Slow down, social media. Take time to consider the consequences.
Social media has made a mountain out of a molehill, thanks to Jamie Oliver, who is not even American but British (and we still don’t trust them 236 years after the American Revolution!), and his Food Revolution publicizing the use of lean beef trimmings, AKA pink slime.
It seems ironic that ABC News covered the pink slime story initially three weeks ago in early March, 2012, after having pulled the plug on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution program on its own network in May, 2011. The network gave their fired employee extra publicity. (Chuckle.)
Lean finely textured beef has been approved as safe for human consumption by the USDA. Think about what hamburger really is—you’re eating meat and ground up fat anyway! In fact, when purchasing ground beef, you have the option of 70% lean, a cheaper option because it has 30% fat. Ground chuck has 15 to 20% fat, and ground sirloin has only about 10% fat.
You get what you pay for because the less expensive 70% lean shrinks more when cooked because of the fat. Ground chuck contains enough fat to make it flavorful and juicy at 80% lean, but 90% ground sirloin becomes dry if served beyond medium-rare (although it’s the hamburger of choice for those watching calorie intake but it is more expensive).
Due to the whole pink slime scare, some supermarket chains have announced that they will no longer carry ground beef that includes pink slime. That means we will have to pay more for a product that does not utilize all of the available meat in a cut of beef.
Here’s how beef is processed. After the usable meat is removed from the bones, the low quality trimmings which consist of fat and leftover meat and connective tissue are heated to remove the tallow. (Yes , the connective tissue is beef gristle.) The meat is separated from the fat in a centrifuge and treated with ammonia gas to kill E. coli and Salmonella—bad bugs that can give you a tummy ache or intestinal discomfort or worse.
Notice in the last sentence that I said “the meat is separated from the fat” and that means the connective tissue is still in there. What comes out of the centrifuge is edible. (Hey, even the fat is edible—what do you think “marbling” in steak is? But I digress.)
What comes out of the centrifuge is forced through a tube about the size of a pencil and exposed to ammonia gas and water, which causes a reaction to kill the bad bugs or pathogens. At the end of the process, the product is at least 90% lean. The USDA has determined that this finely textured beef product cannot be sold separately as beef but can be added to the traditional cuts to be considered meat.
The ramifications of avoiding lean finely textured beef are catastrophic for the 600 beef processing employees who have lost their jobs. As a result of the pink slime scare, we consumers will now have to pay higher prices for ground beef that does not contain lean finely textured beef.
So, social media, consider all of the facts before expressing outrage over a product. And already the next controversy to foster outrage is the use of pink food coloring made from cochineal beetles in Starbucks strawberry frappuccinos.
What’s next? I want to state unequivocally right here that research shows mascara does NOT contain bat poop!