Mar 08, 2012  |  Today's News

*Click here for an audio of Eric Johnson from Illinois Beef Association, addressing this issue.*

If you were listening to the large media outlets this morning, you heard about pink slime. And it sounded bad. And you wondered how it could be allowed. And you fell hook, line, and sinker for the same type of PR ploy that's used against farm practices on a fairly regular basis.

So, farmers know better, right? Well, not according to the folks calling into a popular morning-drive radio program out of Chicago. Callers who identified themselves as farmers or someone otherwise involved in agriculture also expressed their disgust and outrage.

Now sure, maybe it doesn't sound that great to know that what some call "trimmings" from the butchering process are somehow gathered up, further processed, and shipped out as an extender for use in ground meat. But are you really surprised? And at its base, why is there anything wrong with that?

But to dub the product "pink slime?" What were we thinking?

Here's the nuts and bolts of the deal. A couple of USDA food scientists caught wind of this methodology and took offense. They voiced their offense to their superiors and because the FDA had years earlier determined this process as safe, the USDA supervisors dismissed the concerns. Now, evidently, food issues hath no fury like a food scientist scorned. They ran to the media crying foul on the USDA and the school lunch program. *Cue the terrible Imperial March music and evil big ag empire to advance the troops.*

Then, Big Media saw an opportunity and ran wild, filling morning news programs, both on television and radio with the type of fear and disbelief that fuels the Nielsen ratings machine to the levels that mean all advertisers will want to buy in. Pink slime=angry moms=bigger audience=more advertisers. It's American capitalistic genius at work.

And all the fuss is about the same stuff that has been saved from the waste stream through a pretty darn innovative process. It’s the “trimmings” that aren’t included in steaks or roasts, for example, but still have muscle fiber that has nutrient quality. The correct term is ‘lean finely textured beef.’ It comes from the fat being spun away from the muscle, leaving behind the muscle. It’s treated with an ammonium hydroxide “puff” that serves as an anti-microbial, and then frozen. It looks pink and slimy. Therefore, “pink slime.” But it’s a valuable product that’s serves us better in the food stream, rather than in the waste stream. It's not rocket science, and it's not new.

It just sounds gross. And pink slime got its 15 minutes of fame.

Unfortunately, this type of media report turned mass consumer hysteria can lead to rules and regulations that are not well developed.

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