Off the Press

March 27, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

What’s for dinner may cause loss of appetite

Tom Corrigan Press reporter

If recent news about “pink slime” in beef has given you indigestion, you might want to skip this.

Then again, you might lose a few pounds if you pay close attention.

For those not in the know, “pink slime” is the derisive name given to what’s technically called “finely textured beef.” It’s basically made from the parts of the cow that aren’t normally eaten by humans and are traditionally used for dog food. According to various sources, the stuff is created when beefy leftovers are boiled and thrown into a centrifuge to separate the “meat” from the bones and fat.

When the process is complete, in the pictures I’ve seen, the stuff looks like bright pink toothpaste and appears to have about the same consistency. The goop comes from the parts of the cow more susceptible to E. coli, salmonella and other nice bacteria, so the meat makers treat it with ammonia. You know, the stuff used to clean floors?

Incidentally, the pink paste is left with an ammonia aftertaste, so it most often gets treated with some sort of artificial flavoring. In short, more chemicals are tossed into the slop.

Now, forget pink slime. You know, of course, that in terms of the garbage the government says is OK for us to eat, pink slime is only the tip of the goo pile. Here are some tidbits from a few websites with a minimal amount of research.

  • Wine comes from grapes. Grapes grow on plants often harvested with big machines that shake the grapes off vines. Guess what else falls off with the grapes? Insects, birds, bird droppings, mice, etc. It all ends up in wine, especially in the cheaper stuff.

Incidentally, wine makers long have used a process called fining to make sparkly clear white wines. According to a couple of sites, fining means adding to the wine finely ground cow hooves, clay and certain types of fish guts, especially bladders, according to one site.

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration site is a fountain of gastronomic gaiety. Here are a few random examples of what it considers OK to make its way into our food supply. Like spinach? In the canned or frozen varieties, the government says it’s acceptable for the veggie to contain 50 or more aphids, thrips (a tiny insect) and/or mites in every 100 grams of leafy, Popeye-approved goodness. The spinach also can have given amounts of animal excreta.
  • How about some peanut butter? FDA allows for an average of 30 insect fragments per 100 grams. On average, in that same half-cup of peanut butter, you’ll also find at least one rodent hair.

I could go on but what’s the point? We all know, or should have a good inkling, that our food supply borders on horrible. I remember interviewing a dietician who argued most of what we eat he didn’t even consider real food.

Not incidentally, all of this is just for entertainment purposes. I am not some vegetarian, hippie activist, but somebody who could definitely stand to lose a few pounds. I fully admit I have a special fondness for the undoubtedly processed and deep-fried white slime often called chicken nuggets, especially when slathered with chemical dipping sauce. Yummy.

In the end, my point here is that I don’t really have one. Eat what you want, within reason. Don’t dine, for example, exclusively on things that might contain processed white or pink slime, and, food wise, there’s probably very little for you to worry about.

Bon appetit.

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