I swore I wasn’t even going to bother writing on this as, like many others, it creeps me out just to think about it. I eat very little meat, and something that looks like the by-product of an alien invasion firmly supports that decision. Still, a lot of news has broken around the stuff this past week, so here we go.
First, for those living under a rock… So-called “pink slime” is the popular name for what the meat industry calls lean finely textured beef. This is a meat additive which is created by taking fatty bits of leftover meat, heating them, spinning the fat out, and then exposing them to ammonia gas to kill bacteria. The resulting additive – you probably have seen the pictures, it really does resemble pink slime – is then added to ground beef and other processed meats to produce a cheaper and, oddly enough, leaner product.
OK, so the ammonia makes it safe and dissipates after use, but you use too much and it makes the meat stink. As such, they use the bare minimum, a practice which has resulted in several recalls over the past couple of years for e coli and the like.
The stuff obviously has an image problem.
Which leads us to the mass exodus this week. Several major chains have announced that they would stop using pink slime in their meats. They are (and I’ve included hopefully all the sub-chain names they operate under as well):
• Supervalu Inc. (Acme, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher’s, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Shaw’s/Star Market, Shop ‘n Save and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy)
• The Food Lion (Bloom, Harveys and Reid’s)
• Safeway Inc. (Genuardi’s and Dominicks)
• Kroger (Ralphs, Food 4 Less, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, QFC, and Smith’s)
• Stop & Shop
Other chains such as Whole Foods, A&P, and Costco say they have never used beef with pink slime. This is in addition to moves in January by McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Burger King to drop the substance, as well as an announcement by the US Department of Agriculture last month that the National School Lunch Program will let school districts decide for themselves if they want to buy meats containing pink slime.
All good, right? Not so fast, apparently. The American Meat Institute is warming that getting rid of the filler will lead to an increase in meat prices. Not to get all poetic, but if you want your cow, you’ll pay, and how. And that’s not all. The Mother Nature Network had this tidbit the other day:
As I was reading about this, I was pleased to see more evidence that the voices of consumers are finally being heard and taken into consideration. Then, I read that the American Meat Institute estimates that an additional 1.5 million head of cattle will be necessary to create the meat that will take the place of “pink slime.”
Bottom line is, even with all these chains and restaurants fleeing screaming from the pink slime, you may still be eating it and not knowing it. Because the FDA considers ammonia a “processing” agent, it’s not required to be listed on food labels. And I leave you with a question: since nature abhors a vacuum (space aside), what do you suppose will take pink slime’s place, and will it be worse?