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It's what's for dinner
January 1, 2010 9:01 PM   Subscribe

Ammonia-injected centerfuged fatty trimmings = pink slime + E. Coli. Eight years ago, federal officials were struggling to remove potentially deadly E. coli from hamburgers when an entrepreneurial company from South Dakota came up with a novel idea: injecting beef with ammonia.
posted by cytherea (90 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is one of the myriad reasons that I do not eat meat that I have not personally killed.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 9:06 PM on January 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Seriously, who eats this shit. What is wrong with people that that they want cheap meat? I understand that there are people who cannot afford to spend on quality meat but what's with the people who can afford it not buying it.

I was reading the River Cottage Meat book today and the author spoke of a grocer selling chicken for less than the price of potatoes. There's something fucking wrong in that equation.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:11 PM on January 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


It seems that companies like Beef Products would actively seek people like Dick Cheney to be on their board. It just fits with their corporate culture.
posted by msbutah at 9:16 PM on January 1, 2010


A classic muckraking piece. It's gotten so I hardly recognize journalism anymore when I see it. Well done, NYT.
posted by PsychoTherapist at 9:17 PM on January 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Ammonia is a pretty toxic substance, so it's bad news for people who work in meat processing plants and for consumers. If they want to keep providing reasons to eat less beef, they're doing a great job.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:19 PM on January 1, 2010


There's a nice thread on eating raw eggs in Japan and salmonella on boing boing here:
http://www.boingboing.net/2009/12/04/taste-test-raw-eggs.html

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Does anyone know how other countries deal with (prevent) e. coli and and salmonella contamination? I think we all know that the US is broken.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:21 PM on January 1, 2010


Ick. And I just ran into this at The Atlantic today:
Why Your Steak Isn't Safe

.. the Christmas eve recall of 248,000 pounds of needle-tenderized steaks ... now affects people in several states and that the meat was intended for several chain restaurants. The contaminated meat, produced in Oklahoma, has sickened at least 19 people in 16 states.

Mechanically tenderized "non-intact" beef? Uh oh. The great thing about intact steak is that harmful contaminants are on the outside surface; the bacteria get killed by the high heat of searing the outside surface. You don't have to worry about the safety of intact steak because its insides are relatively sterile. But if the steak is pre-treated to tenderize it, watch out! Tenderizing can drive harmful bacteria right into the interior where they won't get killed unless the steak is thoroughly cooked. ...

According to Food Chemical News (September 28), Congressional representative Rosa DeLauro (Dem-CT), who chairs the House appropriations agriculture subcommittee, has called on USDA to take immediate action to require labeling of meat that has been mechanically tenderized.

And USA Today (December 30) has produced another long investigative report on the safety of school meals, this one citing plenty of examples of companies that successfully produce or serve safe meat and of countries that do food safety better than we do. In the meantime, the food safety bill is still stuck in Congress. Let's hope that it gets moving early in 2010.
posted by maudlin at 9:31 PM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


You would think that a company that promises extremely-low-to-no E.Coli content would be enthusiastic about routine testing, the better to show how reliable and consistently safe their products are.

I'm no expert, for sure, but the fact that they have sought (and been granted) exemptions from the routine testing that apparently applies to everyone else is prima facie evidence that their products aren't as great as they say.
posted by mhoye at 9:33 PM on January 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Does anyone know how other countries deal with (prevent) e. coli and and salmonella contamination? I think we all know that the US is broken.

In America, Concentrated Feedlot Operations feed cows a mixture of corn products, soy protein, beef suet, and antibiotics in order for the animals to reach the greatest possible weight fastest. Being that cows evolved to eat grass and hay, the feed doesn't sit well with their immune systems or the proper functioning of their bodily organs. This causes increases in disease susceptibility [At least according to Michael Pollan].

I imagine other countries get around this by treating their farm animals more like farm animals and less like meat machines.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:34 PM on January 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


Eat more bison.

Actually, eat way, way less meat. And then eat bison when you eat meat.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:35 PM on January 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


Despite some misgivings, school lunch officials say they use Beef Products because its price is substantially lower than ordinary meat trimmings, saving about $1 million a year.

That's really depressing.

I heard an episode of The Splendid Table a while back where they spoke to a lunch lady and the amount of money programs get per student is really low. You'd think providing affordable school lunches that don't involve products once considered dog food would be something we could all get behind, but...yeah...
posted by ghharr at 9:35 PM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Feed 'em dogfood, treat 'em like prisoners, educate them poorly. Betcha the big plan is to bring Chinese manufacturing standards back to America. Say "Hello" — again — to the Company Town. It's Soylent Green and Ammoniated Pink Beef Mush for the likes of you!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:43 PM on January 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


I've never, ever been so glad that I don't eat beef than I am right now.
posted by contessa at 9:46 PM on January 1, 2010


I got almost as far in the article as I did reading these comments before I thought "Wait, they're injecting AMMONIA into the what now?" Let's go back to that for a second, can we?
While the ammoniated (ammonia treated) meat products do exhibit decreased pathogenic microbe content, excessive ammonia exposure may have adverse effects on the product. For example, portions of the meat product being treated may be overexposed to ammonia while other portions of the meat product may be exposed to very little or none of the ammonia. The overexposed portions may absorb sufficient ammonia to affect the taste of the meat product and to produce a residual ammonia odor. Underexposed portions of the meat product may not exhibit the desired pathogenic microbe inhibiting effect.
(Patent Description for Ammoniated Meat Processor)
posted by tastydonuts at 9:52 PM on January 1, 2010


So hamburgers are the new hotdogs?
posted by Brian B. at 10:03 PM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


So maybe grinding your own meat isn't as crazy as I thought it was. At least you know it came from one cow, vs cows from 3 countries.
posted by fontophilic at 10:16 PM on January 1, 2010


They actually showed this place in Food Inc. Movie wasn't really anything Earth shaking, but the amonia beef guy was pretty wild, hairy stuff.

+1 for bison. And, really, anything but pre-ground beef.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:23 PM on January 1, 2010


Can I still give my kids almond butter and beans so they get protein? THose are still safe, right?

not at the same time, of course
posted by davejay at 10:40 PM on January 1, 2010


They've been doing this for a while.

I believe it is gathered after they've stripped a carcass, and they go after the last trimmings with a high powered suction hose.

It's problematic beyond E-Coli and other contaminants because it's real easy to pull in spinal tissue, which is a great way to pick up CJD (madcow) contamination.

I assume they then put these trimmings into the centrifuge and process with ammonia.

You end up with a slurry which as the article mentions, is in near everything industrial that uses "Ground beef".

Fucked up, and another in the long-line of absolute bullshit that the American populace has adopted as normalcy.

Does anyone know how other countries deal with (prevent) e. coli and and salmonella contamination? I think we all know that the US is broken.

Half the shit you get away with in the states is simply illegal in places with a clean food supply. And they have government organizations that actually protect the people consuming the food, not the billion dollar agribusinesses who pay the bribes.


Seriously, who eats this shit.

Everyone, but most notably, Kids who eat in school lunch programs. Fucked on a very deep level.

As for what you can do...

Buy local. We just finished our first group buy from a local farmer of a grass-fed cow. If you're in LA, Check it out. Between that and Tierra Miguel, we've got most of the local stuff covered. Other than that, don't buy preground beef. Don't eat fast food. In fact, if you can do it, follow pollans rules -
1. Nothing with more than 5 ingredients (Generally)
2. Nothing your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
3. No HCFS.

Over the past 3 years we've transitioned to near 0 packaged foodstuffs. We buy staples, rice, pastas, meat, vegetables and spices. The only things that come out of cans or boxes are pantry staples such as tomatoes, beans, tuna, etc. It's time consuming, no question. It's arguably the same price since we buy in bulk and use a food-saver. We plan the meals focusing on reuse and leftovers. Buy a big bag of potatoes and use potatoes throughout the week. Make a chicken and save the carcasses so you can make stock or soup later in the week.

Want cookies? Bake em. Potato Chips? Make them. You know what's in it, you know where it came from and frankly, it tastes better. Plus it cuts down on impulse eating.

How to do it on a budget is a bit more difficult. Food got expensive. Very expensive. Potatoes, lemons, milk, eggs, all got way more pricey over the past few years. We buy a LOT of stuff from Costco. The trick is to use both Costco and the Costco Business Center. They're not everywhere, but if you find one, they rule. They specialize in businesses so they carry a lot more restaurant supplies. Pancetta, proscuitto, Heavy Cream, Buttermilk, etc. You're cool on the Dairy side since Costco doesn't deal with anything with RBST. It's not organic, but it's not as bad as say, the grocery store.

Essentially, it all comes down to taking an active role in eating and food preparation. It's more time consuming, but more rewarding.

And it's a lot less likely to kill you.
posted by Lord_Pall at 10:42 PM on January 1, 2010 [36 favorites]


It seems that companies like Beef Products would actively seek people like Dick Cheney to be on their board. It just fits with their corporate culture.

What's more, their process could render even Cheney's flesh palatable.
posted by killdevil at 10:45 PM on January 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ammonia-injected pink slime: It's what's for dinner. "Real" "food" for real people. Dog food has a new name: Your child's lunch.
posted by cytherea at 10:51 PM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


make the cow sacred.
posted by infini at 10:51 PM on January 1, 2010


I think I've eaten about 3 fast-food hamburgers in the past 20 years. I'm now convinced that was 3 too many.

Aside from the ick factor, I've got to wonder who was the friend in high places that got the FDA to accept the company's own reports on the effectiveness of the process and allowed them to get by without standard E. coli testing. Congress or Senate...place your bets.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:53 PM on January 1, 2010


Vat grown. It's the only way.

Vat grown what, I don't know. We'll figure that out in post-production; right now we just know we need vats. I'm not sure if we should eat veal, or a nuggets from a chicken-like mass, or our very heroes or our villains.

Who here among us would turn aside, and not bite into an "Obama Sub"? Who here among us would not relish biting into a slice of roast Cheney?

Vat grown; it's our future, it's our children's future.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:55 AM on January 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


School lunch officials said they ultimately agreed to use the treated meat because it shaved about 3 cents off the cost of making a pound of ground beef.

So mixing ground beef with meat slurry that strikes a balance between ammonia and e coli saves 3 cents a pound; for a school with 400 kids, that's $3 the school saves each day they serve it. Any incident requiring medical and/or legal action will blow through those "savings" real quick.
posted by Challahtronix at 1:54 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the Beef Product Inc. portion of the Food Inc. documentary. I think I'm going to be sick now.
posted by cytherea at 2:20 AM on January 2, 2010


You would think that a company that promises extremely-low-to-no E.Coli content would be enthusiastic about routine testing, the better to show how reliable and consistently safe their products are.

I'm no expert, for sure, but the fact that they have sought (and been granted) exemptions from the routine testing that apparently applies to everyone else is prima facie evidence that their products aren't as great as they say.


Yes, putting the disgust aside for a moment, this seems to be the weirdest part of the story. Why would any company be allowed to be exempt from testing? What's the fucking point of the testing if it doesn't include all companies? Moreover, why not test companies using unique processes more often?

Why am I constantly amazed at the level of stupidity shown by agencies ostensibly responsible for safety?
posted by odinsdream at 5:45 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


the company said. “Like any responsible member of the meat industry, we are not perfect.”
posted by infini at 5:52 AM on January 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


You would think that a company that promises extremely-low-to-no E.Coli content would be enthusiastic about routine testing, the better to show how reliable and consistently safe their products are.
Maybe they're just really modest.

Under the Bush administration, there was a preference for allowing industry to test and regulate itself, because that's more efficient. Also, the remaining government regulatory bodies were run by prominent members of the relevant industry (because who else knows the industry well enough to regulate it?). And yes, they mostly managed to keep a straight face while saying this.

I'm not sure what the deal is with the Obama administration, as I haven't heard much about it either way. I've interpreted that to mean that Obama hasn't done anything garishly corrupt in the realm of food safety or environmental protection, plus there are so many big issues that this sort of thing gets mostly swept under the rug. But if the Obama administration tries to really take this shit on, I'm guessing it will take awhile to undo all the damage.
posted by Humanzee at 6:37 AM on January 2, 2010


Be prepared for a hard push to irradiated meat. The meat industry has been trying to market this pretty hard and use terms like "cold flash pasteurization" so people don't freak about rads being shot at their meat. The problem with irradiated meat is not its effectiveness, but it gives the processors reason to be MORE sloppy with the thought that the radiation will fix all the problems including fecal matter.

Man, I worked at a start up that dealt with the meat industry; I switched to organic after that.
posted by jadepearl at 6:39 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


We pay about $2.50 a pound for a bag of freshly ground lean beaf from one of three local butcher vendors at the farmer's market in SW Ontario. We also get sausages there, some of the best sausages ever in fascinating flavours like Mennonite and Oktoberfest. I've no idea what ground meat costs at the supermarket because I won't buy ground meat from people I don't know and don't see every week at the market. It's pretty important to have that chain of culpability, from both sides of the counter. If I know these folks and they recognize me, they're less likely to poison me with bad meat; less likely to poison anyone, because we all know exactly where the meat came from. Conversely, good quality food from a good vendor does cost more, and we're happy to pay that price so these careful, considerate people can earn a decent living in our own town. Michael Pollan has some good ideas, and perhaps the most important is: buy your food from people you know.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:01 AM on January 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


They actually showed this place in Food Inc

And mentioned it there. Guess its 'muckraking' when you report that this method saves $0.03 cents a pound.

Wonder why "we" are "thinking of the children" this way to save $0.03 but spend so much in other ways?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:07 AM on January 2, 2010


So, instead of cooking the e. coli out, we now need to cook the amonia out? Uh, thanks agribusiness...

Also, doesn't this mean we're essentially freebasing hamburgers? Doesn't this technique just give Peter Singer ammunition?

NON VEGAN-IST
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:15 AM on January 2, 2010


I love hamburgers. A nice well made burger is great, covers all the basics and are tasty tasty tasty.

I have not purchased ground beef in over a decade because it is filthy. I even convinced my old man not to eat it. Dirty and gross.

Oh sure I've made exceptions, for a Five Guy burger or trip to Kumas to wait all day for one rather delicious dinner.

But ground up beef burgers are still filthy, so these exceptions are becoming rarer and rarer. And I am not very pleased about this. I'm pissed off.
posted by zenon at 7:16 AM on January 2, 2010


Ammonia-injected centerfuged fatty trimmings = pink slime + E. Coli.

Now let's not exaggerate, the article actually describes it as "a mashlike substance frozen into blocks or chips."

Seriously, who eats this shit.

If you eat fast food burgers, or those preformed patties someone brought a box of to the family barbecue or company picnic, chances are you've eaten this shit.

Related article. Cargill was including this shit in a product labeled as "American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties."
posted by nanojath at 7:23 AM on January 2, 2010


My husband and I watched Food, Inc. last week. We were already pretty knowledgeable about the problems in the food industry, the benefits of eating local and organic, etc. But being busy, far from good markets, trying to feed a picky 6 year old, and concerned about money, we started eating a lot of garbage.

The scene with the ammonia-ized beef trimmings was one of many horrifying scenes that forced us to rethink how we're eating. We don't eat industrial ground beef anyway, but the problem isn't just with ground beef. What really struck me throughout the movie was the total lack of respect on the part of the agribusiness companies - lack of respect for the animals, the workers, the consumers - and how that culture has created a system that is actively dangerous for all those involved in it.

My aforementioned picky 6 year old LOVES cheeseburger day at school. YIKES!!
posted by jeoc at 7:41 AM on January 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, courtesy of Bon Appetit, a better way to get to hamburger heaven.
posted by jeoc at 7:44 AM on January 2, 2010


Good lord. From BPI's website:
The trim is then tempered to near post-mortem temperature to facilitate the separation of lean from fat by centrifugal force. By managing raw materials and attention to processing applications, we are able to closely match finished product fat and moisture content to customer specifications, typically achieving a 94% lean or better finished product.

At this point, the lean trim may be treated with a pH enhancement process that forms ammonium hydroxide in the finished product. Ammonium hydroxide is a natural constituent of meat, GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) approved by the FDA, and used in other foods such as baked goods, cheeses, gelatins, and puddings. In two independent process validation studies conducted by Iowa State University and National Food Laboratory, Inc., the BPI process1 eliminated all E.coliO157:H7 in the inoculated product, as well as producing significant reductions of Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. The pH enhanced product is marketed as BPI® Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings. BPI® Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings are approved for unrestricted use in ground beef and hamburger with no labeling restrictions other than beef.

posted by jquinby at 7:52 AM on January 2, 2010


Seriously, who eats this shit. What is wrong with people that that they want cheap meat? I understand that there are people who cannot afford to spend on quality meat but what's with the people who can afford it not buying it.

Have you not been paying attention? Americans have, by and large, been thoroughly brainwashed into believing that almost everything MUST be purchased at ever-lower prices. That the ONLY thing that matters is whether they can get something for two-cents cheaper than they could yesterday. Call it the WalMart effect, or whatever. This mind-set is deeply ingrained across all socio-economic levels. It simply doesn't matter whether someone can easily afford to buy a semi-load of Kobe beef and not notice the expense. They will obsess over whether they get it for 3 or 4 cents/lb. less than last week, at the expense of any other consideration...like spending their tax dollars on food safety.

Until their kid gets sick, of course. Then, they're all "How could this worthless government let this happen to me?"
posted by Thorzdad at 7:53 AM on January 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado residents can get meat and eggs from this guy.

Actually, anyone can, but he makes deliveries in these states.
posted by lysdexic at 7:53 AM on January 2, 2010


Just to add to what jeoc says above, I spent a year working in an animal nutrition lab after finishing university. They were funded by industry, and most - at least all the stuff I worked on - of their research programs were focused on figuring out what kinds of junk, like oilseed hulls or recycled newspaper, could be fed to cows or chickens and still have them gain the maximum amount of weight in the shortest time.

Some of it seemed kind of silly at the time, but now it seems downright insane, at least the part that involves treating living creatures like little money-creating machines. And I was told that the reason our director was so well-funded was that industry wanted ways to feed cheaper byproducts from other than farm sources, and he was supportive of that goal.
posted by sneebler at 8:09 AM on January 2, 2010


I was coming in here to post about the ammonia processing in Food, Inc. Watching that movie didn't finish me on ever eating fast food again, but it made me really conscious of my choices. We were already buying bison over ground beef but somehow I'd never quite made the leap to the next step (don't eat ground beef dishes out) even though I'm well aware of the e. coli infections from Jack in the Box and so on. It's not moral rectitude that's slowly changing the way we eat to include less meat, more veggies, more farmer's market (and maybe a CSA later this year), and so on. It's disgust and fear.

My husband used to work for a research company on some defense-related projects, which for all that his employer wasn't a "defense company" gave us both some moral qualms. Now I guess it could be worse; he could be our friend who works for Cargill.
posted by immlass at 8:29 AM on January 2, 2010


I think the last century is repeating on me.
posted by The Whelk at 8:37 AM on January 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm so mad I've even got an angry letter:
Dear meat industry,

You guys have ruined something I love- burgers. You have ruined bbq, most fast food joints and a good portion of the in-laws cooking. I don't want some cheap radiated gross slab of slurry to eat. I don't care if it is "chemically safe" to eat - a bucket of poo warmed to the right temperature is also safe to eat. That doesn't make it right, only cheap.

Sincerely,
Me.
posted by zenon at 8:59 AM on January 2, 2010


"Don't let the name fool you, Timmy. It's not really a killing floor. It's more of a steel grating that allows material to sluice through so it can be collected and exported."
posted by killdevil at 9:09 AM on January 2, 2010


GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe)

I learned a great new acronym today. For certain values of "great"
posted by fuq at 9:10 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't put large concentrations of ammonia into meat. It's basic science.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:23 AM on January 2, 2010


But seriously, not too long ago I bought a decently large quantity of lean ground beef for about 2/3rds of what I'd spend at the grocery store at the farmer's market in Fredericton. I know where the farm is (friends of mine have been there), I see the people every week, it's fresher, tastes better, and it's cheaper. Why would anyone buy supermarket meat if they didn't have to?
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:24 AM on January 2, 2010


Lord_Pall: "Fucked up, and another in the long-line of absolute bullshit that the American populace has adopted as normalcy."

No, we haven't accepted anything. The vast majority of people don't know about these kinds of practices. Which is why the Times is investigating and publishing their findings.


Thorzdad: "Have you not been paying attention? Americans have, by and large, been thoroughly brainwashed into believing that almost everything MUST be purchased at ever-lower prices. That the ONLY thing that matters is whether they can get something for two-cents cheaper than they could yesterday. Call it the WalMart effect, or whatever. This mind-set is deeply ingrained across all socio-economic levels. It simply doesn't matter whether someone can easily afford to buy a semi-load of Kobe beef and not notice the expense. They will obsess over whether they get it for 3 or 4 cents/lb. less than last week, at the expense of any other consideration...like spending their tax dollars on food safety."

Are we done victim-blaming yet? Because there's a productive conversation to be had that doesn't include OMG AMERICANS GET POISONED BECAUSE THEY'RE CHEAP!!! Really. Besides, I thought Americans were consumerist sheeple, not frugality-obsessed sheeple.
posted by kathrineg at 9:43 AM on January 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Lemurrhea: "Why would anyone buy supermarket meat if they didn't have to?"

Uh, most people have to. So as fun as the "omg go to the farmer's market like me!" anecdotes are, they're a bit beside the point. How many 7-year-olds are getting their bison burgers from the farmer's market and bringing them for lunch?
posted by kathrineg at 9:45 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


1. Nothing with more than 5 ingredients (Generally)
2. Nothing your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
3. No HCFS.


They obviously don't know my grandmother, who was born in Oklahoma in 1932. She would've eaten the hell out of a Slim Jim back in the day.
posted by kathrineg at 9:50 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I used to be a meat eater, until a friend asked me to try being a vegetarian for a few weeks about 6 years ago.

After a week, I noticed that I had never felt better in my life, no digestion problems, no crankiness due to upset stomach, less agressive. I tried eating meat a couple of times afterwards, and got sick. So much so, that now the thought of meat makes me sick.

I love being a vegetarian, and I'll never go back to eating meat, no matter where it comes from, I just think it's wrong.
posted by Slash_fan at 10:12 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I learned a great new acronym today.

It should be modified to GRASBNVFP (Generally Regarded As Safe, But Not Very Fucking Palatable).
posted by jquinby at 11:18 AM on January 2, 2010


Besides, I thought Americans were consumerist sheeple, not frugality-obsessed sheeple.

The two are not exclusive in the least.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:21 AM on January 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


What really struck me throughout the movie was the total lack of respect on the part of the agribusiness companies - lack of respect for the animals, the workers, the consumers - and how that culture has created a system that is actively dangerous for all those involved in it.

This is what happens when we make profits the sole focus of our attention.

What we need is to consider the greatest balance of benefits to all steakholders (haha!).

But BPI&c don't give a rat's ass about the long-term consequences. The wealthy eat well enough that they're at minimal risk of suffering from these disgusting food practices. Their investments in BPI will soar, even as the majority of America gets sicker, and that's just fine with them.

The middle-class/poor are just fodder: work 'em hard, pay 'em squat, feed 'em shit, let 'em die young. It's not like there's any shortage of desperate, ignorant grunts to feed into the corporate production machine. Heck, as far as I can tell, the worse off a family is, the more kids they'll pop out, to help the machine keep going.

It's a big win-win for the rich and powerful.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:35 AM on January 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


katherineg> As fun as these "i'll let my kid eat whatever food is served up by the corporate machine" anecdotes are, the truth is that the child winds up ingesting bizarro meat. I can think of no good reason keeping a 7 year-old from bagging their lunch to avoid agribusiness-produced pseudo-food. Unless, of course, you count "my kid is too lazy/stupid/sheep-like to carry a bag lunch to school" or "i don't have time to procure and prepare healthy food for my child" as good reasons.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:30 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought I knew everything I needed to know after reading Omnivore's Dilemma, but this is fucking disgusting. We go in on a cow every year with several friends from a local farm where we know how the cow was fed, raised, treated, etc. So I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. That beef is still good, but I shudder to think of all the times I've still picked up an extra pound of ground beef from the grocery store, or had a fling with a McDonald's DQPwC.

I still assumed that when I had a burger, I was eating BEEF - not a combination of proteins centrifuged off of liquefied fat trimmings that are combined with other beef 'products' after a little bit of ammonia raising alkilinity treatments!

No more.
posted by matty at 12:38 PM on January 2, 2010


Is the same thing done to ground turkey?
posted by matty at 1:06 PM on January 2, 2010


I'm a vegetarian, but this article even has me reconsidering the pet food I buy.

If this is "GRAS" for humans, imagine what they're considering safe for Fido or Fluffy.
posted by subbes at 2:27 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unless, of course, you count "my kid is too lazy/stupid/sheep-like to carry a bag lunch to school" or "i don't have time to procure and prepare healthy food for my child" as good reasons.

Or maybe the school lunches are what some kids have to eat some days.

One of the things I liked about Food, Inc. was that it wasn't patronizing about the people it showed eating at the drive-thru. As one of the people they were following said, it was easier to buy the McDonald's food for their kids even knowing that it wasn't the healthiest because when they only had a dollar, they could get something that would feed the kid and the kid wouldn't be hungry. (That one of the financial problems this family had was a diabetic dad whose ailments were undoubtedly brought on in part by eating cheap food is a whole 'nother plate of beans.)

It's all very well and good to say you wouldn't feed your kid something you think is bad for them, but if it's a choice between cheap food with crappy nutrition and starving, I reckon most of us would end up feeding them the cheap, nasty food, and eating the same ourselves.
posted by immlass at 2:33 PM on January 2, 2010


OK, just to throw the BULLSHIT flag - E. coli H7 O157 isn't a disease or even a pathogen IF YOU ARE A COW so all the blah blah blah grain fed blah blah blah weakened immune system stuff is absolute nonsense. The strain has been around for a long time, and may do more for it's normal host than my E. coli are doing for me.

There are a number of things that are going on that are making it a problem today.

1) When you butcher an animal step one is to kill it and step two is to remove it's digestive tract in one piece. Don't take it out in chunks, don't even nick it. Dispose of it somewhere far away.

2) E. coli can do alright for their self outside of their host. This is good since it gives you a chance to pick up your first set of little symbionts pretty quickly. Not so good if you live down hill from a field full of cattle. (Or if flies are walking around on than digestive tract and then coming back for a stroll on the carcass you are butchering. I said FAR AWAY!)

3) At some point O157 H7 became more adept at adhering to things (like your gut and spinach leaves). I managed to find a paper on this, but it took stoicism for me to wade through it and I'm a biochemist for a living.

So the problem? To many people eating too much food grown and processed in too little space in a world where work quotas trump every kind of craftsmanship. If you pick up an apple off the ground in an orchard that a deer carrying H7 O157 took a dump in, you're infected. But if that same able goes to contaminate a press at The Very Big Apple Cider corporation of America, that's hundreds, maybe thousands of bottles that are contaminated.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:38 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not entirely sure a McD product is going to be cheaper than, say, a boiled potato, an egg, and a bananna. And it sure as hell won't be healthier.

I suspect the problem is not so much with basic foods being expensive, as it is people being ignorant of the possibility of eating cheaply and healthily — perhaps as a consequence of not being taught how to plan and cook a meal.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:46 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


You would think that a company that promises extremely-low-to-no E.Coli content would be enthusiastic about routine testing, the better to show how reliable and consistently safe their products are.

If I offered to set you up with a trained analyst who would perform a daily assay that would confirm that you had not molested any children in the past 24 hours (total cost of analyst, testing kit and instrumentation approximately $300,000 per year) I don't think it would be totally fair to liken your rejection of this offer to proof of child molestation.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:03 PM on January 2, 2010


This:
Some of it seemed kind of silly at the time, but now it seems downright insane, at least the part that involves treating living creatures like little money-creating machines.

Is related directly to this:
But BPI&c don't give a rat's ass about the long-term consequences. The wealthy eat well enough that they're at minimal risk of suffering from these disgusting food practices. Their investments in BPI will soar, even as the majority of America gets sicker, and that's just fine with them.

The middle-class/poor are just fodder: work 'em hard, pay 'em squat, feed 'em shit, let 'em die young. It's not like there's any shortage of desperate, ignorant grunts to feed into the corporate production machine. Heck, as far as I can tell, the worse off a family is, the more kids they'll pop out, to help the machine keep going.


I mean, what part of the rabid profiteering of the last century or so has not sunk in yet? Is it not clear that we are a society that values money and the making of it in large quantities over everything else, including the health of our own citizens?
posted by kaiseki at 4:08 PM on January 2, 2010


I suspect the problem is not so much with basic foods being expensive, as it is people being ignorant of the possibility of eating cheaply and healthily — perhaps as a consequence of not being taught how to plan and cook a meal.

Whereas I think the problem is that the system of modern living is set up so that when you're poor, it's easier, faster and cheaper to buy a McBurger of any given stripe than it is to go to a supermarket, buy basic foods, and prepare them healthily. It's well-known that grocery choices, especially produce choices, are generally for shit in poor neighborhoods, especially urban neighborhoods (in the US; maybe things are better elsewhere). So maybe that egg or banana or potato isn't available in your supermarket, or it's old or rotten or whatever, and maybe you don't have the energy to cook the egg or the potato because you just worked a long shift doing a shit job for minimum wage somewhere. Except that that makes you lazy or ignorant or maybe a bad human being if your kid is on a school lunch plan.

The amount of neo-Victorian finger-waggling at people who make "bad" eating choices in this thread is dismaying. How about we point some of that judgey mcjudgerson at the people and companies who are washing meat sludge in ammonia and labeling it Angus beef? Or at the regulators who think practices that would have disgusted the people who ran the meatpacking plants in The Jungle are A-OK and safe?
posted by immlass at 4:29 PM on January 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


After a week, I noticed that I had never felt better in my life, no digestion problems, no crankiness due to upset stomach, less agressive.
I was a vegetarian for several years, and am now an omnivore (damn you, bacon!). I never noticed any difference in how I felt with eating or not eating meat. Obviously, YMMV.

I ate a lot of school lunches as a kid - my family was poor enough that I was on the free lunch program throughout high school. Taking a lunch was not an option. I ate a lot of rectangular-pizza-with-fries lunches.

I think school lunches have improved in the sense that they serve my 6 year old daughter canned fruit with her rectangular pizza. But they obviously have to make up the difference in cost between fruit and fries somewhere. And as our household income is far, far too high to qualify for free lunches, I deserve some harsh judgement for allowing her to eat that shit.

But maybe the bigger problem is that we don't agitate to make sure that no kid has to eat that shit. My daughter attends the academically highest-ranked, most affluent elementary school in the county. All the stay-at-home, well-cared-for moms plan Thanksgiving potlucks and end-of-school parties, but pack lunches for their children each morning and don't think about what other children have to eat. If they would expend half of the energy they spend on planning needless parties for their own children on making sure every child in the school got a good, healthful lunch they could make a real difference.

I would wade into the fray of changing our school's lunches, but I work full time and trying to secure a promotion and am a full time graduate student. I'm clearly too busy. Those stay-at-home-moms, though, they've got all kinds of time. Put down the bon-bons and make a difference, ladies!
posted by jeoc at 5:38 PM on January 2, 2010


This is all the stuff ammonium hydroxide is (potentially) in. It doesn't seem all that bad.

(Angus beef is a breed, whether in the form of a juicy steak or a meat slurry, that's what it is.)

I guess I'm the only person here who thinks that the less we waste the animals we kill for food, the better.

And diss on McDonald's you want, but it is a hell of a lot better for you than most of the "meat" in the supermarkets. Try buying meat that isn't adulterated with soy...
posted by gjc at 6:00 PM on January 2, 2010


If I offered to set you up with a trained analyst who would perform a daily assay that would confirm that you had not molested any children in the past 24 hours (total cost of analyst, testing kit and instrumentation approximately $300,000 per year) I don't think it would be totally fair to liken your rejection of this offer to proof of child molestation.

This analogy works perfectly if you accept that BPI, Cargill, and the like are known predators. Which, given the massive failures we've seen, is essentially true. In your analogy, the corporate food supply chain is a renown and unrepentant child molester.

Either we enact the corporate death penalty — and even China's literal take on that threat fails to prevent cheaters and miscreants — or we make the corporations fund a public inspection system that is mandated to properly support the health and safety of the nation's citizens, not the bottom line profitability of the amoral corporation.

Insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.

Corporations can not be trusted to behave ethically. They must be regulated.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:07 PM on January 2, 2010


five fresh fish: This analogy works perfectly if you accept that BPI, Cargill, and the like are known predators. Which, given the massive failures we've seen, is essentially true. In your analogy, the corporate food supply chain is a renown and unrepentant child molester.

…running a day care chain with an 8- or 9- figure corporate income.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:26 PM on January 2, 2010


I guess I'm the only person here who thinks that the less we waste the animals we kill for food, the better.

Good point - let's go ahead and put the eyeballs in our hamburgers too.
posted by matty at 6:55 PM on January 2, 2010


OK, I'll admit, I got a bit Godwiny there.

Still, how much regulation do you want to pay for and what do you want regulated, really? I mean if you asked people, "Do you think the FDA ought to require that all foodstuffs be tested for pathogen X?" they will say yes, every time. If pathogen X can't survived at low pH, does it still make sense to require the people who make lemon juice and vinegar to do the testing?

These guys have a process and it sounds like it's effective since all of the failures were due to technical excursions from the process rather than the normal process failing to do its thing. That there wasn't a policy in place to deal with a process deviation and no one in the agency threw a flag on that is the real failure here.

Either way, eventually you're going to hit a wall. You can only make a process so good and you'll never find all your mistakes. (To put this another way, in the US alone food bourne illness kills about 5000 people a year. Automobile accidents kill about 40,000 people a year. So following the analogy, what is the average driver? John Wayne Gaycee?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:05 PM on January 2, 2010


I'm gonna call strawman on the death figures; deaths aren't the only thing we're concerned about (What about injury/illness rates? life expectancy?). Other than that, I like your line of reasoning Kid Charlemagne; there's a lot to be said for systematic, complete process design over knee-jerk pathogen-specific regs from on high.
posted by Fraxas at 8:20 PM on January 2, 2010


Apparently the country of Japan has essentially eliminated the risk of salmonella from eggs.

So I'd like about that much regulation.

Still, how much regulation do you want to pay for and what do you want regulated, really?

Maple Leaf Foods managed to screw the pooch a year or two ago by allowing Listeria to get into its process line. And of course, it's because they're under-regulated that things were allowed to get so bad. They dropped the ball, and the government should have caught it: for the annual wage of the inspector, our government would have saved *tens of millions* in healthcare costs, plus at least twenty-three lives, plus it would have saved Maple Leaf tens of millions.

The cost of adequate government regulation and inspection is a fraction of the cost of a *single* outbreak.

Corporations will always cut costs until a costly mistake forces them to re-evaluate their actuarial tables. They will do anything to save a nickle that their accountants tell them will put more on the bottom line than it will cost them in customers or losses.

The most important role of government is to protect its citizens. Adequate regulation and inspection is an important part of that.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:34 PM on January 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I offered to set you up with a trained analyst who would perform a daily assay that would confirm that you had not molested any children in the past 24 hours (total cost of analyst, testing kit and instrumentation approximately $300,000 per year) I don't think it would be totally fair to liken your rejection of this offer to proof of child molestation.
I know you've walked this back a bit I wanted to use it to address the more general argument advanced by many conservatives that mandatory federal regulation (testing) is prohibitively expensive.

Testing costs are low
The de-regulation in question came about under the Bush administration. A return to the Clinton administration's standards would not be prohibitively expensive; people would no more notice a rollback to the Clinton era than they noticed the change from Clinton to Bush.

There are also ways to reduce the risk of illness that don't involve testing.

First, some of these meat packing corporations use wildly unsafe practices, like mixing meat scraps from many different sources - including from multiple countries). This practice also makes it difficult to trace outbreaks to their source. IIRC some companies like Tyson refuse to sell their products to companies that do safety testing. Stopping these practices would be cheap and help reduce risks.

Another thing you could do, although more expensive, would be to start feeding cattle better quality food (grass hay, some alfalfa, etc.). The corn mix they give cows is nearly indigestible and rots away their digestive tracts. Most of these animals couldn't live another 6 months past their slaughter dates on the diet. The feed gives them diarrhoea (which they basically live in their entire lives), and because it's on their skin, it can get passed on to the meat in the slaughterhouse.

To reduce the risk of illness (and help the animals tolerate their feed) the animals are given antibiotics, which in turn may contribute to helping create superbugs that get passed on the humans.

Another possibility (even more expensive) would be to graze the cattle in wider spaces, or at least stop packing them into their farms like commuters on a Tokyo subway.

5000 deaths?
There are about 76 million food borne illnesses a year, 350,000 of which result in hospital stays, 5,000 that result in deaths.

Add to that the health costs of eating too much (cheap) red meat with its unnaturally high fat content. Making red meat more expensive really wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. It would probably create a net health benefit.

That being said, I had a delicious In-N-Out three-by-three today :)
posted by Davenhill at 12:40 AM on January 3, 2010


(Angus beef is a breed, whether in the form of a juicy steak or a meat slurry, that's what it is.)

Yes, and it's wrong to put random beef slurry in a package labelled as Angus. Or maybe all the random slaughterhouses mentioned in the NY Times article about a woman paralyzed by e. coli in a package of "Angus" beef were all only processing Angus cattle. I'm pretty sure this case and article were mentioned upthread; if not, my bad.
posted by immlass at 8:18 AM on January 3, 2010


I can think of no good reason keeping a 7 year-old from bagging their lunch to avoid agribusiness-produced pseudo-food. Unless, of course, you count "my kid is too lazy/stupid/sheep-like to carry a bag lunch to school" or "i don't have time to procure and prepare healthy food for my child" as good reasons.

Are you seriously unaware that over 30 million children receive free school lunches because their families earn less than 130% of the poverty line? That a good enough reason for you?

Jesus. Neo-Victorian moralizing indeed.
posted by palliser at 10:54 AM on January 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Response from McDonalds's:
Thank you for taking the time to contact McDonald's.

McDonald's food safety and quality assurance standards are among the highest in the industry. With extensive food safety measures in place throughout the entire supply chain process, McDonald's standards meet or exceed government requirements. We only use 100 percent USDA-inspected ground beef in our hamburger patties. We do not add ammonia to its hamburger patties. In fact, ammonia is only used by our suppliers as a processing aid to kill harmful bacteria. This process is approved by the USDA and ensures safe, quality food. Additionally, ammonia is a basic building block of protein and occurs naturally in beef. Lean beef trimmings are approved by the USDA and are a widely used and well-established industry practice. They are subject to the same stringent standards, and inspection and testing practices, required for all beef used in the production of our hamburger patties. We're continuously working with our suppliers, local, state and federal agencies, our industry and others, to ensure these standards are rigorously maintained and, more importantly, that we serve safe, high quality products to every customer, every time they visit our restaurants.

Again, thank you for contacting McDonald's. We hope to have the opportunity of serving you again soon under the Golden Arches.


Lisa
McDonald's Customer Response Center
In other words, yes, we add centrifuged, ammonia-injected pink slime to our hamburgers, and it's approved by the people we put in charge of the approval process.

On road trips, I always liked making a point to stop at the rural interstate rest areas to eat and see what people were like outside of New York City. And yes, it was partly to gawk at the waistbands and mullets and poor fashion choices. But it was also out of a nostalgia for the people and place I grew up in. But as intolerant and ignorant as those people were, I would never wish them to eat ammonia slime. I am never eating fast food again. People should be allowed to know what they are purchasing to eat.
posted by cytherea at 9:30 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


You don't even want to think about what goes in the fries and shakes.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:43 PM on January 3, 2010


I don't know about the fries, but I've heard on good authority that the shakes are mostly air, paint thickener, and chalk. Somehow, I find chalk more acceptable.
posted by cytherea at 11:17 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's too difficult to eat properly in civilization. Everything is pushing the waste products of agribusiness on you. I wish I had the time or money to eat like Michael Pollan says I should, but I really don't want to spend half of my free time and half of my total income on food.
posted by tehloki at 12:53 AM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


...350,000 of which result in hospital stays...

And there were "4,563,000 cases (automobile accidents) requiring emergency department visits in 2000 (CDC)"

I'm not saying our food handling methodology is as if it were handed down by God. Just that the handwaving freakoutery is a little over the top given the number of things we are perfectly content to do every day without even blinking.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:03 AM on January 4, 2010


That being said, I had a delicious In-N-Out three-by-three today.

I can't find a cite right now, but if I remember correctly, In-N-Out was the only fast-food hamburger place that the author of Fast Food Nation said had acceptable practices, regarding meat processing and worker safety. Of course, I might just be seeing it through pink meat-slurry colored glasses.
posted by albrecht at 8:50 AM on January 4, 2010


It might amaze and astound you, tehloki, but my wife and I eat scratch-made foods almost exclusively, and it does not require half our income and half our time to do so. So perhaps the problem is not so much with it being "too difficult to eat properly in civilization," and more to do with you not really knowing what you're doing. Perhaps you should buy a beginner's cookbook or two, and start learning.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:13 AM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not scared of no diarrhea.
posted by couchdive at 12:21 PM on January 5, 2010


five fresh fish: thank you for your condescending, assumption-ridden dressing-down. Have you read the omnivore's dilemma? Scratch-made does not even begin to describe his picture of how we should be eating. Maybe scratch-made, all ingredients bought from small local farms, organic, fresh, and slow-cooked. I cook extensively, and usually the only thing I didn't make from scratch is the bouillon cube I use to make the stock or the maple syrup I use for sweetening. This is nowhere near the ideal Pollan food-lifestyle though.
posted by tehloki at 10:54 PM on January 9, 2010


Ah, sorry. I didn't know he was that insane, and I did not read for comprehension. Though you did say "It's too difficult to eat properly in civilization." Which I fundamentally disagree with. Healthy≠Pollan, apparently.

I've become used to the argument that good nutrition is too difficult, when I've student friends and down-in-the-gutter friends who manage to shop and cook for a decent nutrition; and when I've been there myself. I do recognize that my small town probably provides a better quality of opportunity, what with everything from Walmart to Loblaws to locals-sourcing grocers to farmers market being within an hour walk or ten minutes by vehicle. But the kids are in a big (ah, but Canadian) city and the under-employed and poor-planning are in other (Canuck) cities and towns, and as far as I know they've all got access to reasonably-priced basic foods.

But Pollans out to lunch if he thinks a massive population can be sustained using puritan-level standards. Hell, I expect a whole lot of people are going to become sustained on a Soylent Green product. Vatmeat. I just hope they prepare it from scratch, try their best to get a less chemically/hormonally/treated variety, and aim for health.

Sorry I went off. "Too difficult to eat properly" is apparently one of my red flags.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:30 PM on January 9, 2010


fff, it's not that it's necessarily "too difficult" to eat properly for any value of properly (Pollanesque or otherwise) particularly if you make it a priority to do so. It's that it ought to be a lot easier, and specifically that food eaten in restaurants and fast food chains, or food bought from the grocery store and properly handled at home, ought not to make you (immediately) sick.

Regardless of other stuff, I hope we can agree that in an ideal world, the industrial food process should produce healthier food, starting with "not giving people E. coli". Or maybe to put it another way, having a burger at McDonald's, as unhealthy as it is, shouldn't be a sin that merits the punishment of E. coli poisoning.
posted by immlass at 8:14 AM on January 10, 2010


Like I said, I'm in a small town with apparently excellent grocery shopping. I think it would take a lack of education, which I think is the real problem, to eat poorly here. The basics are very basic, I've been there, and I can see that they're reasonably cheap in the store. Plus there's that whole watching my single mother friend on welfare feed three growing children nutritional meals day in and day out. It wasn't fancy food by a long shot, but it was healthy food.

I don't have much problem with fast food. It is what it is: fast. I don't expect it to be nutritious or delicious: I expect it to fill my gut until I can get some real food. It's food for vehicular travel.

But I suppose that if I have to deal with the reality of the situation, which is that people are actually foolishly/uneducatedly relying on fast food gutfiller to provide nutrition, then we'd best have some legal standards by which to measure their nutritional value, and perhaps throw a bit of "in the public interest" money at cluing people in.

I'll bet the old Canada would have done that. I miss Canada.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:21 PM on January 10, 2010


As for E. Coli, yes. There has been another Listeria breakout in Canada. Second big case in a year or two, again involving "sandwich meats" IIRC. Or perhaps I should say "preprocessed sandwich meats." Either way, while I don't partake very much of either, there's no way in hell that Listeria ought to be causing mass poisonings. WTF, Government Regulators and Corporate Meat?!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:24 PM on January 10, 2010


I just think that unless everybody else is trying to eat Pollan-style, it's far too difficult to do so. Can't shop at the grocery store, can't go to restaurants, etc.
posted by tehloki at 1:14 AM on January 11, 2010


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