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!


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