Carl’s having fun in his retirement.
Not content with an audience of food safety nerds, Carl went big, on ABC News last night.
Bigger stage, bigger scrutiny; more exposure, more criticism (unless you’re Tom Hanks).
As seen in the ABC news clip, Gerald Zirnstein grinds his own hamburger these days. Why? Because this former United States Department of Agriculture scientist and, now, whistleblower, knows that 70 percent of the ground beef we buy at the supermarket contains something he calls “pink slime.”
“Pink slime” is beef trimmings. Once only used in dog food and cooking oil, the trimmings are now sprayed with ammonia so they are safe to eat and added to most ground beef as a cheaper filler.
It was Zirnstein who, in an USDA memo, first coined the term “pink slime” and is now coming forward to say he won’t buy it (shurley shome mistake; wasn’t it the Jamie Oliver ministry? No).
“It’s economic fraud,” he told ABC News. “It’s not fresh ground beef. … It’s a cheap substitute being added in.”
Zirnstein and his fellow USDA scientist, Carl Custer, both warned against using what the industry calls “lean finely textured beef,” widely known now as “pink slime,” but their government bosses overruled them.
According to Custer, the product is not really beef, but “a salvage product … fat that had been heated at a low temperature and the excess fat spun out.”
The “pink slime” does not have to appear on the label because, over objections of its own scientists, USDA officials with links to the beef industry labeled it meat.
“The under secretary said, ‘it’s pink, therefore it’s meat,’” Custer told ABC News.
ABC News has learned the woman who made the decision to OK the mix is a former undersecretary of agriculture, Joann Smith. It was a call that led to hundred of millions of dollars for Beef Products Inc., the makers of pink slime.
Today, the meat types fought back.
Meatingplace.com disputed Custer’s claims that the product isn’t muscle but connective tissue. “But connective tissue isn’t red. Any redness (or pink, in this case) is associated with myoglobin — meaning it’s of muscle origin.”
It’s pink so it’s meat.
“We actually have equipment in place specifically designed to remove any sinew, cartilage, or connective tissue that may come in with raw materials, just like the companies that take trim and produce ground beef,” Rich Jochum, BPI’s corporate administrator told Meatingplace. “Our finished product is typically 94 percent lean.”
Ammonium hydroxide isn’t the only intervention. Cargill uses citric acid, just one of several alternatives to treat what it calls finely textured beef (FTB) to reduce the pathogen load.
The product is included in approximately 70 percent of all ground beef products, Cargill spokesman Mike Martin told Meatingplace.
Food-grade ammonium hydroxide is also commonly used as a direct food additive in baked goods, cheeses and chocolates.
Carl doesn’t have much to worry about if the best proponents can come up with is the tired but continually tested, change-the-language-change-the-mind strategy: lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) just isn’t as catchy as pink slime.
Industry types, if you’re proud of your product for its bacterial-reducing capabilities, promote it, reclaim and own the term pink slime; market it.
Instead it’ll be like the genetic engineering types who spent a fortune in the 1990s learning that the term genetic engineering scares people, so it’s better to call it biotechnology. The spokethingies will go to risk communication seminars, learn to express empathy, but still wear $1,000 Italian leather loafers (the douchebags don’t wear socks) and have sweaters tied around their neck for that common-man look (on sale now at J.C. Penny), all while trying to convince the masses of the virtues of lean finely textured ground beef.
That cull dairy cow has gone through the pink slime barn door.