Thursday, March 29, 2012

David, Goliath, and Pink Slime

The first time I heard the term, it was in an e-mail a few months back. I don’t even remember what organization it was that requested my signature on one of what became many petitions to stop the government from allowing “pink slime” to be used in school lunches. Little did I know it was the cusp of a beautiful story of David and Goliath.

Pink slime is a new term, but didn’t sound all that much different from the fillers described in the movie Food Inc from a few years back. Pink slime is a meat filler used in 70% of the ground beef sold in US Supermarkets, and of course, in most fast food restaurants. It’s made by gathering up all the leftover trimmings (Food Inc had graphic pictures of this process that would give you nightmares), essentially fat, muscle bits, and any other body parts leftover in the process of trimming the ugly stuff from steaks and roasts.

Now, the time was, these leftovers where used for dog food and the oil for cooking (gak!), but in the name of larger profits (the almighty driving force in the world today), these parts began being used to pump up the ground beef. Makes one wonder what is being used in the dog food now, doesn’t it?

Anyway, these random parts and oil are put through a centrifuge to separate the oil and then the sludge that is left is sprayed with ammonia gas to kill any bacteria. Now you have a beautiful pink substance that is easily mixed with burger to make the burger go further, kind of like adding water to soup to stretch it, only not so healthy.

Here’s the part about David and Goliath. David is us, the unknowing, naive public who navigate the drive-through on a weekly, or even daily basis. Goliath is the big meat processors like Cargill and Beef Products Inc. For years they have gotten away with stuffing every burger in the US, heck, the world, with pink slime and no one has dared question them. After all, they control the world’s beef supply (or so they and the government would have you believe).

But along came, Gerald Zirnstein, my hero. He’s a former USDA scientist who sounded the alarm about pink slime. Next came the internet petitions (which, truth be told, I’ve always been a bit skeptical about, but now I’m a believer). Then ABC News, the Washington Post, and other major media outlets started investigating why Zirnstein is out of work and grinds his own ground beef at home now.

And then just this past weekend, my newspaper had a front page story about the fact that our local supermarkets (Giant and Weis) will no longer buy beef from suppliers who use pink slime! And the internet is flowing with the news that many school districts (not mine at this point) are announcing that they will no longer serve beef containing pink slime!

Wow, you CAN be the change you wish to see in the world! Go world! I’m not saying it was my signature, per se, but there had to have been something that pushed this cart over the edge. After all, Jamie Oliver’s show blatantly covered the exact same process with chicken nuggets (white slime anyone?) several years ago and nothing happened.

I guess just one parent too many said, “Enough!” and look how we’ve changed our world. I’m hoping this is only the beginning of a new era of holding the FDA (who refused to make the beef industry label products containing pink slime over the objection of their own scientists!) and big industry accountable for how they treat and process the animals we eat. YEH World!

1 comment:

  1. Meat processor AFA Foods Inc just filed for bankruptcy as a result of this. Quick results, really. It was on the cover of today.