Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cheap Bastid's: Who Wants a "Pink Slime" Burger?

Doesn’t that sound good? A big old double-stacker of Pink Slime.

Last week, “pink slime” leaped to the top of the standing in Google searches after a series of stories hit the news about 5 million pounds of it being sold to school lunch programs.

All of a sudden people were questioning whether or not their kids should be eating such stuff. Well hell, they’ve been eating it for a while in the burgers and tacos they snarf down at fast food joints.

Beef Products, Inc. of South Dakota (or BPI) is apparently the main purveyor of this tasty product which they call “finely textured lean beef”. Dr. Gerald Zirnstein of the USDA coined the
term “pink slime” in a memo a while back defining it as “boneless beef trimmings”, or such products that have gone through a centrifuge.”

“Mary Jane’s Farm”, a blog which was quoted in a post by TLC (The Learning Channel) described “pink slime” like this:
“Ten years ago, the rejected fat, sinew, bloody effluvia, and occasional bits of meat cut from carcasses in the slaughterhouse were a low-value waste product called ‘trimmings’ that were sold primarily as pet food. No more. Now, BPI transforms trimmings into something they call boneless lean beef’. In huge factories, the company liquefies the trimmings and uses a spinning centrifuge to separate the sinews and fats from the meat, leaving a mash that has been described as ‘pink slime’, which is then frozen into small squares and sold as a low-cost additive to hamburger”.

Oh yeah, and BPI produces more than 7 million pounds of it. Per Week! That’s a million pounds a day. Enough each year for more than a pound of this magical elixir for every person in the U.S.

What the blogpost didn’t say was that the “mash” is treated with ammonium hydroxide in order to kill germs like e coli.

Supposedly this product now is present in 70% of the ground beef sold in the U.S.

OK, if you’re alarmed, worried or a bit scared raise your hand and let’s count. Yep, I see quite a
few hands raise out there, including mine. I don’t want to eat that stuff, do you? I wouldn’t want my kid eating that stuff at school either.

And, there’s no requirement to label the product or otherwise warn consumers that the amburger they’re buying contains “pink slime”. I’m not too thrilled about that either. Janet Riley, Senior Vice President of the American Meat Institute told ABC News that there’s no need to label this product as anything other than “beef”. “It’s beef,” she said. “and it’s labeled as beef.”

Huh? I have a problem defining “connective tissue” and the waste meat that was discarded then treated with chemicals and put into a centrifuge as beef. I have a big problem with it.

What’s the motivation behind it? How about profit? I would guess that it’s more profitable to
take the stuff that would normally be thrown out because it dropped on the floor or might be contaminated with fecal matter to “process” it and sell it as an “additive” for ground beef than to box it up to be processed into pet food. If it can be peddled to the consuming public it means that they can 1) charge more and 2) not have to raise and slaughter as many cattle.

So, WWCBD? (that’s short for “What Would Cheap Bastid Do?”) I rarely buy pre-ground hamburger. For the last several years I have about 90% of the time selected a chuck roast or round roast when it’s on special at my grocery store and asked the meat cutter to grind it for me. My grocery store will grind it for no extra charge. I typically spend less than $3 a pound for ground beef that is $4 or more per pound if it’s already ground up.

I know the roast I picked out comes from one cow. It’s clean. I’m confident in its quality—and
there is NO “pink slime”.

When I get home, I take my meat package, open it up and divide it into freezer bags. (One other
Cheap Bastid secret is that I’m usually planning on cooking for 2 so, to me, a “pound” is 12 ounces—we don’t need more than that for 2 people. If I have “pounds” or about 2 ¼ pounds of
actual meat, I’ll put 12 ounces each into bags and then divide the last 12 ounces in half, wrap each 6 ounce lump in plastic wrap and put the 2 of those in a bag—that’s in case we’ve got more than 2 to cook for). It takes about 5 minutes to do when you get home. You’ve got enough time to do it.

Check with your grocer’s meat department to find out if they will grind meat for you. And ask the meat department manager if they use “pink slime”. If they do, find out in what products and don’t buy that product anymore if you’re concerned.

You know, my father was a food safety inspector in the Air Force for 30 years. After that, he did
the same job for the Florida Department of Agriculture for another 20 years. I remember what seemed to be his favorite word when it came to food. That word was “wholesome”. His job was to make sure that the food being processed and provided to people to eat was “wholesome”—that it was safe and fresh and that it met “standards”.

That’s what I think this is all about. There are a lot of us who wonder and question whether or not “finely textured lean beef” or “boneless beef trimmings” or “pink slime” is “wholesome”. We’re paying for it at the grocery store and at the restaurant and I think we’ve got a reasonable expectation to know exactly what’s going on and to have any product which contains “pink slime” labeled with big bold letters “contains chemically processed trimmings”.

That's the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Apathy Man to the Rescue on Super Tuesday

Yesterday’s San Diego Union Tribune (a newspaper which is sliding inexorably downhill at an ever increasing rate) had an editorial cartoon which really got my attention and made me stop and think.

It seems as though we have been in the most insane political “season” that I can recall ever since the mid-term election. It’s been non-stop posturing, debating and spending. All of this to the point where so many of us reached our saturation level long ago and wish only for it all to go away.

Anyway, before I take off into my rant, I wanted to share the cartoon with you. This is from R.McKee at The Augusta Chronicle on March 2:

Yep, it’s “Super Tuesday”, a supposedly pivotal date in Presidential Primary season. I love this cartoon suggesting that somehow or another we should be paying attention and become actively engaged. But why on God’s green earth would any of us want to participate in this insanity and inanity?

Apathy Man. What an apt description. But one has to wonder—what caused it? Is it that we just don’t care? Is it that we’ve been beaten down by the incessant “nattering nabobs of negativism” (remember that fromSpiro Agnew?) who day after day after day come up with some piece of minutiae to waggle in the face of an opponent and the public?

We constantly hear about SuperPacs and we cringe and grow numb. We don’t know where the money comes from exactly but we suspect it is from sources that we don’t trust. So why then, are we apathetic?

Primaries and caucuses have traditionally been the venue for the “party faithful”. They’re supposed to be an exercise in which the candidate proves his or her credentials and worthiness—and ultimately electability. They used to be occasions for candidates to get out into the “hustings” and communicate directly with small groups of voters in a give and take which crystallized positions and clarified issues. But no more.

It’s like the internet where one is inundated with a constant barrage of crap. I went to a job search site the other day and got an e-mail this morning from them bluntly asking why I haven’t paid for their service. Geesh, because it’s a free site, that’s why. And that’s what happens on the political front. I had the temerity to “sign up” at a site promoting Obama and now I get solicitations each day for money.

It used to be that we had some sort of sense that our point of view and our vote counted for something. There are those who, like this cartoon, lament the apathy of voters and point to that as a signal that voters are either satisfied or just too ambivalent to do anything other than accept all the garbage that is being pewed forth. And this becomes a justification for all the garbage that’s dumped on us through various media sources.

It’s not that at all. We’re numb. We’re beaten down. We’re tired of it already and we’ve got to go until the first Tuesday in November.

Sometimes I wonder though, maybe “they” (whoever “they” are) want it this way. If enough of us get sick and damned tired of all the garbage then perhaps “they” (whoever “they” are) win. See, if we become apathetic then those who aren’t apathetic get their voices magnified. That means people like the “teabaggers” get a stronger voice. (By the way I always use the word teabagger—uncapitalized—because I refuse to refer to those folks as a “party” of any sort. Using the word “party” legitimizes them and I won’t do that).

It’s a technique that has been used pretty effectively in the past. What we need to do is just to
sit back in the weeds. Observe. Think. Talk to each other. And then at election time, kick the bastards to the side of the road. I’m tired of the crap. I’m more disgusted now than ever before in my adult and political life—and that includes Watergate and Bush the Younger.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as though anyone gives a fat damn about what people like me think. And between now and November it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets any better.

And now, Sen. McCain is advocating that we bomb Syria. President Obama is trying to mollify Israel with veiled promises that if necessary, the U.S. will bomb Iran. Legislatures are trying to force women into invasive procedures to be “eligible” to have an abortion and state and local
revenues aren’t covering the costs of services.

We’re numb. We’re overwhelmed. And we know that ultimately we’re the ones who will have to pay the price. Not some politician who’s trying to coerce us to vote for him.

Friday, March 2, 2012

These Guys Take the Damned Cake

Ann Landers once provided her definition of chutzpah in her column. She wrote that chutzpah is the young man pleading for mercy from the court because he is an orphan—when he was
being sentenced for murdering his parents.

That’s kind of what’s been going through my head today after reading an article from Bloomberg News. The headline of the article read “Bonus Withdrawal Puts Bankers in Malaise”. So while you’re reading the rest of this play this song because it really, really fits these guys.

Now I don’t know if the headline was suggesting that bonuses
have been withdrawn or that bankers were suffering withdrawal like an addict
goes through but probably it doesn’t matter.

Over the last few years I’ve gotten kind of numb to the machinations of brokers and investment bankers and the harm they have done to both our economy and our nation. And I’ve avoided taken too much umbrage because it just doesn’t do any good.

I’ve kind of taken an approach like Mister “T” who has long been know for saying “pity the fool”.

But this is just the absolute worst kind of arrogance. Unmitigated gall. Sense of entitlement. Here's a couple of excerpts from the article that really got me spitting and spluttering:

"People who don't have money don't understand the stress," said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. "Could you imagine what it's like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?"


The malaise is shared by Andrew Schiff, the New York-based marketing director for Euro Pacific Capital, where his brother is CEO. His family rents the lower duplex of a brownstone in Cobble Hill, where his two children share a room. His 10-year- old daughter is a student at $32,000-a- ear Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn. His son, 7, will apply in a few years.

"I can't imagine what I'm going to do," Schiff said. "I'm crammed into 1,200 square feet. I don't have a dishwasher. We do all our dishes by hand."

He wants 1,800 square feet -- "a room for each kid, three bedrooms, maybe four," he said. Imagine four bedrooms. You have the luxury of a guest room, how crazy is that?" The family rents a three-bedroom summer house in Connecticut and will go there again this year for one month instead of four. Schiff said he brings home less than $200,000 after taxes, health-insurance and 401(k) contributions.

The closing costs, renovation and down payment on one of the $1.5 million 17-foot-wide row houses nearby, what he called "the low rung on the brownstone ladder," would consume "every dime" of the family's savings, he said.

"I wouldn't want to whine," Schiff said. "All I want is the stuff that I always thought, growing up,
that successful parents had."

Awwwwww, too bad for those poor fellows and their underprivileged children. Having to sacrifice by only renting their summer home for 1 month rather than 4. Having to risk the spectre of their children attending public schools with the “unwashed” and “untouchable”.

Man I feel bad for these guys. Don’t you? They are so obviously struggling just to make ends meet.

And people wonder why there is talk of a risk of class warfare in this nation? And people wonder why so many are angry at the “1%”?

I just leads me to shake my head and mutter to myself, “assholes.”