It’s Your Choice?

I am sure that if you are a human living in the United States who ever turns on the television, reads a newspaper, or otherwise interacts with the media and/or other humans, you have heard about the pink slime scandal.  If you haven’t, here’s a link…  The short story is about something that the USDA and the beef industry call “lean beef trimmings”.  It’s a by-product of the beef-processing, well, process that includes fat, scraps shaved off the bone, etc., etc. and cleaned with ammonia-that’s right-and mixed into ground beef.  It used to be used for pet food….but somehow not it’s fit to be included in ground beef that you purchase at the grocery store and that is used to feed school children.

Now, this post is not about pink slime per se.  The whole thought of it is repulsive to me, and I am glad that this story made a splash.  Apparently it has affected some meat sales and the processors themselves are beginning to question their inclusion of this foulness in their beef…it’s bad for the bottom line.  Still, if you want to buy it, if you don’t have a problem with it, that’s your prerogative.  But….isn’t it my prerogative to not buy it if I don’t want to?

Unfortunately, that’s a complicated matter.  Grocery stores can opt out of selling it, and schools can opt out of serving it.  However, if your grocery store is not one of the, um, “out-opters”, you have no way of knowing whether the ground beef you are picking up contains “pink slime” or not.  The USDA does not label it, and they say that they will not label it.  Perhaps if the movement continues they will be persuaded to change their minds, but for the moment, if you are buying ground beef at your local grocery, you might be buying the aforementioned by-product.  And you don’t know it.

The same goes for genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.  GMOs are genetically altered in a laboratory, and at the moment, food processors are not required to label their products to tell consumers that their products contain GMOs.  Chances are that if you are buying food in a box that is not organic, it contains GMOs.  Food companies and their scientists like to argue that there is nothing wrong with the modification of organisms and it is just like Mendel crossing two different pea plants.  Sorry….not the same (I’m not going to go into detail about the whys and why nots, but it’s not), and since genetic modification is pretty new science, there is no research about what the long-term effects of GMOs are.  I have no scientific basis for this, but I would not be surprised to discover that GMOs are in some way linked to the surging food allergies these days.  I just prefer to eat my food unadulterated, the way it was intended.  If you don’t mind GMOs, then you have a right to buy them.  But if I don’t want them in my food, should it not be my choice to not eat them?  Apparently the government doesn’t think so.

I do a lot of reading about food and food politics.  Hey, if you want to eat a steady diet of Red 40 and high fructose corn syrup, that’s your right.  It’s your choice.  I still eat junk food from time to time, but I generally try to avoid those ingredients.  Of course, I can read the label and see if those ingredients are in food that I am buying.  But if I want to shop at the regular grocery store that’s five minutes from my house, I can’t buy ground beef without wondering if it contains pink slime.  I can’t buy a bag of tortilla chips without wondering if it contains GMOs.  Shouldn’t it be my choice to buy these things without wondering what mystery ingredients are lurking in there?  A lot of people feel like it’s a violation of their rights and “big government” for the government to label what you eat.  A violation of your rights?  They aren’t telling you what to eat.  They’re only telling you what’s in it.  I’d like to know.  Sorry, I’m not a “big government” person, but corporations have a lot more power than the average American, and industry does need to be regulated in a way that keeps people safe and informed about the food supply.

So, until something changes, I won’t be purchasing ground beef at the grocery store….I’ll be buying whole cuts of meat and grinding them myself (I’ve been doing that for a while anyway).  I am still working on my local buying habits but I’m definitely going to work toward buying as many local and/or organic (currently anything labeled organic cannot contain GMOs-although many of the corporations owning organic brands would like to change this) products as possible.  I’ll continue to buy as few packaged foods as possible.  And I’ll continue to support your right to eat whatever you want.  After all, it’s your choice!

Updated 4/2/12

I read this article yesterday and found it very interesting.

I found this excerpt most interesting: “Do not shoot the messenger. Blaming what is now happening on the media or the moms who are concerned about their kids health never works. Had you not built the foundation of your business in part by deciding the public did not need to know something – even something that you believed was good for them – the explosion of negativism you are now experiencing would have been a passing storm instead of a hurricane.” Good point. I understand what you are saying about the inflammatory actions/statements of the media, but how many people had no idea that they were purchasing this? The producers were certainly not forthcoming with the info.

Perhaps what I should have said is this: I do not want to eat “lean finely textured beef”. I realize that I am much more aware of what I eat than the average American, but the truth is that many people think that what they are purchasing when they buy ground beef is just that: a whole cut of beef that has been run through a grinder. What reason would they have to think anything else? Some people will continue to buy unlabeled ground beef regardless of the “pink slime” media blitz. Many people don’t want to eat it, and the whole point of my post was to assert that if you don’t want to eat it, you shouldn’t have to….so, knowing it’s present is the first step to making that choice.

Another issue I forgot to mention was the growing debate over raw milk. While large beef producers are allowed to sell us meat we wouldn’t want to eat if we knew what was really in it, raw milk is illegal in many states and most states do not allow raw milk to be purchased in another state and brought over state lines. The CDC website reports that raw milk is dangerous and resulted in 2 deaths between 1998 and 2009. Huh?  They estimate that deaths from E. Coli 0157 average about 20 per year.  E. coli 0157 is largely a byproduct of poor, unhygenic meat industry practices.  Yep.  Poop in the meat (from removing the intestines).  Pleasant, I know….but anyway.  I can buy ground beef at any grocery store, but the government says raw milk is too dangerous and I can’t buy it.  Someone please explain this to me!  Where’s my choice?  Anyway…..


3 thoughts on “It’s Your Choice?

  1. First, what’s negativity? I wrote to the lady at the Free Press about publishing TVA salaries on their website and she made reference to “negative” feedback. My feedback to her was not negative. I just disagreed with her position. So ….. 🙂

    RE “pink slime,” first, the ammonia is not “mixed in.” Rather, the ground meat and / or pieces are run across a conveyor and exposed to ammonia gas, which kills the bad guys in the meat. Bad guys are on ALL meat. So, the ammonia treatment is no different that using a product containing ammonia to clean your kitchen. Sadly, we still live in a fallen world. Thanks, Adam and Eve!! 🙂

    RE “choice” in the purchase of meat, labeled / unlabeled, gassed / ungassed, ground / unground, whatever, it’s great to live in a country where we do have “choices,” at least for now. I’m not a fan of ground meat, so I plan to stay with cuts when I eat meat. But, if people want to eat ground meat, even “pink slime,” I say God bless them, everyone!

    Finally, I do have a problem with the mass media jumping into these things, harassing people in legitimate business, destroying peoples’ jobs (even “pink slime” grinders), and using pejoratives like “pink slime” to describe a perfectly good and healthy food product.

    Finally, this is a great blog!! Keep up the good work 🙂

    • The negativity is in reference to the ugly comments that people like to make on other people’s blogs and especially in reference to restaurants. If you look at Urbanspoon you will see that many of the reviewers (not so much the bloggers, though) seem to make it their mission to post as many negative reviews as possible. I’ve had a couple of people post (unapproved and quickly deleted) very nasty comments about a couple of restaurants I’ve reviewed.

      I don’t use chemicals in my household cleaning and would never use them to clean my food. There are bacteria on all food but e Coli mainly affects factory beef because it is a byproduct of grainfeeding-since ruminants are not designed to eat grain, this provides a breeding ground for bacteria growth. Also, storebought ground beef is much more likely to contain eColi than a whole cut, since it is mixed in during the grinding process and the meat is likely to come from many animals rather than one. Buying meat from a known and reputable source seems like the way to go for me.

      I agree about how this affects jobs….but I still very much disagree with the practices used in factory meat processing, and I don’t care to eat meat byproducts. However, this is one of those “vote with your pocketbook” scenarios. If the public will become educated about food sources, they will demand a better system and better products….and working conditions will in the end be made better for people occupying aforementioned jobs!

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