|Cows: The Innocent Bystanders|
|Thursday, 12 April 2012|
What exactly fueled the firestorm over what some call "lean finely textured beef" and others call "pink slime"? Here's a possible answer: a troubling mix of industry intransigence, uninformed consumers and a megaphone-toting media — social and otherwise. The only innocent bystander was the cow.
The impact of the fight has been striking. One supplier, AFA Foods, filed for bankruptcy as beef orders plunged. Beef Products Inc says it shut three plants that make lean finely textured beef. Grocery chains and hamburger shops jettisoned the product. And the Agriculture Department got caught flat-footed.
Transparency has its virtues, and a bit more of it from companies early on might have averted the problem — or at least damped the panic.
This week beef producers belatedly said they're considering labeling the beef that contains LFTB. The idea is simple. Tell consumers what they're buying. Give them an option. Let them make the choice.
Beef Products Inc calls it "an important first step in restoring consumer confidence".
"We have recently seen an increased interest in purchasing ground beef containing LFTB as customers and consumers gain access to more accurate information," adds Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for Tyson Foods, which is considering labelling the product, which it packages but does not make.
A reminder of the battleground:
LFTB is made from beef scraps after cattle are butchered. A centrifuge is used to remove the fat, letting processors recover meat that might otherwise be wasted. Ammonium hydroxide gas is used to kill bacteria. (Cargill uses citric acid.) The result is then added to regular ground beef.
Processors and regulators say LFTB, which looks like a mush, is beef. There was no need to label its presence in ground beef and possibly confuse consumers, they say, because it isn't a separate ingredient.
"It's beef," says a USDA official. "There are various parts of the animal that come together in ground beef. This is just one part."
As for ammonium compounds, regulators say they are effective and safe and are used to make a variety of products including baked goods and cheese.
Companies also make an eco-argument. The lean beef is so prevalent in ground beef that replacing it would require raising an additional 1.5 million head of cattle a year. Harvesting LFTB conserves feed and energy, they say. And it moderates prices.....
Wall Street Journal: Read more
Exposing the truth behind the ‘slime’
In a recent ePerspective post, Jim Dickson, Professor, Dept of Animal Science at Iowa State University, explores what this product really is and supports its safety.
Ultimately, Dickson explains that the consumer should decide what is best for them. However, the decision should be based on the truth, and not on speculative opinions. Ground beef containing LFTB is ground beef, and LFTB is unquestionably safe.
As he sees it, with food safety such a high priority in our society, taking a food with a proven food safety record out of the marketplace is a step backward. What are your thoughts about the LFTB product? Share your opinions by commenting on the ePerspective blog.
And you thought it was just ‘pink’ slime
ProPublica: Read more