It’s only been 5 years since consumers slowly started hearing about a secret ingredient that has resided in some meat products for 20 years, now dubbed “pink slime.” To hear the American Meat President talk of ammonium hydroxide gas treated “Lean Finely Textured Beef” you’d think this stuff was manna from heaven, sent to feed the world.
The literal bottom line here is – we don’t want it – but many would have accepted it if food companies were transparent. It’s not a company’s job to decide “what’s best” to feed the world or what’s best for our wallets (more like their wallets) and nutritional value. They provide a food commodity for money and with the buyer’s consent and trust. A sterilized chemical filler is not what consumers thought they were buying. The betrayal will never be forgotten.
After the PR nightmare of “pink slime,” consumer wrath caused many fast food companies, restaurants, and grocers to drop it. Many pundits claimed the USDA was dropping the chum from school lunches.
Yeah, that actually never happened. Here’s why…
First, the USDA only left the door open for schools to drop it if they so choose. The headlines really got it wrong here. The USDA never dropped or forced schools to stop serving meats with pink slime – in fact, they love the stuff in schools. They bought 7 million pounds of it for the spring of 2012 school lunch program. The program makes up 20 percent of school cafeteria food and 60 percent of the schools’ ground beef. They still, to this day, applaud its “safety” and “nutrition.”
It appears that many schools chose to drop meats with pink slime for the 2012-2013 school year; but just months later we see that seven states picked it right back up for this year. Pink slime meat is 3% cheaper, which totals millions in savings nationwide. If your job was to keep within budget and find the cheapest bulk food available while squeaking by the USDA’s lax standards, which food wins out? As a former school secretary, I saw bid papers for school lunches - the lowest bidderwins the contract. Thus, chalky, artificially flavored, color-dyed, sugared-up, “chocolaty” milk water gets served.
Will the schools opting out withstand the next round of pressure now that the public fervor has died and the USDA continues to say it’s totally safe and nutritious? Will they do that in the face of more budget cuts when they are always looking to cut any expense? Another harsh public school reality: food comes last. Dead last. It comes after Art programs, P.E., Drama, and Band which are always threatened with cuts.
Beef Products Inc., the company who produced LFTB, had to shut down three branches - one of them is still open. Who do you think its customers are?
So it’s interesting to hear talk of pink slime returning as though it’s suddenly rearing its ugly head. It’s not; it just never completely went away. And now, if people are not too tired from the previous outcries they can try again – or, opt out themselves. It’s never going away – none of the abysmal crap in school cafeterias is ever going away. It’s still haunting to think of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver on his former series Food Revolution, going in and revamping the cafeterias with fresh food on budget - only to come back next school year and find slop. We order school food a year ahead of time, this is the only way we could keep within budget, was the response. Apathy had completely set in after all of his hard work. Forsaking federal school lunch programs can also mean forsaking hundreds of thousands of dollars for the school, and many of them do order far in advance with contracts.
Furthermore, the USDA and FDA have completely escaped scrutiny in this matter. They ushered it in and deemed it safe. So of course industrial food companies and large-scale animal farms would clamor at this fine opportunity to sell garbage scraps to BPI. BPI had a marketable product, and meat products could be sold at the same prices with filler. After the outcry, stores and restaurants redeemed sales by disassociating, farmers can’t very well sell the scraps, and BPI is left pink-handed but without sympathy. The meat industry complained and threatened consumers with higher prices, sounding like a Scooby-Doo villain - we would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for those pesky consumers. Darn you, Diane Sawwwyyyerrr! How on earth do our safety agencies to whom we pay beau coup bucks get away with patting us on the head and saying there, there eat it, it’s good for you! No one seems upset that they are cramming it down kids’ throats and acting like everyone wins.
What’s worse, we’re still not entirely sure of the ingredients or the exact processing of LFTB. At least it would certainly appear that way when a judge recently ordered silence on the processing to protect the company’s proprietary secrets.
And one more reason bottom-of-the-barrel meat is not leaving the market: after the outrage of treating bacteria meat scraps with ammonium hydroxide gas subsided - food irradiation became the new hero! The dirty little secret here is – it, too, has been in use for years so that we can eat zapped rotten meat with MRSA - and not die. Mmm…so nourishing. Those little radiation stickers are removed before they get to the store because radiation is not considered an ingredient or process.
You ever get the impression that we are the ones viewed as cattle? The USDA insists this is safe and a part of nutritional requirements for school children. If it’s at the grocery stores, then no doubt the cheapest stuff winds up at schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. Who would knowingly feed this to children and call it nutrition?
It’s understandable if people want to stop eating meat after learning some gut-churning industry secrets. But if that’s not right for your needs, the wonderful news is you can find your local farmer and know that you’re eating highly nutritional, clean foods where the animals were treated humanely. You can see the process with your own eyes. You will soon find, you won’t need much of it during meals! It makes sense, too, when you discover that there is little actual meat in processed and fast food. So when you pay a little more for grass-fed fare, you’re still paying less than you would buying fake and filler meats that cause inflammation and do not satisfy. The French get this concept of naturally eating less, when it’s real food. It’s way easier to get by on meat portions the size of a light bulb - when it’s real.
Another great way to start is an awesome book called Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children. Two women revolutionized New York city public schools with fresh organic on budget and even had the children grow their own food. They eagerly ate their own-grown food. Test scores went up, behavioral problems went down.
But these inspirational stories never make it beyond their initial novelty. Why aren’t these the examples held in the light? The system isn’t designed to reward true innovation – the USDA and FDA under Codex Alimentarius don’t actually want people to thrive. You can help change that by reallocating your food budget and spreading the word. In the meantime, this book is also jam-packed with wonderful easy recipes for both you and your child’s lunch.