Lean, finely textured beef doesn’t sound so bad, does it? At least not unless you’re a vegetarian. According to Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, it’s lean meat that used to go to waste.
Pink slime, on the other hand, sounds downright … well, you know.
The terms refer to exactly the same thing. The “pink slime” moniker was coined by a USDA whistleblower named Gerald Zirnstein.
Here’s what it actually is, according to Penn State’s Edward Mills. We’re always looking for ways to avoid wasting food, and there’s always been lean beef that remains on the carcass and can’t be removed with a knife, so it has gone to waste. Now it is removed in a process that involves heating minced trimmings to about 100 degrees, then putting the material into a centrifuge to separate the lean from the fat. To make sure it doesn’t carry any dangerous pathogens like E. coli 0157:H7 or salmonella, it’s briefly exposed to ammonia.
“There is not a safety issue here,” said Mills, quoted by Western Farm Press. On the other hand, he said, “if you are offended by something that is sticky and gooey and red, and in addition you know that it came from meat, you might find it disgusting,” he said.
Then again, a lot of the stuff we eat is equally disgusting if you look at it closely at the wrong stage of its production. We may love a good brat, but we really don’t want to know what’s in it. We don’t fret over organic carrots and potatoes that are buried in the dirt and fertilized with cow dung. We pay extra for them.
As with nearly anything these days that can be talked about in the limits of 140 characters, pink slime has become a big deal. Almost overnight, we’ve had a barrage of back pedaling fast food chains, school systems and others. The Agriculture Department said last week that schools can stop putting it in food next fall. Chalk up a big loss for the beef cattle industry, mainly because of a label.
Hardly anybody complained about lean, finely textured beef, but who wants to eat pink slime?