Grilling season officially opened this weekend so tire up those barbecue grills my fellow Americans, to combat soaring beef prices the noxious product Pink Slime is coming back with a vengeance. Pink Slime or as the corporations that manufacture it like to refer to it "lean finely textured beef" or "LFTB" is a filler product or food additive that amounts to basically the shit that is swept off of the slaughterhouse floor along with other trimmings and byproducts that can't be sold and then chemically treated to give it the appearance of chewed pink bubble gum.
The description on how it is manufactured taken from the Wikipedia page is as follows:
The product is used as a filler or to reduce the overall fat content of ground beef. It is produced by processing low-grade beef trimmings and other meat by-products such as cartilage, connective tissue and sinew, which contain fat and small amounts of lean beef, and mechanically separating the lean beef from the fat through the use of a centrifuge at about 100°F (38°C). The heat liquefies the fat to help separate lean beef from fat and other by-products. The recovered beef material is processed, heated, and treated with gaseous ammonia or citric acid to kill E. coli, salmonella, and other bacteria. Gaseous ammonia in contact with the water in the meat produces ammonium hydroxide. The product is finely ground, compressed into pellets or blocks, flash frozen and then shipped for use as an additive.
Rick Jochum, a spokesperson for Beef Products Inc. (BPI) stated that the finished product is 94 to 97 percent lean beef, and has a nutritional value comparable to 90 percent lean ground beef. Furthermore, it was stated that the product's content is very high in protein, is low in fat, and contains iron, zinc and B vitamins. Jochum also said that BPI's product does not contain cow intestines or connective tissue such as tendons. Food editor and cookbook author J.M. Hirsh described it as highly mealy with bits and studs of cartilage-like matter, and a USDA microbiologist says the product does contain connective tissue "instead of muscle" and thus it is "not meat" and is "not nutritionally equivalent" to ground beef. [Mr. Jochum can't be taken seriously considering that his paycheck rides on selling garbage like Pink Slime to the public]
Most of the product is produced and sold by BPI, Cargill Meat Solutions, and Tyson Foods. The product sold by BPI introduces the trimmings to ammonium hydroxide (a solution of ammonia in water), while the Cargill product uses citric acid instead of ammonium hydroxide. Part of the manufacturing process at BPI includes extruding the material through long tubes that are thinner than a pencil, during which time the meat is exposed to gaseous ammonia.
Yikes! I remember the revulsion that I had after I read Eric Schlosser's book "Fast Food Nation" but this is even more disgusting than that gut-wrenching expose. Of course Cargill and Tyson - two of the massive meat production corporations that continually are looking for ways to profit off of selling increasingly lower quality product are involved. These corporations are the strongest arguments for local food production that exist and if you happen to have a good farmers market within the vicinity just avoid the corporate food behemoths altogether. You will save money and be healthier.
The return of Pink Slime is given an excellent treatment over at the libertarian financial site Zero Hedge in a piece entitled "The Solution To Record Meat Prices: The Return Of Pink Slime" that touches on some of the other aspects of the spiking cost of meat in America including - GASP - rampant inflation of the type that is hidden by the US government in that core inflation omits food and energy costs. Years of Federal Reserve money printing and the backstopping of the rigged six ways from Sunday financial markets bear a large share of the blame for Americans getting jammed again as the economy steers into the next leg down. If one pays attention to the propagandists in the state-corporate media, particularly in regards to the economy any shortcoming is always blamed on the weather anymore although in the case of beef that is at least somewhat true considering the record droughts.
I excerpt at length from the Zero Hedge piece:
A few months ago we reported that while the Fed is seeing nothing but hedonic deflation as far as the eye can see, food prices - for whatever reason but "certainly not" due to trillions in liquidity entering a close system so just blame it on the weather - were soaring to record highs. Among them was the price of beef, which in 2014 alone has soared by the most in over a decade. This led the US Department of Agriculture to warn of "sticker shock" facing home chefs on the eve of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the unofficial start of the U.S. summer grilling season.
According to the USDA, reported by Reuters, conditions in California could have "large and lasting effects on U.S. fruit, vegetable, dairy and egg prices," as the most populous U.S. state struggles through what officials are calling a catastrophic drought. Alas, the USDA had nothing to say about the Fed's unprecedented desire to reflate the US economy which is still suffering from the catastrophic depression which started nearly 7 years ago.
Link to Reuters story: "USDA warns of sticker shock on U.S. beef as grilling season starts"
Ok we get it: soaring food prices are not only already here but are set to surge even more, especially for those who rather eat real meat than mystery meat dispensed with largesse at your favorite $0.99 fast food outlet.
So what are food processors to do facing soaring meat input costs and unwilling to suffer bottom line hits? Why, return to that old staple of unknown origin of course.
Here comes Pink Slime... again.
According to the WSJ, "finely textured beef, dubbed "pink slime" by critics, is mounting a comeback as retailers seek cheaper trimmings to include in hamburger meat and processors find new products to put it in."
Proving that popular memory lasts at best a couple of years, it was only in 2012 when sales of pink slime, processed from beef scraps left after cattle are butchered, collapsed in 2012 after a "social-media frenzy spurred by television reports raising questions about its legitimacy as a beef product. The ingredient's two largest producers, Beef Products Inc. and Cargill Inc., closed plants that made it and cut hundreds of jobs—while defending the product's quality and pointing out that the U.S. Department of Agriculture deems it safe."
What really allowed the scrapping of pink slime, however, was the broad decline in prices of non-alternative meat, as in the real deal. However, now that meat prices are soaring again (all weather mind you, nothing to do with the Fed), it is time for US consumers to eat "hedonically-cheap" "meat" once again.
Link to Wall Street Journal story "'Pink Slime' Makes Comeback as Beef Prices Spike" (behind pay wall so excerpted below)
Today, Cargill sells finely textured beef to about 400 retail, food-service and food-processing customers, more than before the 2012 controversy, though overall they now buy smaller amounts, company officials said. Production of finely textured beef at Beef Products has doubled from its low point.
The resurgence is being driven, in part, by an aversion to something many consumers and companies find even less pleasant than the pink-slime nickname: red-hot prices. Prolonged drought in the southern Great Plains has shrunk U.S. cattle supplies to historic lows. The retail price of ground beef soared 27% in the two years through April to a record $3.808 a pound,according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That means serious sticker shock for U.S. consumers preparing to fire up their barbecues for Memorial Day weekend—the traditional start to the summer grilling season. The week leading up to the Monday holiday is typically one of the biggest sales periods for ground beef, with an estimated 160 million pounds likely to be sold during that stretch this year, according to CattleFax, a Colorado-based research firm.
How much of that burger meat contains finely textured beef isn't clear. Prior to the flurry of media attention in 2012, Beef Products estimates, the ingredient was in as much as 70% of the ground beef sold in the U.S. at retail and in food service. Cargill and Beef Products decline to give a similar estimate now, but they say sales have rebounded sharply from their 2012 lows.
So... 100%? But at least the Fed will soon be able to claim that "food" (or byproducts rather, but who cares) prices are plunging, even as it itself announced that food prices in its cafeteria have soared by up to 33% as Zero Hedge reported yesterday.
Meanwhile, it's a feeding frenzy, pardon the pun, out there by those who know too well that Americans don't really care what they shove in their mouths as long as it i) tastes kinda meaty and ii) is cheap.
The Zero Hedge piece then gives a synopsis on the recent history of Pink Slime so check it out.
So just enjoy those burgers today and cue up the Lee Greenwood music because even if you are eating shit mixed with chemicals you can be proud to be an American because at least you know you're free.
God bless the USA, USA, USA!