Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pink Slime and Our Industrial Food System

Lately, you may have heard a lot of buzz in the media about “pink slim”—a light pink goupy substance that has a resemblance to froyo, right?  But despite its “sweet” appearance, pink slime is far from froyo. It is a mixture of fatty beef trimmings that is puréed into a smooth paste and then added to ground beef as a filler, gross. The proper name for pink slime (as it has been dubbed by the media) is lean finely textured beef (LFTB).   The main producer of LFTB in America is Beef Products Inc., and they supply ground beef to everyone from fast food chains, to the National School Lunch Program, to retail grocery stores across the country.  No wonder it’s caught our attention!
If you have not heard of pink slime, you are not alone.  Up until the beginning of last month, LFTB was a relatively unknown term.  However, at the beginning of March an online petition demanding LFTB be removed from school lunches exploded on the scene, receiving hundreds of thousands of signatures.  Fast forward to the present and Beef Products Inc. is closing three of its four plants. Hm…must be something fishy.
Most would view this as a victory.  The people raised their voices and defended themselves against this potentially dangerous and unsavory product.  However, it turns out that the public’s reaction to LFTB may have been a little misguided.  It turns out that Beef Products Inc. prides itself on testing their product more frequently and for more pathogens than the government requires.  It is tested more frequently than other components of ground beef.  So could removing LFTB from ground beef make it less safe?
Not so fast. There are several reasons to object to “pink slime.”  First, LFTB is composed of the less expensive trimmings of the cow, it is not as high in protein as other cuts of beef.  Second, it may contain E. Coli.  Third, why was it not on meat packing labels? What else could be left out?  What are we actually consuming?
Finally, the time has come to properly label meat.
~ Jessica
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