Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cattle state governors defend "pink slime"

Failed presidential contender Rick Perry is trying to bolster beef processors in his state in the wake of the soylent pink "pink slime" scandal:
Gov. Rick Perry is defending so-called “pink slime” in a statement issued in conjunction with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman and South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels (on behalf of South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who’s on a trade mission to China).

Their statement says that the “lean, finely textured beef is a safe, nutritious product that is backed by sound science.”

Here’s how the AP describes the produce, nicknamed pink slime: “The lower-cost ingredient is made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. The bits are heated and spun to remove most of the fat. The lean mix then is compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product is exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella.”

Here’s the statement from the coalition including Perry:

“Our states proudly produce food for the country and the world – and we do so with the highest commitment toward product safety. Lean, finely textured beef is a safe, nutritious product that is backed by sound science. It is unfortunate when inaccurate information causes an unnecessary panic among consumers.

“By taking this safe product out of the market, grocery retailers and consumers are allowing media inaccuracies to trump sound science. This is a disservice to the beef industry, hundreds of workers who make their livings producing this safe product and consumers as a whole.

“Ultimately, it will be the consumer who pays for taking this safe product out of the market. The price of ground beef will rise as ranchers work to raise as many as 1.5 million more head of cattle to replace safe beef no longer consumed because of the baseless media scare.
Leaving aside my qualms about the notion that food is better for us when it's heavily processed, I want to especially take issue with Governor Perry's claim that the consumer is hurt by not having cheap meat.

You see, cheap beef is, at heart, a deleterious entity, for our health, for our environment, for our own food security, etc.

I wouldn't want to go forever without beef (I love me the carne asada $2 tacos at BC Burrito's Taco Tuesdays), but as a society we consume way too much of it. We artificially subsidize it, so that its true cost is masked, and even those who consume little of it or not at all still have to pay those external costs down the road, in the form of higher health care costs, environmental depletion, etc.

(I note that in places like South Korea, beef is still a closer reflection of its true cost, and bargain-basement beef imports due to the recently enacted FTA may force local producers to "adapt" by taking on similar Frankenmeat solutions or "die.")

It's ridiculous that these politicians in the pocket of Big Beef and similar special interests come out and try to placate a public that's finally catching on to the dangers of mass-produced, factory-farmed beef. That is one of the many insidious ways in which our moneyed political campaigns adversely affect us.

Beef do not naturally eat corn, so they have to be given antibiotics so that their distressed digestive systems can handle that food that is designed to fatten them up quickly (one example of profit over health concerns). In the meantime, this overuse of antibiotics marches us ever forward toward super bug resistance, and that means more human lives lost. (Unnaturally crowded conditions also necessitate antibiotics.)

Cows eat grass. If a cow isn't 100% grass fed, you shouldn't eat it. Period. (Watch out for beef that is grass-fed until shipped off to a factory farm, where it is "finished" with corn and other stuff that cows don't naturally consume.)

If it's begin given antibiotics or growth hormones, you shouldn't eat it. Period.

If it's being "raised" in factory farm conditions where the amount of feces produced impacts other farms in the area (their run-off is how we end up getting feces-borne contaminants in our vegetable supply!), you shouldn't reward that operation with your money. Period. (Same goes for pork.)

That will make it more expensive, but beef should be a luxury good, considering how much of our resource actually go into producing it in a healthy and natural way.

Go spend money on beef the way your grandparents knew it, lest those producers disappear altogether.

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