And in many ways pink slime is the perfect embodiment of a food industry gone off the rails.
In short, they took meat that was too dangerous to feed to humans, disinfected it so thoroughly that a block of the stuff will make your eyes water, and then celebrated the fact that they’d created a two-fer (it’s a food! it’s a disinfectant!). The industry embraced their creation so completely that around 70 percent of all supermarket ground beef now contains the stuff. But this goes way beyond hamburger. As Tom Philpott points out, pink slime is used in a huge variety of products including “hot dogs, lunch meats, chili, sausages, pepperoni, retail frozen entrees, roast beef, and canned foods.” By industry standards, it is nothing short of a food “intervention” success story.
The irony, of course, is that the 2010 debate over pink slime brought to light evidence that this treated meat product is not nearly as reliable a disinfecting agent as its maker asserted. It was likely those indications that led the fast food industry, in most ways farther ahead of the food safety curve than supermarkets or school food providers, to abandon the ingredient late last year. And now that the mainstream media has taken notice of pink slime, even the USDA has had to back off its wholehearted endorsement for it in school lunch.
But don’t let the appearance of a back-and-forth debate fool you. Pink slime is truly worse than other forms of disinfected treated meat since the trimmings used in pink slime are known to harbor pathogens at high levels before treatment. Should it disappear from store shelves, however, we can rest assured the meat that remains will continue to be treated with other industrial chemicals. Because that’s — pure and simple — the only way the industrial meat industry can prevent its products from making people sick.
Watch this space - soon we offer a CSA for Pasture raised chicken, pork and beef on PEI. What do you want to feed your family?