Pink slime and the slimy tactics of America’s food elitists
Last week, the Media Research Center’s Dan Gainor wrote a nice article examining how the mainstream media has been complicit in smearing lean finely textured beef — what critics are calling “pink slime.” “ABC has covered the story almost round the clock in recent weeks with stories on ‘World News with Diane Sawyer’ and ‘Good Morning America’,” Gainor reported. Versions of the story have been picked up by dozens of major and minor newspapers around the country. And most television and radio news programs have covered it as well.
On Sunday, however, The New York Times‘s Andrew Revkin became what appears to be the first major media figure to debunk the misinformation campaign in a blog post entitled, “Why I’m O.K. with ‘Pink Slime’ in Ground Beef.”
I agree with Texas Gov. Rick Perry on something — the nutritional merits of derided “pink slime” — the processed last scrapings of meat and connective tissue after cattle are butchered. Dude, it is indeed beef — a source of low-fat nutrition.
One of Revkin’s sources, a historian and blogger named Maureen Ogle, explains the issue well
“First a word about PS: It’s beef, people. Plain ol’ beef. It’s created by using a deboning process that removes every last morsel of flesh from beef carcasses. During the cutting, slivers and bits of bone end up with the beef, but those are reduced to mush in the processing that follows. … In the BEEF industry, its use dates back to the mid-1970s, although poultry and fish processors were already using the technique. Beef packers began using in the in mid-seventies because, at the time, all meat prices, but especially beef, were in the stratosphere. … So pushed by consumers on one side, and soaring costs on the other, meatpackers asked for, and got, permission from the USDA to use a “mechanical deboning” process that allowed them scrape meat off carcasses so that what had been waste could be eaten.”
Although critics are calling pink slime an unsafe food additive that ought to require mandatory labeling wherever it appears, the fact of the matter is, lean finely textured beef is exactly that: beef. And, compared to other ground beef, LFTB is probably better for consumers. It is processed in a way that removes much of the fat — thus the “lean” part of its name. And beginning around the early- to mid-1990s, following a foodborne illness outbreak linked to Jack in the Box hamburgers, processors began treating LFTB with tiny amounts of the common food disinfectant ammonium hydroxide to kill germs, thereby substantially reducing consumers’ exposure to foodborne pathogens.
You might think that the food nannies who complain about high-fat, calorie-dense food served in institutional settings such as school cafeterias would embrace a product that is lower in fat and largely pathogen free. But you’d be wrong. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, a self-righteous, elitist git who’s been whining about high-fat school food for years, praised the pink slime propaganda campaign for getting LFTB removed from scores of school cafeterias. In an e-mail to the Associated Press, Oliver added, “I hope the U.S. government is also listening because it’s partly responsible for lying to the public for allowing this cheap, low-quality meat filler to be used for so long without having to legally state its presence on packaging.”
In a surprising move, though, the Consumer Federation of America took a positive stand, issuing a statement that “CFA is concerned that manufacturers of hamburger patties may replace LFTB with something that has not been processed to assure the same level of safety. We are also concerned about the potential chilling effect this recent controversy may have on companies who seek to apply innovative solutions and new technologies to enhance food safety.”
Unfortunately, that seems to be precisely the point. Food elitists like Jamie Oliver and Marion Nestle, who seemingly has never met a new technology she didn’t ridicule, aren’t interested in promoting safe, nutritious, and cheap foods per se; they want us all to eat the fruits of some idealized, pastoral perfection — you know, things that aren’t icky. “Culturally we don’t eat byproducts of human food production,” says Nestle. “It’s not in our culture. Other cultures do. We don’t.”
Our culture doesn’t do that? What’s next on her hit list? Sushi? Kiwi fruit? Kopi Luwak? Well, I have news for Marion Nestle: Our “culture” didn’t eat those things either … until we did. Cultures adapt, innovate, learn. That is, we try new things. And when we find things that work well, taste good, and are safe, we adopt them as our own.
In short, the attack on so-called pink slime is one more example food activists’ willingness to attack and mislead consumers about whatever it is that they personally dislike, the facts be damned. So, I’ll continue to eat ground beef products that contain lean finely textured beef. I encourage you to do the same. And if Jamie Oliver ever comes for my scrapple, he’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.
The Disastrous Sliming of "Pink Slime"
Jamie Oliver, TV’s “Naked Chef,” (yeah, not sanitary) is a food snob. But when food snobbery crosses the line into food scaremongering, we have a problem.
And that is what has happened with the pink slime controversy. By now, you probably know Oliver went on his show and laid into pink slime – or, as they call it in the meat industry, lean finely textured beef. It’s an additive found in ground beef. He “demonstrated” how beef producers take parts of the cow that otherwise would be discarded, then centrifuges separate beef from fat in ways that were previously not economically possible. This beef is roughly 95% lean and is often added to cheaper, high-fat ground beef to raise its protein content – which I would take as a good thing – then treat it with anti-bacteria substances, including minute amounts of ammonia hydroxide, then use it to fill out ground beef.
I put “demonstrated” in quotation marks because Oliver, ever the showman, ignored the fact that ammonia hydroxide gas is used to make the meat and has been approved for use by the FDA since 1973 yet he poured ammonia from a gallon jug with a skull and crossbones on it over beef, which could only be further from the truth if it were gasoline and he’d set it on fire. But it makes for good TV, and that’s Jamie’s real concern.
He fancies himself a modern-day Upton Sinclair – horrifying us into action by holding up for us to see the ingredients we actually eat. Only, he’s more like Rachel Carson, raising a big stink, costing us all millions and millions of dollars, turning us against each other and against well-meaning, law-abiding, job-providing, community-supporting companies over absolutely nothing.
This product has been tested extensively – by government, private watchdogs, food groups, food industry organizations – and the only thing any of them has found wrong with it is its nickname. Even the harshest critics of the beef industry, people such as Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Food Safety Institute for the Consumer Federation of America, and Nancy Donley, president of Safe Tables Our Priority, a group that represents victims of food-borne illnesses, admit it is safe.
Heck, a month ago, 70 percent of all the ground beef sold in America – including all the beef sold at McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s – contained this stuff.. And there was no outbreak of disease or death. Why? Because it is safe.
An industry is dying. Already, 3,000 jobs are lost, and more are on the way. Experts say we’ll need 150,000 more head of cattle per year to make up for the lost filler and that ground beef could go up 20 percent or more. All because a food snob from England whose kids are legally named – and I couldn’t possibly make this up – Poppy Honey, Daisy Boo, Petal Blossom and Buddy Bear, decided to bump the ratings with a misleading stunt.
This does present some interesting questions. If science is to guide all policy decisions, as liberals remind us during any conversation about global warming, why not now? This science is actually settled! Is this just too juicy to pass up? The English accent? The scariness of finding out how people in flyover country make their money? The appeal to irrational paranoia against unseen forces that drives so much of the Occupy movement? The relentless push from a self-interested media organization on which the left religiously relies?
Or is Jamie Oliver just one more person who thinks he knows what’s good for us better than we do ourselves? Go back to being a food snob, Jamie. Thanks for another lesson in liberal hypocrisy.
'Pink slime' ingredient is also used in cheese, reveals meat industry under fire for using cleaning chemical
The controversy over ammonia-treated beef - or what critics dub ‘pink slime’ - broadened this week as it was revealed that the caustic cleaning chemical is also used in cheese. Related compounds are also used in baked goods and chocolate.
Ammonia, known for its noxious odor, became a hot topic with the uproar over what the meat industry calls ‘finely textured beef’ and what a former U.S. government scientist first called ‘pink slime’.
Ammonia is a nitrogen compound with a distinctive pungent smell of urine. It's used widely as a cleaning agent - although it's highly caustic in its pure form.
'Pink slime' beef is made from fatty trimmings sprayed with ammonium hydroxide - ammonia mixed with water - to remove pathogens such as salmonella and E.coli.
Ammonia compounds are used as leavening agents in baked goods and as an acidity controller in cheese and sometimes chocolate.
Kraft Foods, whose brands include Chips Ahoy cookies and Velveeta cheese, is one company that uses very small amounts of ammonium compounds in some of its products. It declined to specify which products.
‘Sometimes ingredient names sound more complicated than they are,’ said Kraft spokeswoman Angela Wiggins.Wiggins said that in turning milk to cheese, a tiny amount of ammonium hydroxide is added to a starter dairy culture to reduce the culture's acidity and encourage cheese cultures to grow.
The meat industry has been trying to raise awareness of other foods that contain ammonia, in response to what it has characterized as an unfair attack on a safe and healthy product.
For example, ammonia compounds are used as leavening agents in baked goods and as an acidity controller in cheese and sometimes chocolate.
‘Ammonia's not an unusual product to find added to food,’ Gary Acuff, director of Texas A&M University's Center for Food Safety, told a recent press conference hosted by Beef Products Inc. ‘We use ammonia in all kinds of foods in the food industry.’
After critics highlighted the product on social media websites and showed unappetizing photos on television, calling it ‘pink slime,’ the nation's leading fast-food chains and supermarkets spurned the product, even though U.S. public health officials deem it safe to eat.
Hundreds of U.S. school districts also demanded it be removed from school lunch programs. One producer, Beef Products Inc, has since idled three factories. Another, AFA Foods, filed for bankruptcy protection.
Ammonia - often associated with cleaning products - was cleared by U.S. health officials nearly 40 years ago and is used in making many foods, including cheese. Related compounds have a role in baked goods and chocolate products.
Using small amounts of ammonia to make food is not unusual to those expert in high-tech food production. Now that little known world is coming under increasing pressure from concerned consumers who want to know more about what they are eating.
‘I think we're seeing a sea change today in consumers' concerns about the presence of ingredients in foods, and this is just one example,’ said Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety.
The outrage, which many experts say has been fueled by the term ‘pink slime,’ seems more about the unsavoriness of the product rather than its safety. ‘This is not a health issue,’ said Bill Marler, a prominent food safety lawyer. ‘This is an 'I'm grossed out by this' issue.’
Still, critics of so-called ‘Big Food’ point out that while ‘pink slime’ and the ammonia in it may not be harmful, consumer shock over their presence points to a wider issue.
‘The food supply is full of all sorts of chemical additives that people don't know about,’ said Michele Simon, a public health lawyer and president of industry watchdog consulting firm Eat Drink Politics.
Wiggins said that in turning milk to cheese, a tiny amount of ammonium hydroxide is added to a starter dairy culture to reduce the culture's acidity and encourage cheese cultures to grow.
‘It is somewhat similar to activating yeast for dough by adding warm water, sugar and salt to create the proper environment for yeast growth,’ Wiggins said.
In the case of ammonium phosphate, used as a leavening agent in baking, she said the heat during baking causes the gas to evaporate
'Pink slime' furore crushes beef processor AFA foods
A LEADING US beef processor, AFA Foods, has filed for bankruptcy protection, blaming media coverage of one of its products dubbed "pink slime" by critics.
AFA Foods said it was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection "given recent changes in the market for its ground beef products and the impact of media coverage related to Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT)."
Based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, the company claims to be the nation's largest ground beef processor, producing more than 317 million kilograms annually, mostly for food service companies.
AFA Foods said in a statement on today that it had sought bankruptcy protection because "the best way to preserve value for its stakeholders is through an orderly sale of some or all of its assets".
BLBT is made from beef trimmings otherwise used in pet food and cooking oil that is treated with a puff of ammonia to deter e. coli bacteria. The lean, finely textured beef is typically added to ground meat, like hamburger, as a low-cost filler.
In mid-March, public furore about the so-called "pink slime" drove the US Department of Agriculture to announce it would leave it to schools to decide whether to use the controversial ground beef filler in the meals they serve to students.
The USDA's National School Lunch Program feeds more than 31 million school children, many of them from low-income families.
USDA recently bought 3.6 million kilograms of the rosy-coloured product for school meals - prompting more than 250,000 consumers to sign an online petition demanding a halt to its use in school food.
Several fast-food chains, including McDonald's, have declared they would cease beefing up their burgers with lean finely textured beef.
AFA Foods has seven production facilities and a workforce of more than 1000 employees.