Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pink Slime: My Take

Pink Slime has been on the news in the last few months, with some people falling on the side of avoidance and wanting to have it labeled, and others insisting it's fine to eat, because it's "just beef" (which is a lie, if I've ever heard one).

I am writing this post to give my take on the issue.

As my readers might guess, my preference is for all-natural foods. I like to know what's in my food, so that I can make an educated decision as to whether I want to take it into my body.

It hasn't always been this way. I used to just eat whatever I wanted and not think about consequences. After my allergies snowballed and I ended up with pretty extensive allergies (13+ diagnosed food allergies that came up with conventional allergy testing, most pollens, 2/3 of molds, and animal epithelials.....I won the prize that day as they hadn't seen anyone that bad for some time), I was forced to examine every bite that went into my mouth.

And I have come out the other end a person who wants to eat with eyes wide open.

As to the Pink Slime issue, I knew that I didn't want to be taking any more chemicals into my body than absolutely necessary. This was the main reason I was trying to avoid the stuff.

My reasons were not for avoiding direct allergies.....

...but then I read today that the method Cargill uses to make their Pink Slime uses citric acid. Given the business that Cargill does, (they are one of the major agricultural companies), I have to assume that the citric acid they are using is derived from (probably genetically modified-up to 85% of US corn is GMO) corn.

So, now I am back on my anti-GMO soapbox and have stronger reasons to avoid Pink Slime. Beef with Pink Slime is not *only* beef. It's had something added. Something that is part of production and doesn't legally have to be announced a label, but no less added.  As a person whose allergy diagnosis included Corn and Soy, I can't help but try to avoid them when I can, along with other GMO's(such as cottonseed). A hard feat when GMO foods are crammed into something like 70-85% of the US food supply.  I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle, but I'm not giving up!

When I look at a selection of conventional ground beef, it's not only likely that the cows have been fed GMO corn and soy, and that the packaging contains GMO corn, but the GMO corn is put directly into the meat (if it's from Cargill, but who knows that information in the meat section of the grocery store)!

Bad news for me and fellow Corn-Allergy people. I don't care that Big Government says it is safe.....I don't trust it.

And...I find it a bit ironic that, if they say it's safe to eat, ConAgra Foods and Kraft Foods claim that they pulled the Pink Slime out of their products. They're not standing behind their product with pride.  These companies all have ties in the GMO chain.....and I'm not sure they're not just blowing smoke and tickling our ears.

For the big companies, it's all about the money, folks. It's not about the health of the American people; it's about the money the American people are willing to put into their pockets.

The eyes of the American people are being opened as they become aware of what exactly goes into our food(or, at least, what's been divulged), and how our food in the US compares to other First World countries. I have seen a lot of change happening in the last couple years; I used to be one of a tiny minority, but more mainstream people are hopping on my boat (yeah!).

Educate Yourself. Vote with your Dollars.  I think that's one of the few ways that will be effective in positive change in the food industry in the coming years.

Updated to add links.


Anonymous said...

You use phrases like "educated decisions" and "educate yourself". You should probably take some of your own advise! The level of inaccuracies in your piece is deplorable.

Tanya said...

This post is titled "My Take", and I think I am entitled to my own opinions based on the information I have found.

I am not sure what part of my blog post is inaccurate so far as to be deplorable...

I say "educate yourself", not because I have "arrived" at the perfect conclusion for everyone, but because I have arrived at what I feel is the right decision for me. You (general, rhetorical you) have every right (and the responsibility!) to educate yourself. Whether you come to my same conclusion depends on you and your situation.

Most people don't have to think much about what they eat, what goes into/on it during production(that may or may not be labeled), where it's been, what it's been packaged in, or how it is served. People are generally ignorant (as in, have no knowledge) of all of the above. They can eat pretty much anything and not pay with immediate and delayed reactions and chronic health conditions.

It is my allergy history (and family history) that has forced me to look into what *exactly* I am taking into my body and to act accordingly.

I assume by your response that you may not have experienced problems with what you eat.

Consider yourself blessed to not have to deal with what I and other people with multiple allergies have to deal with on a regular basis. I sure wouldn't wish it on anybody.

Thanks for reading.

Diane said...

For me the "pink slime" is a stunning example of how we have allowed businesses to "create" foods from waste - which though I am glad we are not wasting, and the industry makes more money, which means more jobs- We need to STOP and think about what exactly we are now feeding people.

Over the past 25 years allergies, chemical sensitivities,chronic illnesses, genetic based diseases are rapidly increasing at a shocking speed-

Over the past 25 years corn, soy, chemicals,hormones, pesticides,fungicides, etc are in about any "commercial item" you buy at a grocery store. 25-50 years ago, an apple was just an apple. Now it is raised in soil that has been chemically enhanced, sprayed with fungicides, spliced and cross bred, coated in pesticides. then of course the weed killer chemicals.. and to top it off, they spray it with a shiny protective coating full of more chemicals and corn. Who knows what else is polluting the soil it is raised in-even the paper packaging or plastic they ship them in are all full of corn and soy and other far less friendly elements..

Pink Slime is the wake up call that we all need to pay attention to our food, and to take note that we now eat more processed and manipulated food then our bodies are tolerating.

When you buy an apple do you want an apple, or something that looks like an apple but isn't anymore?

Thank you Tanya I appreciate your opinion piece that happens to be full of great facts and information for anyone who would rather not continue poisoning their families.

Which one do you think evolution has prepared your body to use for fuel?

Bronte said...

I really hate it when people make generalized criticisms and then don't explain what those mistakes are that are so "deplorable." I also am not impressed with people who make critical comments anonymously.

As for pink slime - I'm not interested in eating something that has the word slime in it.

Kristi said...

Great post Tanya! I agree, though I cannot speak as to know about who made the anonymous comment, but all it takes is dealing with food allergies or any other health issues with yourself or your family to start really investigating our food and what it is doing to us. I was ignorant to all of this before also, until my son's condition forced me to face the reality that there is a problem with what is in our food. Our bodies do not tolerate what we are doing to it now. God made the earth and food to naturally grow on it as He intended and anytime man tries to take it into his own hands and create man-made food (GMOs), the results are detrimental. Praying over my food before I eat it has more meaning to me now.

Mike Haley said...

Hi Tanya, I posted a comment yesterday but it seems it got lost in never never land! If you find it feel free to delete this one as its most likely to be fairly similar.

I think its awesome how more and more people like yourself are taking a growing interest in how food is grown and prepared! Thanks for taking the time to share your views on your blog, I look forward to reading more in the future.

I myself am a farmer in NE Ohio. We raise corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, mums and have a small cow calf herd and sell freezer beef to neighbors (If interested in learning more about me feel free to check out our blog at http://haley-farms.com. After reading your post I am fairly sure that you would not be interested in purchasing much from our farm, but I do know several neighbors in the area that would be willing to work with you to ensure you can get the farm products you would be looking for.

I do have one question about your thoughts on lean finely textured beef (the correct name for pink slime, but pink slime is easier to say so hereinafter I will refer to it as pink slime). Pink Slime is basically meat that has had the extra fat removed from it, in its pure form it is nothing but beef. However, just like in vegtables, packers and processors have the option to add extra safety steps like citric acid and ammonia to ensure the chances of any food-borne illnesses are decreased to a minimum. Not all buyers of pink slime choose this extra safety step and therefore are simply buying beef that has had the extra fat removed in order to have a leaner burger. So my question, are you against all forms of Pink Slime, or just the forms that have had extra safety steps to ensure food safety?

Tanya said...

Hi Mike!
Thanks for reading and making the effort to post on my blog! :)

I greatly appreciate your efforts in making better food available. :) I know that it is a slow, step-by-step process, and you can't make everyone happy. I have a very local beef source, so will probably not be buying from you, but am leaving your link up for those that might be interested.

For the record, I am now what I call "corn-lite", and I focus on trying to avoid GMO's. My meat source pastures their beef in the months when that is possible, and feeds silage in the winter. If they supplement that, the corn/soy/wheat they grow is non-GMO(though not organic). Works for me. :)

My main issue with the lean textured beef/Pink Slime is that it contains ingredients that are not labeled that those with allergies can react to.

Non-treated Pink Slime still grosses me out, because of the bacteria factor. I question whether we should be eating it at all; other countries have banned its use, so why do companies feel we need to be eating it? (rhetorical question)

Now, I have no issues with cutting up an animal (beef...or venison) and using the trimmings to go into sausage and the like, if desired. But, that is from one animal and far less likely to harbor the bacteria that commercial beef, due to the nature of the process, tends to have. Since commercial beef is not given the same care that at-home and small meat markets give, I feel that Pink Slime should be pulled. Just my opinion.

There's degrees of what I would like in a perfect world and what I can settle for. I can settle for honest labeling. :)

Mike Haley said...

Thanks Tanya,

I am curious where you are finding the information to make the claims that larger processors harbor more bacteria in their butchering plants than smaller or at home markets give. I have not been able to find any, but touring both my personal opinion would be the opposite.

As far as the label issue you mention, I have a few thoughts. 20 years ago nobody was to concerned with anything besides safety and taste, however things have changed since then and more people are interested in their food beyond the end product. Because of this we (agriculture) needs to work to ensure that customers are receiving what they want and that means we need to continue to increase the amount of transparency available. I think this is a common goal, however it does not happen overnight.

Tanya said...

One source: http://www.livestrong.com/article/150008-organic-beef-vs-traditional-beef/

One older article about a draft study by the USDA: http://www.organicconsumers.org/irrad/patties.cfm

I'm not saying that there aren't pristine larger processors or less than stellar small processors/do-it-yourselfers. :-) Certainly, both types exist on both sides.

What I am saying, though, is that due to the diet of conventional beef causing more E.coli to be in the cow's intestines (see article above--citations are at the bottom) there is more potential for contamination, especially when coupled with the sheer number of animals run through the large processing plants....they use the disinfectants and chemicals and other processes (as for the Pink Slime) for a reason--to kill all of this stuff so there's not an outbreak. I just feel that the odds are stacked up against us, the more commercial/big the food industry gets. :-(

I've rarely seen small processors on the news for E. coli outbreaks and such....however, there's been a lot on the news about the larger processors having this issue and recalling their products. This may just be a fluke, but it's been my observation, anyway.

And, yes, I agree that this wasn't on anyone's radar 20 years ago. These kinds of problems didn't exist (at least to this level).

And yes, it's a common goal...that takes time to attain. Baby steps. :)

Thanks again! :)

Mike Haley said...

Thanks formthe response Tanya,

I understand where you are coming from now. It's completely normal for conventional, organic and natural beef products to undergo safety intervention steps (disinfectants as you called them, can be used in orgsnic products as long as they are ntural) and all are normally treated with at a minimum the citric acid you refer to above to ensure its safety. I am curious as to what, if any safety intervention your butcher may use. On the studies I think we could point to studies on wether one is healthier than the other all day but it's nnot worth the argument as you have a great local source of beef and the Discusion is about pink slime not large vs. small, etc.

So back to Pink Slime, I read this from Temple Grandin today and she is dead on IMO. http://beefmagazine.com/industry-structure/temple-grandin-lftb-underscores-transparency-need

Using her figures pink slime replaces 1.5 million beef animals each hear, that's a LOT of water saved and good untilization of our resources. Because of this I think it's a good product, but as we discussed above the beef industry has t answer some tough questions and be more transparent about what it is, and what products it is in and allow the choice to buy it or not.

Tanya said...

Hi Mike! :)

I know that when we process our own venison, we use simple soap and water to clean surfaces and practice general food safety. We don't use citric acid or any other type of treatment on the meat.

I know that one can request that the butcher not use the washes they might normally use when having an animal processed. Not every butcher will be willing to do this, but my online corn allergic friends across the country are often able to find a local butcher that will work with them. Now, the last couple years I have been corn-lite, and not quite as concerned about the washes, so admittedly I have not investigated my current source of meat products and what they might use. Also, there are brands that currently don't use the "corny" washes, based on talking with the company and no reactions by those more sensitive. Perhaps they use citric acid derived from actual citrus fruits, as opposed to citric acid derived from corn---because most of the non-corny meats are organic, and cannot legally use regular American-made citric acid (which is made from GMO corn). So far--I have read that "they" are trying to change the current laws to allow small percentages of GMO derivatives and still slap the Organic label on it.

I would agree that using all of the parts of the animal is saving money. But, we were already using all of that, in my understanding--in pet food. My SIL works at a vet clinic, and animal allergies are on the rise as well. I wonder what is in the dog food, now that we're using so much of the Pink Slime in people food...I am guessing more GMO grains, but that's just a guess--no research behind that one. :)

Yes, in the end I think we agree that the beef (and all food) industry needs to be more transparent. That way, those who prefer to avoid it (for whatever reason) have a real choice.

Thanks again for reading! :)

Tom said...

In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to start off by saying I do work in beef production. Though I can not weigh in intelligently about the GMO portion of these conversations, I do have first hand knowledge about how LFTB, aka "pink slime" is produced.

Lean Finely Textured Beef production is really much more simple than it has been portrayed. The only differences between the trimmings used to make ground beef, as we the consumer recognizes it, and the trimmings used to make LFTB is the lean beef to fat ratio. LFTB starts by using higher fat trimmings containing no bones, organs, or tendons. To achieve the higher lean ground beef that we all desire economically, the lean is separated from the fat and the lean is added back into the ground beef. The process of separating lean from fat is accomplished with centrifugal force similar to separating cream from milk.

The intervention step of using an antimicrobial agent to minimize bacteria potential is an option. Ground beef suppliers elect to purchase LFTB with or without this intervention. I can only assume that they would make those decisions based on input from their customers.

I hope this information is helpful to you readers. For those interested, here is another great blog I have been following.

Tanya said...

Hello, Tom!
I appreciate you sharing your insight and perspective on this matter with me and my readers.

It is good to read about different perspectives and experiences, and the more we know about how our food is made, the better decisions we can make for ourselves and our families.

Thanks again!
Tanya :)

Tanya said...

I am curious. How did you all find my blog, if you don't mind my asking?
I've rarely gotten this many comments and want to know what brought them on. :)


Tom said...

As this subject directly impacts me, I have spent a fair amount of time on the web searching material. I found yours on the second page of a google search which I had limited to a recent 24 hour window.

Mike Haley said...


One of my friends on facebook posted a link to this blog piece. They were one of the individual's that lost their job in this whole mess and were really upset when they read what you wrote as they felt your take was full of inaccuracies.

I understand that there is a lot of misinformation out there about LFTB and appreciated your viewpoint on the matter, on the other hand it still bothers me that some very nice people have lost their jobs because people are upset about inaccurate reports by the media. I think that is why we both agree that things need to be more transparent, if everyone already knew about LFTB then there would not have been a "story" to create in the first place.

Anyways, thats how I found your blog and decided to comment. Thanks for asking!

Tanya said...

Thanks, guys, for letting me know. :)

This helps me to better understand the first comment I received. I knew I had hit a nerve, just not exactly where. This is a hot topic and very personal on many fronts, it looks like.

Hopefully the links I added onto my blog post and our discussion have made it easier to see where I am coming from.

I have no ill will towards the farmers, workers, "middle men" in the food industry process. I do have issues with certain major companies that control/attempt to control the food supply and what should and should not be disclosed to the consumers (to the detriment of our health).

We've all got to make a living, somehow, and I hope things are able to be worked out that all of those people will get their jobs back.

Though my ideals are of an all-organic food supply, I realize that is not something that can be changed with the flip of a switch. There are ideals, and there is the reality, the give-and-take, the compromise of living in the real world.

Hopefully, we can all come to an agreement that we can all live (and make a living) with.

Have a great day, and thanks again for reading and great discussion!

Mike Haley said...

Good perspective Tanya,

I would just like to point out that I prefer to not eat organic as I am completely comfortable with the way I grow food on my farm. I have nothing against the way's my organic neighbor's grow food either however as I said am comfortable with my practices that are non organic (or more accurately a mix of organic and conventional) and therefore see no reason to spend more money to buy food raised in a more expensive manner.

I respect your choice to seek organic foods out, please respect mine and not try to take it away by advocating for a 100% organic food supply.

Thanks ;)

Tanya said...

Oh, I truly meant no disrespect!

Certainly not everything on my dinnerplate is organic(except maybe in summertime when we're eating a lot from the garden), because I often can't afford the price of organics!

I don't expect to attain that "100% organic" state this side of heaven. ;) It's an ideal, not my reality. :)

Sorry to offend--didn't mean to come across that way!

Tanya said...

I was thinking about what I was saying earlier about dreaming of an all-organic food supply. The reason I said that is because I have far less trouble with organic foods than I do with mainstream foods. My theory(or maybe it's technically a hypothesis...) is that my problems with mainstream foods is the GMO's in them. The easiest way to avoid GMO's (currently)is to buy organic food. Or, to grow one's own food or know your farmer, and how they farm, well. :)

So...all those words to say...what I meant to say is that my ideal is for everyone to be able to eat without having to always be on guard and facing potential allergic reactions. To not always have to be thinking twice or more before every bite I put into my mouth. I don't think that means everything has to be organic, necessarily, but that's the closest *I* can get to my reality. And "all organic" was the closest simple phrase I could think of at the time to sum up the above explanation. :)

Does that make better sense? It was not a judgement call on you. :)

I don't have nearly as much of a problem with *properly used* non-organic farming methods(and I'm sure you're properly using them, since you are confident in consuming them and feeding your family with them). In my opinion, there are plenty of organic methods that can harm people's health if not used properly as well.

I feel that we all have had a productive conversation here. I know I have learned a lot from talking with you guys and checking out your links!

Here's to more productive conversations! :)

Best to you and yours,

Mike Haley said...

Thanks Tanya for the clarification. I agree, we have had a good and productive conversation!

I have never had an issue with food alergies, thus can not imagine the issues they may cause, especially if one is allergic to corn as it can be used almost anywhere as you point out! The first I had heard of this was one of my neighbors (who is a farmer and crows corn) daughters is allergic to corn, he was telling me a couple of years how hard it was to adjust their buying habbits and find foods with no corn in them. To clarify, this was not about GMO as at that time we only had gmo soybeans and it was just simply corn.

I am curious, is your issues with "mainstream" foods align with those that ate more processed, or all of them in generally?


Tanya said...

Hello again, Mike! :)

Yes, it is very eye-opening how prevalent corn (and soy) are in our food supply. It had never occurred to me(nor was it even on my radar) until I had to avoid it!

As to your question, the quick answer is: my issues are most often with things that are more processed, because they are more likely to contain something that will "get" me. The more steps in the process, the more likely there will be something that will trigger a reaction. There are basic mainstream foods that I do fine with. :) Organics are an easy way to eat non-GMO, but there are other ways to avoid GMO's(mostly) and eat more "mainstream" foods--I just have to be selective.

Due to my allergy history, I was forced to go pretty much as close to unprocessed foods as possible(and trying for absolutely no corn or soy at that time), and even then it was a chore to eat(did you know that fortifications that are in milk and plain rice contain or are suspended in corn or soy, that potatoes and bananas are gassed in corny gas, and that the wax on fruits and veggies to keep them fresher longer contains corn? Aah! Crazy-making!).

Since things have gotten much better, I've been able to add more processed foods into my diet to make life a little easier and not be cooking/baking all the time.

I have concerns that my kids will come down with my nightmare allergies(or worse), and I want to do whatever is in my power to help them have healthy bodies. For me, that looks like minimizing GMO's in what we eat at home. I don't police every bite they eat away from home. I just try to give them a good base to build on and trust that their bodies will hopefully be able to handle what they get elsewhere.

I don't want to raise my kids in a big ol' bubble. I do want to teach them about allergies and how to learn about them and live with them and deal with them and how to read labels, because they might have to do this in the future.

It might sound like I cook *everything* from scratch, or buy organic everything. I don't. Can't afford to, for one! Especially if I don't have hours to write out a very strict menu plan and the sales aren't great and the stars don't align right. ;) I pick and choose what works for me and what doesn't, and it's a constantly evolving process...

So...there's the looooong answer! :-D
Hope I didn't bore you to death!