.
But lesser chains – tut, tut – were selling slime-burgers. Given the hue and outcry that followed the ABC story, they’re falling all over themselves to get it off their shelves.
This resulted in BPI halting production and furloughing employees at three of its plants.
They are, by the way, doing the right thing by their employees, who, I’m a-guesing, are not exactly among the 1-percenters.
According to The Associated Press, Beef Products will suspend operations at plants in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kan.; and Waterloo, Iowa. About 200 employees at each of the three plants will get full salary and benefits for 60 days during the suspension, the AP reported, adding, the company’s plant at its headquarters will continue operations. (Source: Forbes.)
I guess BPI’s hoping that, by the time 60 days are up, pink slime fever will have died down.
Which it sounds as though it should.
Certainly, we could use a conversation about our overall food-industrial complex, providers of so many chemical-ed up, non-nutritious, flat out bad for you, unsafe, disgustingly-produced and, don’t forget to mention, addictive food-like products. Of which pink slime, apart from its unfortunately moniker, is far from the worst. In fact, it’s all-beef, not all-additives. So if you overlook the ammonia wash and the Play-Doh extrusion process, pink slime is almost natural, if not entirely Whole Foodian.
And BPI is by no means the worst member of the food industry. Au contraire, according to NPR, which quoted Penn State ag-food professor Ed Mills on BPI. Mills termed the company:
…"poster child for food safety and was very open about letting people into their plant. ... Of all the companies I've dealt with, they're not the one we should be attacking for food safety."
NPR also reminded us that a lot of our “meat products” are processed. “Lunch meat,” anyone?
If the pink slime flap doesn’t die down, I guess BPI and its employees will be out of luck. And consumers will be paying more for “pure”, non-slimed ground beef, whether it comes from the Whole Foods-style buttercup gamboling cows or wretched cattle with lives that were nasty, brutish, and probably not short enough.
There are no doubt a ton of important stories that could be told about the food industry. Not all that sure that Upton Sinclair would have troubled himself with this one.