Friday, March 30, 2012

Iowa Farm Girl Reports on Pink Slime

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!

Friday, March 9, 2012

MMDC #24—Valparaiso, IN, team Feb. 29 to Mar. 2

The team from Valparaiso, IN, worked at MMDC during our last week as volunteer coordinators. It was great working side-by-side with this team. Warehouse/Clerical Assistant Mary always takes each team’s photo right after they arrive on their first day. Since the weather was so nice, we went outside in front of MMDC’s sign.

Here is the team from Valparaiso: Della, Bette, Bev, Joyce, Sandy,Karen, Phyllis, Lois, Dean, Bonnie, Mike, Mary, and Gene.

Work on the Partner mailing that was begun last week continued, as the gals adhered mailing labels to envelopes and sorted them by ZIP codes into mailing trays. Below are Della, Phyllis, Mary, Karen, and Sandy.

At another table working on the mailing were Joyce, Bonnie, Bette, Bev, and Lois.

And then local volunteers Marilyn and Steve Markus joined in on the fun!

And here are Phyllis, Mary, local volunteer Beulah, Sandy, and Bonnie.

Believe it, everyone gave a cheer when Lois put the last label on the last envelope! Marla, Susan, and Judy performed quality control, checking every envelope for 3rd class postage, mailing labels, and ZIP code by tray. Below caretakers Dick and Judy load the mail trays into the van for delivery to the post office—all 8,675 letters!

Donations are unloaded from the U-Haul by the guys from Valparaiso and caretaker Dick. 

The EF4 Harrisburg, IL, tornado struck at 5:00 a.m. on Feb. 29, and by 11 a.m. the U-Haul with 108 flood cleaning buckets, 225 Personal Dignity Kits, and 150 school bags was on its way 190 miles to the south for delivery of disaster relief. Here the Valparaiso team and staff gather to “pray out the load.” Della, a member of the Valparaiso team (in red shirt), grew up in Harrisburg, so we felt doubly grateful that everyone in her extended family was okay and we could offer immediate assistance.

After the mailing was completed, the gals in the workroom worked on several different tasks. Below Karen, Della, and Lois cut out school bags for the Monday sewing group.

At another cutting table Bette and Lois helped cut out school bags.

Bev and Phyllis helped iron school bags for a couple of days. 

Local volunteer Louise came for quality control on hospital gowns. She's inspector No. 5. That day she sorted almost 200 little boys outfits.

Phyllis and Bev count how many bags they had ironed over the past few days—67 total!

Bev, local volunteers Steve and Marilyn and Beulah, sorted MMDC information packets, removing old brochures and inserting the brand new one.

Lois also helped with the information packet update.

Mary and Lois work on the packets another day.

Caretaker Dick gets buckets of hot water for another part of the Valparaiso team to clean buckets out in the warehouse.

Della and Bev are shown in the next few photos cleaning and drying flood cleaning buckets and lids, a job that they did for a couple of days. Mary also helped wash buckets one day. Many of the buckets came from food supply companies. These comments were overheard while they worked: “Tiramisu’s the best” and “Oh, I smell pickles!”

 Yes, the flood cleaning buckets are stacked to the ceiling so that MMDC is prepared for requests due to possible spring flooding or severe storms.

Warehouse/Clerical Assistant Mary and Caretaker Judy help pull buckets apart so they can be washed.

Bonnie and Mary wash buckets.

Mary sweeps the water off the warehouse floor after a total of 174 buckets were washed over 2 days.

Bonnie lined up the dry buckets in the shape of a cross.

After the buckets were dry, Judy and Marla stacked them in the warehouse.

For a little variety we assembled Personal Dignity Kits in the workroom. Bonnie, Mary, Joyce, Sandy, Bev, and Dean worked on these for part of 2 days.

Judy delivers supplies to the workroom for assembling PDKs.

The first afternoon they packed 14 boxes for a total of 351 PDKs.

Before doing more PDKs towels and washcloths needed to be layered. The Valparaiso team put together 1020 sets! Those helping were Bette, Sandy, Lois, Della, and Karen.

Della stretches after working for a while.

Karen is camera shy.

And with enough towels on hand, the next morning we started assembling PDKs again. Dean joined in and helped weigh and label the boxes. By noon the team had filled 13 boxes with an average of 24 PDKs per box.

Mary, Phyllis, Lois, Dean, and Sandy assemble and box PDKs. “Watch out, Mary, or your hand will be buried under an avalanche of soap.”

For 3 days Valparaiso, IN, team members built school desks. Joyce and Mike work on a desk together.

Later Mary and Mike follow volunteer coordinator Carl’s instructions.

Dean and Gene assemble a desk.

Mary thought it was great fun assembling the desk, but she was appalled when it had to be disassembled in order to be given a couple of coats of sealant, sanded, and shrink wrapped for shipping.

Mike and Carl turn over the desk to make sure it is level.

Mary and Mike sit in the desk they just completed.

Dean and Gene try out their recently finished desk.
Dean brushes on polyurethane to seal the wood of the desks. Phyllis and Mike also helped.

Gene moves a sealed board to the drying rack.

Mike applys a coat of polyurethane to the desk pieces.

And another couple of women made desks the next day. Della holds a desk leg while Mike inserts the bolt.

Phyllis and Gene drill holes for the bolts.

Della is “power tool woman”.

Gene and Phyllis check to make sure their desk legs are stable.

Della and Mike try out their desk.

Joyce and Gene sit in the desk they built together.

Another activity in the workroom was to cut out patterns for hospital gowns. Bette, Karen, and Bonnie did this.

Karen needed a little boost to reach across the cutting table. 

There were more one-handled school bags cut out by Della and Karen for the Monday sewing group.

On her little step Karen is “so big.”

Bonnie and Karen cut out school bags.

Bette and Bonnie use the Monday sewing group’s fabric for school bags.

And on the third day...they were still cutting out school bags. Bonnie is in the foreground, and Bette and Karen are in the background. One day they cut out 172 bags, another day they cut out 128 bags, and another morning they cut out 70 bags.

Counting out 50 paperclips and putting them into a zip bag was done by Bette, local volunteer Marilyn, and Bev. Someone thought it was the worst job ever.

Bev helped Steve and Marilyn open nail clippers for PDKs.

And local volunteer Steve FINALLY got to wrap bundles of 6 band-aids for UMCOR Health Kits.

Old friends Mike, Marilyn, and Steve meet again.

Yes, that’s hail outside the window on the morning of March 2.

Mike found a funny bolt—no threads!

Every day ends with clean-up, but you can’t sweep those anti-fatigue mats. They have to be vacuumed. Mopping the workroom floors is a Friday afternoon task.