Hungry for Quality Food

April 3, 2012 in Food Economics, Foodland, Nutrition by Mary Ireland

When I first heard the noise about "pink slime." I kept an open mind. When I read that it is lean beef made from "trimmings," I wondered if people weren't blowing things out of proportion. I mean if you are eating beef, why not eat all of the parts? Then I read about the "exposure to ammonium hydroxide gas." Well that doesn't sound too healthy (except the part about it killing bacteria) or appetizing, but then we really don't know what chemicals other meat products or processed foods are exposed to, do we?

However, I like Dr. Grandma, was disgusted when I saw the picture of pink slime from Dr. Grandma's blog Wondering What Weird Stuff Is in Our Food. The politicians and industry spokespeople seems to be appealing to our sense of "wanting to do the right thing" and our sympathies by issuing statements about how many people will lose their jobs and how many more cattle will have to be slaughtered if pink slime production is halted. They are posturing themselves as victims of an inaccurate media blitz in the statement, "It is unfortunate when inaccurate information causes an unnecessary panic among consumers." As Dr. Grandma would say, "PLEEEEEASE!" I would like to see a financial breakdown of the income on pink slime. My bet is that executives of Beef Products Inc. makers of this "lean, finely textured beef" are raking in very handsome profits on this product. Plus, if it isn't all that bad, why not tell people about it?

The "whistleblower," a Former US government scientist, Gerald Zirnstein who came up with the term "pink slime," was a USDA food scientist assigned in 2002 to determine the ingredients going into ground beef and whether these ingredients met federal regulations. It was during this time that the beef industry asked the USDA to approve the product - "lean finely textured beef" (aka pink slime). According to Zirnstein, "You look through the regulations and a lot of that stuff was never approved for hamburger. It was under the radar." Zirnstein goes on to say, "It's cheating. It's economic fraud."

According to a Scientific American Blog post, "An analysis conducted at Iowa State University (A.S. Leaflet R1361) found two-and-a-half times more insoluble protein (77% vs. 30%) relative to soluble proteins in ordinary ground chuck. Nutritionally, our gut bacteria digest much of what we cannot, but there’s a good bet that we can’t get as much value from insoluble proteins (collagen and elastin, found largely in tendons, ligaments, and cartilage) as from their soluble siblings (myosin and actin, usually associated with muscle tissues)." Unfortunately, according to this blog, other foods such as hot dogs, processed meats, as well as "fudes" you wouldn't expect - Jell-O, “gummy worms” and other "wobbly treats" are made from the same type of "left overs" as pink slime. It seems as if this "gunk" is becoming as pervasive in our "food" supply as added sweeteners and salt.

According the Scientific American Blog post, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), defines meat as: “The part of the muscle of any cattle, sheep, swine, or goats, which is skeletal or which is found in the tongue, diaphragm, heart, or esophagus, with or without the accompanying or overlying fat, and the portions of bone, skin, sinew, nerve, and blood vessels which normally accompany the muscle tissue, and are not separated from it in the process of dressing.” The CFR has 20 pages of allowable additives used in meat processing: tenderizers, emulsifiers, denuders, binders, bleaching agents, and sweeteners. That is somewhat eye-opening.

All of the questionable ingredients in processed foods may just be why consumers are turning to companies that offer wholesome, natural, organic foods. Case in point is the company, Annie’s – the maker of organic macaroni and cheese and other foods. Annie's went public on March 28, 2012 with an initial offering of $19 per share. It closed the next day at $37.92 per share. I applaud the direction in which American consumer's are turning. However, the American public should be aware. At Dr. Grandma's, we see Annie's as better, fewer additives, more whole grains, but still not 100% whole grains. As Dr. Grandma says, Annies is "better for you" than much that is out there, but still uses the idea of organic to cover the persistence of impoverished flours, and ample added sugar.