While most can probably agree, the scraps of beef, less than desirable by most human standards (unless you’re the USDA) is pretty damn gross. It’s hard to defend anything so neon in color and so gooey in consistency. But if you take away the emotional trauma and resentment, the most important question is — is pink slime safe? The beefy blob has been around and used for nearly 20 years, but it wasn’t until a New York Times reporter outed the slime a few years ago, that people started to feel duped and wonder what else was in their food supply that they didn’t know about. People don’t want to feel like a fool. Even if ‘pink slime’ were to be found relatively safe, the fallout from the skepticism and paranoia is an insidious consequence of non-disclosure which perpetuates distrust.
Recently, it was discovered that upwards of 70% of our store bought meat, fast foods burgers and school lunches contain pink slime. Chances are, unless you’ve been a vegetarian since childhood, you’ve probably digested pink slime yourself. Even more emotively reactionary – your kids have probably consumed a significant amount of pink slime.
Pink Slime actually looks like it would be fun to play with or have a candy-like taste, until you find out that it’s actually extruded meat. Even if the wet looking cotton candy substance were found to be safe, I have to admit, I haven’t eaten a burger since this has been all over the interwebs, out of plain disgust, however, the skeptic in me prompted me to look for some sort of logical justification and safety guarantees to ease my mind. I mean, I am still in one piece, relatively healthy so what gives?
Before I go into the pros and cons of pink slime, let me first explain what and why it is. The reason it’s so slimy in the first place is because it’s part of the connective tissue and meat portions located closer to a cow’s hide or skin. When you take meat from this area, it’s much more susceptible to bacteria. To kill the bacteria, the ‘trimmings’ are ground up and zapped with ammonium gas. While it’s great to buy organic meat which is handled in small, manageable quantities, it’s impossible to sustain 7 billion people on backyard, hand packed butchering.
Ammonium Gas is naturally occurring in the earth’s atmosphere and inside the human body as well. The kidney’s expel ammonium gas to balance out acid levels and during extreme exercise, ammonia can be expelled from the body through sweat. Ammonium gas is indigenous in soil, water and even other planets within our solar system. In extremely high doses, ammonium gas inhalation can cause inflammation or respiratory distress, however, the amount used to zap pink slime leaves mere trace amounts — the same trace amounts found naturally in your body.
Lending discredit to the ambiguous slime — scientists who are experts in the industry are not the ones that the public typically trusts. I see this as a problem. Furthermore, I am always skeptical of celebrities, exposé reporters, media and ‘too quick to come to conclusions’ bloggers who decry OUTRAGE when they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. If pink slime is a clearly defined health risk, why can’t anybody tell me specifically what those risks are?
To help sort out the myths from the facts, I bring you pros and cons. Feel free to add any that I’ve missed.
Pink Slime Pros:
1) It is cost effective (organic beef is very costly)
2) It minimizes waste (Using up an entire animal is not only efficient, it’s actually environmentally sound. Without trimmings, an additional 1.5 millions cows would need to be slaughtered to make up the difference, according to the Meat Industry.)
3) There is no evidence or proof that ‘pink slime’ causes you to grow 3 heads (Well, maybe 2, but that could be advantageous!)
4) The trimmings of a cow, when separated from the fat, are extremely lean
5) Other fillers (Many fast food chains have sworn off pink slime but that doesn’t mean they won’t use fillers and those fillers may be far worse.)
Pink Slime Cons:
1) Using trimmings exposes itself to a higher level of contamination
2) Concern that cartilage and connective tissue byproducts could wind up in the slime, providing questionable nutrition, although the meat industry claims the beef is just as nutritious as other parts of the cow.
3) Its propensity of contamination requires greater measures to ensure its safety
4) It’s really ugly and it’s not really ugly enough to be cute, like a pug dog
Bottom line, nobody likes to see how the sausage is made. The meat industry is suffering from a huge PR nightmare right now. Pink slime has more of an image problem than a safety problem based on the information and evidence available today. Have you ever seen how they make all beef hotdogs? I wouldn’t dare, given my predilection towards the Chicago hot dog. Yum. (Don’t you dare ruin it for me.)
Food Safety News reported they emailed James Marsden, Regent’s Distinguished Professor of Food Safety and Security at Kansas State University and asked his opinion on the whole pink slime debacle. Here is his response:
However, even if pink slime is considered safe, I still feel it’s every consumer’s right to know what’s in their food and make a decision on whether or not to consume it, whether it’s based on fact or not. Sometimes I get the feeling that our government thinks we’re too stupid or emotional to handle such facts. To me, that’s more insulting that pink slime itself. It is our job, as consumers, to make educated choices, but we need to know the fundamentals first. We simply cannot afford to sacrifice our liberty to protect industries by holding back truths but the truth has to be based on facts not political grand-standing or special interests. People need to do a better job of critical thinking and separating the wheat from the chaff.
And if you’re looking for a non-pink slime alternative, you’ll either have to go with 100% organic beef (pricey) or have your local butcher grind up some chuck for you.
So, am I going to be eating ground beef anytime soon? Probably not, but that’s only because I’m being totally emotional and irrational about it, like most people.
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