When the media decides to scare the crap out of you, it does a darn good job.

Exhibit A: Pink slime.

Pink slime is a food product that’s been around for years. It cuts the cost and fat content of ground beef. It doesn’t change the nutritional value. It’s also safe. But that information isn’t getting out underneath the hysterical headlines.

ABC News and The Daily never would have ignited such a frenzy if they had not called the stuff “pink slime.” The accurate name is “lean finely trimmed beef,” which is sometimes treated with ammonia to ensure safety. But calling it LFTB doesn’t terrify you, so the media stuck with pink slime.

Wegmans, in announcing it’s pulling LFTB, referred to the “sensationalism” surrounding the product. Wegmans doesn’t even sell beef treated with ammonia, just the so-called “filler.” The company insists the product is safe, but it’s bowing to customer pressure.

Everyone’s upset cow scraps treated with ammonia are used in ground beef. I’ve probably eaten pink slime for many years. I’m still here! I’m glad my food is treated with chemicals to get rid of bacteria. I don’t buy organic for that reason. I’ve never, ever had a stomach ailment in my life.

I would have been just fine not knowing anything about pink slime. I also don’t want to know what’s in my hot dogs or chicken nuggets. I don’t want to know how many preservatives are in the cereal I ate for breakfast or how many bug bits were in the canned soup I had for lunch.

But since I’m a reporter and advocate for transparency, I agree with pink slime fighters that we need to hold the government accountable for what’s in our food. The dude who coined the term pink slime wasn’t even concerned it was bad stuff – he just thought it needed to be disclosed.

The problem I have with the pink slime debate is that it’s a manufactured issue designed to get ratings and web clicks. The amount of news coverage devoted to pink slime should be reserved for products that actually will kill me or when the United States goes to war.

I highly doubt the pink slime frenzy will transfer to other food products. Can you see mass hysteria over ammonia in our donuts? (Those are chemically-treated, too.) A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Pink slime by any other name wouldn’t have caused a ripple.

Posted in Media & Technology, News | Tagged , , , | 40 Comments

40 Responses to Why I Don’t Care About Pink Slime

  1. The thing is, current media frenzy aside, pink slime is beef that is of such poor quality, that it has to be put through a chemical process to be made safe. Essentially it is food that wasn’t safe, but is made safe through chemical processes. The issue here is that if beef cows were raised and butchered in sanitary, safe ways, this wouldn’t even be an issue. But instead cows grow up living in filth, eating scrap cow meat, getting nasty diseases and then some engineer figures out if we soak it in ammonia and other chemicals then it’s safe. But why not just fix the problems with raising and butchering cows? In other words – watch the documentary Food, Inc.

  2. March 23, 2012 at 8:32 pm Lynn E responds:

    It wasn’t Okayed until the Bush Administration. It makes the meat of lower quality. Yes, it needed to be disclosed. The meat shouldn’t be passed off as high quality beef but as an additive.

  3. March 23, 2012 at 8:32 pm jim webster responds:

    Well said!

  4. Agreed. This has been blown all out of proportion, which is why I haven’t been reposting this stuff as it has appeared on my live feed. Frankly I’m more concerned with what is supposed to be in beef, what with red meat not being terribly good for you, than them using ammonia to sanitize it. Oh, and they do rinse it afterward. But that gets left out in most discussion of it.

  5. March 23, 2012 at 8:46 pm Reggie Henderson responds:

    I don’t know Rachel, I have a pretty good impression of Jamie Oliver, and he doesn’t like pink slime. Here’s his video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wshlnRWnf30

    And I read this:
    What exactly is pink slime?
    When beef is processed, there are what can loosely be termed leftovers: unchewable tendon, gristle, the meat near the lining of the stomach and intestines (which may have been exposed to fecal matter), other bits and pieces that no one would want to consume, etc. In order to provide to humans safe eating conditions for this product, the meat is heated, treated to centrifuging, ground, and given an ammonia bath – literally – in order to kill bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella.

  6. March 23, 2012 at 8:51 pm Woyvel Lloyce responds:

    I usually stick with Ch13 and ABC news. That being said, I have no use for sensationalist “reporter” Brian Ross or the scums that do the “What Would You Do” show. If I ever encounter that guy, the footage will be “R” rated and won’t be aired.

  7. Rachel:

    Good article. Thanks for strking a blow against superstition and foolish media hype. Perhaps hysterical American consumers may someday realize that despite dire predictions about Western medicine and FDA approved food standards, all the useless herbs and organic tomfoolery will never replace math and science as our true guides in this admittedly confusing and complex world. Go “Rochesterian.com”!

    -Christopher J. Wilmot, Pittsford, NY

  8. March 23, 2012 at 9:28 pm Rhianna responds:

    What a joke. Yeah man, e-coli infested beef that is treated with ammonia to disinfect it ROCKS. I’ll pay a premium price for it too, without it being labeled, cause I want those companies to make mad profits on my ingesting ignorance. Through that good stuff on my BBQ. Give it to my kids, invite the neighbors. Good times.

  9. Beware of The Slime, it creeps
    And leaps and glides and slides
    Across the floor
    Right through the door
    And all around the wall
    A splotch, a blotch
    Be careful of The Slime!!!!11@!!

    (Apologies to Burt Bacharach)

  10. March 24, 2012 at 12:17 am Gene Brown Jr. responds:

    wight on as always, Rachel
    keep up the good work.

  11. Good post. Last cpl years everyone started giving a sh*t about their food.they all expect cheap and plentiful food,meanwhile they suck up good farmland to build houses and blow thru money buying stupid products they don’t need.When ag issues come about media scares everyone and seems to all go back to the farmer. We raise a healthy animal and its shipped to the plant,what happens there is beyond our control.If you want beef your legit with buy directly from a local beef farmer, if you want cheap food buy USDA approved beef,its safe.Just don’t sh*t on american ag ppl.

  12. This is the most disappointing thing I’ve ever seen from you. If you really want people to eat “crap”, as you put it on Twitter, I guess you’re going to argue this.

    I look forward to arguments in favor of grocery stores rinsing old meat in ammonia to make it look good again. Why isn’t Wegmans doing that? They’re wasting all that almost perfectly good out of date meat….

    • March 24, 2012 at 9:01 am Rachel responds:

      I never said this isn’t an issue. It is not my issue. I also think it has been overblown.

      • Not your issue? I guess that’s what “I don’t care” means – but you certainly write about it at length, and have posted on it for days on Twitter before this.

        I think what you’re really claiming is “this shouldn’t be anyone’s issue” – and that’s a deeply strange thing for a reporter to say.

        • March 24, 2012 at 12:11 pm Rachel responds:

          This is a rant against disproportionate media attention paid to a topic that doesn’t actually harm anyone. Inform, fine. But to create mass hysteria and cover this nonstop is ridiculous.

          And don’t you think the news industry makes judgments every single day about what it thinks is important? Every. Single. Day. Not covering something is also making a judgment. Pink slime has taken time away from issues I deem much more important to my life and the general public.

          • Yes, the news industry makes judgements constantly. My own work title is ‘editor’, and I see that perpetually.

            This piece, though, seems like one long “how could anyone care about where what they eat comes from” screed – and it’s maybe extra strange in an age when such conversations are completely ordinary.

            You see mass hysteria. I see people finally realizing that the age of The Jungle never quite ended, and wondering about what is on the end of their fork.

            “Mary had a little lamb,
            and when it started to sicken,
            they sent it off to Packingtown,
            and now it’s labeled CHICKEN.”

            Perfectly safe, I’m sure, though.

            If you really wanted to reclaim time wasted on pink slime, this probably wasn’t the way to do it. On the bright side, I do prefer to know which biases which reporters hold, so I can adjust expectations. This certainly achieved that.

  13. March 24, 2012 at 7:56 am patti wilcox responds:

    bravo – I agree completely!

  14. March 24, 2012 at 9:00 am Tim Kampas responds:

    I think it’s dangerous to advocate not caring about what you eat. Your right the output is safe, but everything is wrong with how that got on your plate. Cows are feed corn that make them large fast but sick, diseased and near death. Then before they die from eating corn they are butchered and chemically processed to create your lean beef.

    Grass feed beef is nutritionally better and leaner meat. Why not advocate smaller portions and the best options?

    • March 28, 2012 at 11:29 am Michelino responds:

      I think you are making too much sense and using too many facts. This debate seems to about yucky stuff one doesn’t want know…not what yuck is healthy and what yuck isn’t.

  15. Your way off on this one Rachel. It doesn’t take much to process more quality food. Why settle for less? Next thing you’ll be wanting more BPA in cans and more Fluoride in water and Arsenic in our Apple and Grape juice.

    • March 24, 2012 at 9:32 am Rachel responds:

      That’s ridiculous. I’ve never had a cavity because of flouride – bring on the good chemicals. And I made it clear I’m not in favor of things that are not safe. Nothing about pink slime has led me to believe it’s not safe.

  16. March 24, 2012 at 9:27 am Mike Schroeder responds:

    If you want to know what is is your food, buy the whole or half animal, butcher it and use it all, Snout to tail. I do my best to do it, but some of the organ bits are a bit intimidating. Oxtail is good beef and pig cheeks are good.

    The whole Use of “fillers” is wrong. Just big companies trying to maximize profits and not caring about the food.

  17. To all giving Rachel a hard time,

    Ever had a hot dog?
    Ever let your child have a hot dog?
    How about balogna?

    Like Rachel said, this is a mfg issue because someone called it “pink slime” and folks think that’s “yucky”

  18. March 24, 2012 at 9:57 am Tim Kampas responds:

    Tell me why they need the chemicals?

  19. @tim,

    So you don’t sue them when you forget to fully cook you lr meat and get sick.

  20. It’s about disclosure and consumer expectations. It may be safe but that’s not the whole story. It’s not the same as pure ground beef. I buy beef through a group where we buy a whole cow and have it butchered because we get a better quality of meat that way. It’s only marginally better on cost but much better quality and we’re sure it has no additives. Because it hasn’t been pumped up with water it shrinks less in cooking too.

  21. March 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm edward richards responds:

    I never thought I’d see the day a food product be stigmatized. If this were another country, the person who coined the term pink slime would be thrown in jail for damages caused to food mfg’s.

  22. March 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm edward richards responds:

    The MEDIA is responsible for this. I also find a member of the media attacking the media highly unusual.

  23. Well, as Rachel’s mother, I am glad the world knows she never got sick from my kitchen. And about the fluoride… we are so lucky to have it in our water.. it absolutely helps prevent cavities. Children need tap water, not bottled water.

  24. March 25, 2012 at 11:06 am PJ Birkman responds:

    “I also find a member of the media attacking the media highly unusual.”

    Then you obviously haven’t been paying attention. Journalists attack other journalists and the media in general all the time. There are libraries full of books about the problem with journalism today by various members of the media. And there is the whole genre of media criticism and journalism reviews. A lot of it is inside baseball or boils down to “I disagree that this story is important enough to merit as much coverage as it receives and think everyone should cover my favorite story instead” but it’s not rare by any means.

  25. March 26, 2012 at 10:17 am Jessica responds:

    Right on Rachel!

  26. March 28, 2012 at 11:21 am Michelino responds:

    “I also don’t want to know what’s in my hot dogs or chicken nuggets. I don’t want to know how many preservatives are in the cereal I ate for breakfast or how many bug bits were in the canned soup I had for lunch.”

    What about the air you breath? Or the water you drink? Don’t worry, help is on the way. Have I got the political party for you!!

  27. You are an ignorant reporter. Keep eating your pink slime.

    • March 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm Rachel responds:

      I think I demonstrated I’m not ignorant. Knowledge about something doesn’t mean I have to care about it to the extent the national news media does.

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