Pink Slime silly: A round-up re the ground-up

In January, we reported that McDonald’s would stop using pink slime in its hamburgers. In recent weeks, the movement has caught on.

School districts are starting to insist on slime-free meat products. Grocery chains are removing it from their shelves. And its very existence is leading to a new thread in ongoing debates over complexities in food labeling.

Meanwhile, Gerald Zirnstein – the microbiologist who was working for the U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture when he coined the term – is unemployed and looking for work, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Exactly what is Pink Slime? The Tribune article on Zirnstein describes it as:

…a mix of fatty beef by-products and connective tissue, ground up and treated with ammonium hydroxide, then blended with ground beef…

Another reference – seen in multiple places, including the Just Call Me Cheap blog – refers to it as “pulverized cow anus.” Now that’s some truth in advertising.

The FDA had previously ruled that Pink Slime is OK to eat, which is why we’re even talking about it. And apparently it’s not reconsidering.

More importantly, the American Meat Institute  has rushed to the defense of Pink Slime with a 5-minute video (emedded below). The video explains the industry’s brilliant euphemism for the product  – Lean Finely Textured Beef – but doesn’t quite succeed at making one want to eat it.

Meanwhile, J.M. Hirsch, the Associated Press food editor has done a taste test of Pink Slime. It ran in the Aurora Sentinal, among other papers. The whole article is entertaining, enlightening and worth reading, but here’s the bottom line about the way it tastes:

It was simply one-dimensional. And then there was the texture. Unpleasantly chewy bits of what I can only describe as gristle, though they were not visible, seemed to stud the meat of the pink slime burger. The result was a mealy chew that, while not overtly unpleasant, didn’t leave me wanting another bite.

That tepid review is unlikely to do in Pink Slime any more than the current round of widespread disgust. Pink Slime is, after all, an industrial byproduct in an industry known for its efficiency in using byproduct. Heck, even the Great Plains Native Americans of the 19th Century were heralded for using every part of the buffalo; what kind of hypocrite would begrudge the sale of pulverized cow anus to anyone willing to buy it?

It’s hard to know where Pink Slime will find a new market, now that it’s unlikely to be found in beef packaged at Kroger, Wegman’s or other grocery stores. But someone is going to buy it, put it in food, and make it sound delicious.


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