by Chris Bodenner
A reader writes:
The point of the Pink Slime ruckus is not that they fed us the stuff (when I worked in a meat plant years ago, we called it offal), but that they told us that it was hamburger when we were only getting 90% hamburger and 10%, well, something else. Do you think it's honest or honorable to sell people butter that's laced with 10% margarine? Or 24-caret gold mixed with the metallurgical variant of Pink Slime? I like head-cheese, but I also like to pick and choose when I eat it.
I believe that most Americans have no problem with all of the nasty bits included in the "pink slime". Every year it seems there are horrific stories about what is found in hot dogs, but that doesn't stop Americans from chowing down on their favorite dog. I think all the fuss has more to do with the process of treating the concoction with ammonium hydroxide gas. The process of having ammonia included in ground beef and other food products may not be unusual to those involved in high-tech food production, but to the layperson it is somewhat shocking.
Initially I was relatively unconcerned about LFTB. After all, the process of making sausage is famously disgusting too. However, the recalling the problems with mad cow disease has made me rethink my attitude. I don't see how LFTP can avoid being contaminated with nervous system tissue. While the ammonia treatment will certainly knock down bacterial contamination, I don't know whether it will touch prions, which are incredibly hard to deactivate.
Mark Bittman, no fan of the slime, weighs the possible health hazards:
[D]espite B.P.I.’s claim that the ammonia treatment killed E. coli and salmonella, and despite the U.S.D.A.’s support for this process, those pathogens have been found in B.P.I. meat. Oops. But there’s an irony: the stuff is gross, for sure, but it’s far from the most disgusting meat product out there, and at least its origins reflect an attempt to make meat safer. Some argue, correctly, that other processed meats are much worse, and that ammonia isn’t nearly the most egregious chemical that’s approved for use on meat without your knowing it. Besides, pink slime could conceivably even be helping: According to the Centers for Disease Control, E. coli O157:H7 illnesses are down 48 percent over the last decade.
He argues that industrial meat production is the real culprit. Another concern from a reader:
The gross part is that meat from so many animals is combined in such great numbers that contamination is widely spread. We're reminded of this every time there's a recall. Tons of meat, spread across the whole country, all of it at risk because of this kind of practice. It seems the responsible way to reduce waste would be to process smaller batches and make them easier to track.