Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pink Slime

Chances are that if you own a television and occasionally click through the news stations, you've heard this term thrown around in the last couple of years. If you’re extra astute you may have even seen the television special where the cocky chef “makes” pink slime in front of a bunch of horrified children. And if you’ve seen that then you are more than aware of the unfortunate reality that kids don’t care what food looks like before it looks like food.

Seriously, the next time you have a glimmer of faith in humanity go ahead and watch this video, and it should clear things right up. The look on Jamie Oliver’s face after he asks who would still eat a Chicken Nugget, and receives his soul-crushing answer, is priceless.  
Today I want to talk about FSOs, or Food Shaped Objects.  Now I don’t mean wax fruit, or those things that they include in Beef Jerky that are decidedly NOT seasoning packets. I’m referring to things that routinely feel the need to inform us that it is a “product” after what it supposedly is.
Cheese “product”.
Chicken “product”.
Beef “product” (I’m looking at you, Taco Bell).
I love reading these labels on food, because it’s generally the only indication that what you’re about to shove in your mouth was destroyed completely and then repurposed to mostly taste like what it originally was. The process behind the scenes is often an unpleasant one, but suffice it to say that calling a chicken nugget “Chicken” is basically the equivalent of saying that your skeleton is a “Human”.
Recently, a McDonald’s supply chain manager in Canada did a little “Video Tour” ad for the Super Bowl, showcasing exactly how Canada makes McNuggets. What is important here is the understanding that just because something isn’t coming out of the grinders looking like pink slime in Canada doesn’t mean that this is the same way things are being done everywhere. Processed meat is a disconcerting thing for more reasons than just the color or amount of bone it contains before being hammered into something food-shaped; processed meat has the potential to be anything that they toss in the machine.
Literally anything.
Bone, gristle, skin, white meat and dark meat and all the colors in between, fingernails, claws, beaks, teeth, and as was the case last year with Interstate Meat, people who work there.
Processed meat is a scary concept because we are sacrificing certainty, “If I eat this steak, I am eating from one cow and will be able to know if it makes me ill,” for convenience - “If I eat this hamburger, I am taking a “bite of a thousand cows”, and any number of them could have had bleeding cow-butt disease.” While you certainly have your “meal” on hand much sooner than it would take to go to the store, get a fine cut of meat, and prepare it yourself; you have also increased your risk of eating mystery meat.
I won’t try and throw numbers at you saying how Jack In the Box killed 4 kids back in the 90’s due to negligence, or how Federal Law doesn’t force slaughterhouses to check grinders for E-Coli; I won’t even end on some high note about how processed food is the Devil and fast-food should be stopped. If you want to eat a burger from your local fast-food joint, then who am I to say that you are wrong?
Just don’t call it “food”, and do your research before putting something in your children’s mouths that may make them very ill.

About the Author:

Damien Marty once tried to be a pioneer in domesticated Yellow Jackets; now he and his horrifically swollen face sit at home and write informative articles about food and science, other other fascinating topics. If you ever need a helping hand with a hard-to-remember factoid, or are interested in having him (terribly) sing at your doorstep, simply yell loudly out your window and he'll be there when he can.

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