In recent weeks you haven’t been able to turn on the television without hearing the phrase, “pink slime,” on any media outlet. After a former USDA scientist/turned whistleblower came out to announce that so-called ground beef found at nationwide supermarkets was actually ammonia-sprayed “lean finely-textured beef,” appropriately nicknamed by the media as “pink slime,” the public was appalled. They immediately went into action, denouncing the government for allowing such products to be served to the American public without labeling it as such. Suddenly, fast-food restaurants (such as McDonalds and Taco Bell) went on the record to say that they were no longer carrying the meat, as did many supermarkets across the country. Parents also jumped on the bandwagon and demanded that schools no longer serve the “pink slime” in school lunches, prompting the USDA to give schools the option to no longer carry the meat. (I’ve never been happier that I pack my son’s own lunches!)
Yet, what’s happened since then? There was so much hullabaloo about it for a few weeks, but now it seems as if the public has somewhat forgotten about the danger. Do they no longer care? Will they go back to eating the ammonia-sprayed “meat”? Are there other poisons being used on the meat? And are there other dangerous cases that the public should be worried about that the government has yet to tell us?
A “Pink-Slimed Economy”
As popular television host, Jon Stewart, put it, “We’re a pink slime-based economy!” Yep, we’re a cheap meat economy, and if we really want to change anything to do with pink slime, which I’m sure, in ideology, the majority of us do, we will have to start slaughtering 1.5 million additional cattle, according to Gary Acuff, who runs the Center for Food and Safety. While millions of Americans want food reform from the USDA, are they really willing to dish out the extra money to pay for it in this economy? The majority of people I know are fortunate to have a job, let alone be able to shop at Whole Foods and buy organic, grass-fed ground beef. So, will the nation decide to buy the higher-priced meat, or will they give up and go back to the ammonia-treated meat trimmings due to the fact that their salaries just can’t afford it?
Yes, in a perfect world, we’d all have perfect jobs, lead perfect lives, and the USDA wouldn’t be in cahoots with lobbyists that work for the beef companies. Beef companies would have farmers that raise cattle and other animals in a humane way; they wouldn’t feed them grain when their stomachs are made only to digest grass, creating bacteria and E.coli to form, which is the main reason why ammonia is sprayed onto the meat in the first place. But, alas…I digress. We don’t live in a perfect world, and until the problem is solved, there will be no real solution.
The Beef Industry—They’re Freaking Out, Man!
Following the public uproar and protests over pink slime, sales of such meat obviously declined rapidly, and three out of the four factories of such “meat” were shut down. Suddenly, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, and Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa, were shaming the American public for denouncing the beef industry, claiming the substance was safe and that it was all the nation’s own fault for the tanking economy if pink slime continued to be ignored. As Gov. Branstad noted, “It’s beef, but it’s a leaner beef, which is better for you.” (Is he serious?) In actually, “lean finely textured beef” is fatty bits of leaner cuts from the cow that is then sprayed with ammonia to get rid of any diseases, such as the E.coli previously discussed in this article. So, no, Governor, it’s actually not better for you.
Then on April 3, 2012, AFA Foods, (partly-owned by former NBA basketball star, Magic Johnson) declared bankruptcy, citing the decrease of pink slime sales. Again, the blame fell on Americans, due to the fact that AFA also was in the midst of laying off 850 employees.
Some pink slime manufacturers have decided to risk labeling the “meat”, hoping it will gain trust and confidence from consumers. The labels will state something along the lines of “Contains Lean Finely Textured Beef” so that the consumer is aware that the meat has been treated with ammonia. The USDA is now receiving applications from various beef manufacturers on such labeling.
“Several companies have chosen to voluntarily pursue a new claim on their product labels that will allow them to clarify the use of lean finely textured beef,” spokesman Aaron Lavallee said in a statement. “USDA has received this type of application for the first time through the normal label approval process and the department has determined that such requests will be approved.”
Many beef processors are hoping this type of labeling will be the first step in restoring confidence among American consumers, resulting in increasing sales.
Ammonia—It’s Not Just For Beef!
The newest shock to Americans came on April 4th, 2012, when it was reported that the USDA has approved the use of ammonia in other foods, such as cheese, baking goods, and chocolate for over 40 years. Kraft Foods, one food company that uses different types of ammonia into their foods, such as Chips Ahoy® cookies and Velveeta® cheese , points out that forms of ammonia occur naturally in plants, animals and mik; yet, they did not go into depth in terms of the forms of ammonia in which the ammonia occurs. Turns out the type of ammonia found in pink slime—ammonia hydroxide—is actually not found naturally, and is chemically made.
When asked if they use ammonia hydroxide in their foods, Kellogg’s, Sara Lee, and Hormel all said no. Perhaps they know something the beef industry does not?