What’s in a name? As Juliet famously remarked, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Well, apparently if you call it “pink slime” it would smell a lot worse. I’ve been following the story of Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) in the news for the last couple of weeks. LFTB is a filler found in ground beef. In their never ending quest to use everything on the cow but the moo, meat processing plants take the trimming off larger cuts of meat. These trimmings are a mix of protein and fat, looking kind of like bacon. The trimmings are heated to liquefy the fat, and then centrifuged to spin off the liquid fat, leaving the protein bits behind. The processed beef bits are then blended into ground beef to reduce the overall fat content of the finished product.
One of the big gross out factors in the popular imagination is the treatment of the beef after the fat is extracted. The trimmings used have a high probability of bacterial contamination. To kill the e coli, the meat is treated with ammonium hydroxide gas. “Ewww,” go the cries of outrage. “I don’t want my kids eating ammonia laced food.”
Personally, I can’t understand the outrage. I couldn’t find any information on how long this product has been used as an extender for ground beef. However, based on my recollection of college dining hall food, I would guess that this product has been in the food chain for decades. My rule of thumb for food safety is that if millions of people have been eating something for decades with no none ill effects, it is safe for consumption. As a matter of fact, I’ve been to Europe, and I’ve encountered some cheeses that pass that test, yet I would have sworn they were unfit to feed to dogs.
In this case, labeling this processed beef as “pink slime,” combined with a social media campaign to raise the level of outrage, has forced the bureaucrats who run the country’s food regulation system to back down and allow schools to specify ground beef without the additive for school lunches. Perception has become reality.
My prediction: ground beef is about to take a quick jump up in price. Dog food, on the other hand, is about to get a little cheaper. After all, the meat has to go somewhere.