‘Pink Slime’ beef controversy wildly overblown

I’m sure the majority of you have been made aware of the recent controversy surrounding the revelation that around 70% of ground beef in the United States contains a concoction deliciously coined “Pink Slime.”

Pink Slime, or Lean Finely Textured Beef (an especially innocent-sounding industry euphemism), is produced by mixing copious amounts of ammonium hydroxide with the not-so-appealing cow parts that most of us are lucky enough to have never had to see on our dinner tables. The ammonia serves as an antiseptic that kills nasty organisms such as E. coli, salmonella and other nefarious organisms that tend to inhabit undesirable beef scraps. Simply grind all these things down into a finely textured meat pulp and voilà! Out comes Pink Slime with all its wondrous cost-saving benefits.

Yet the American public apparently doesn’t like this knowledge that its beloved ground beef has been adulterated with a chemical that they only know as an ingredient in household cleaning products. Ever since ABC News broke the Pink Slime story in mid-March, consumer watch groups and ‘concerned’ politicians have been up in arms about the potential heath risks associated with consuming the salvaged remnants of American livestock.

School cafeterias began banning all meat products containing Pink Slime after the public outcry spread like wildfire through media outlets. Over the course of two weeks, school districts in Massachusetts, California, New York, New Hampshire, Kansas and South Carolina all vowed to switch to legitimate, 100%(ish) ground beef. Large supermarket chains such as Safeway and Albertsons have yanked the products from their shelves while fast food joints such as McDonalds followed suit—or definitely intend to.

Beef Products Inc., the largest Pink Slime producer, has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed all but one of its factories, costing several hundred Americans their jobs and potentially increasing the price of now-fantastically cheap ground beef.

America needs to get its head out of its collective ass. Granted, it’s not a pleasant image: unwanted bovine innards getting sprayed with noxious chemicals and incorporated into your momma’s meatloaf. But Pink Slime has been incorporated into a hefty portion of our ground beef since 2001; if you’re reading this, you most likely have not died from it yet.

Personal qualms about a specific food product should not be allowed to obliterate an entire industry, especially when health officials, scientists and the lack of sick and dying consumers indicate that Pink Slime may be disgusting, but not catastrophic or harmful. Lean Finely Textured Beef is simply the moral panic ‘flavor of the month’; the New York Times published a similar exposé in 2009.

A large portion of the blame rests with the 24-hour news cycles of the mainstream media and their constant need for novel, ‘hard-hitting’ coverage, but it’s you, the consumer, who demand and propagate these witch hunts, leading the charge against whatever new product you have deemed unfit for society’s high food consumption standards.

Why don’t we talk about the nearly infinite lists of unpronounceable chemicals in nearly every box of cereal, ‘fruit’ bar, candy or soft drink? I’m far more concerned about the products containing proven carcinogens or contributing to this so-called obesity ‘epidemic’ that’s sweeping through the wealthiest nation on Earth

What we shouldn’t do is throw a fit that disrupts markets and distracts the general public from legitimate concerns and issues that actually affect the ways in which we live and operate. We’ve been eating Pink Slime-infused ground beef for 11 years; I think we have bigger fish to fry.

And who knows? With all this ammonia already coursing through our red meat-filled veins, maybe we’ve actually prolonged our existence.