Pink Slime: A Myth

Why does it seem that the media can’t come up with anything better than scare stories to amp up the ratings? It certainly appears that they are willing to resort to just about anything, even outright lies, to maintain the interest of their audience.

Lately, I’ve noticed a plethora of “food scare” related news items, and even worse, most are being repeated by thousands across the internet. My social networks are constantly polluted with clippings and postings about this or that “evil” food.

The most recent food scare myth being circulated amongst the ignorant masses is the “Pink Slime” myth. Using terms like “pink slime” should be telling of a sensationalist slant, but I guess people just don’t pay that much attention. In reality, what is being called “pink slime” is really just Lean Beef Trimmings, a food product consumed without ill-effect for years.

The process for obtaining Lean Beef Trimmings (“pink slime”) is nowhere near the nefarious plot that many would have you believe. In fact, it’s simply the leftover beef attached to the non-edible tissues discarded while cutting the finer meats. As you may have noticed while eating a steak, after cutting around the fat, there is generally some meat left attached. It may seem like a small amount, but multiply that by the amount of meat being processed, and it’s quite a lot of perfectly nutritious food material gone to waste. The purpose of Lean Beef Trimmings, is to make use of this meat, rather than throwing it away.

If we consider the number of people who require assistance to even obtain food in this country, does it really seem reasonable to throw this sustenance into the trash? What kind of message does this send? It seems to me that people are basically conveying the message that “if it’s not up to my standards of taste, it should be discarded”. In fact, people seem to want to take this elitism even further, all the way to full-on legislation. They actually want the government to make it illegal to utilize this process, just because they think it’s “gross”. Well, I find the music of Conway Twitty to be “gross”…but I hardly think it should be made illegal. Not only that, but Conway Twitty provides no nutritional benefit, whereas Lean Beef Trimmings (“pink slime”) does…this should earn Lean Beef Trimmings an even higher rating on the “should be legal” scale.

Even beyond the issues of elitism with this matter, there is the very real concern of basic economics. Considering the budgetary concerns we ALREADY have, does it seem wise to eliminate a food substance from our school lunches, opting for a MORE expensive alternative? Where do our priorities really lie? Is it more important for a low-income child to eat something which will sustain their life, or is it more important that this food be deemed valid by some arbitrary scale of personal taste? It isn’t realistic to expect every child to get farm fresh food in public schools across the entire nation. I think it’s sad that people cannot think beyond the scope of their own backyard, and tend to forget that not everyone has the luxury of choice when it comes to food. Seriously, get over yourselves and stop trying to force everyone to live the way you think they should.

Of course, you might like to argue that this processed food should be removed from school lunches, because it’s harmful to eat. If you were to argue this point, you would be arguing on the side of error. It is simply incorrect that Lean Beef Trimmings or “pink slime” is harmful to your health. There isn’t even a study showing this to be the case. In fact, it is this very process which is healthier than pre-existing processing methods. Since people seem to only be able to store the information available within a 2-3 month time period, and completely forget the past…I’ll remind you that ecoli used to be a much more significant problem pre-ammonia treated meats.

Wait…ammonia? Isn’t that a …CHEMICAL?!!?! Yep. It’s a chemical. Chemicals are present in essentially every single existing entity on this planet. Ammonia is quite commonly present in many lifeforms, and is commonly used in the processing of many food products. In fact, your own body produces ammonia at relatively high volumes. The thing about ammonia, is it happens to have a significant impact on bacteria. It kills them. The purpose of utilizing ammonia to treat the meat product, is simply to kill bacteria to prevent the spreading of ecoli and other food borne illnesses. Just because you have not had the unfortunate experience of an ecoli outbreak, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. The consumption of the ammonia is not harmful, and the amount used is not even significant to be concerned about.

With these things in mind, do you still feel the same about “Pink Slime”? Does it really seem that bad? This is something entire generations consumed for years and years without any negative consequences. How can it be true that it is suddenly a major cause for concern?

I urge you to think critically about claims made in the media. Do not be lead down the rabbit hole of endless fear and paranoia. Pay careful attention to the tone of the story…do they ever give actual scientific evidence or rationale for their claims? Does it seem like they are just hitting hard on the “scare” aspect of the story? If so, research it further. Ignore either “side”. Seek only the facts. The facts are all that matters. In the case of “pink slime”, the fact is that it is perfectly safe, and if anything is extremely beneficial to modern society and its demands for food. The only thing about it that could make you sick from it, is having to listen to all the complete ignorance and bullshit being spread about it.

-Jon Day

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