Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Rest of the Story: Pink Slime is Good For You and Other Behind the Scenes Stories

Pretty catchy title there, eh? I can see it now. You, dear reader, in front of a piping-hot bowl of Pink Slime! Mmmm good! Just like mom used to make!

Well, I'm not too sure that Pink Slime is good for you (I'm a raw fooder anyway so my opinion about anything cooked is negative biased), but I will tell you that a good friend of mine, who is a long-time professional in the food industry, told me that Pink Slime is getting a bad rap. My friend has been in that food industry for years and owns one of the biggest food distribution companies in the United States - and he is not in the beef and pork industry - so he's not telling me 'Spin.' He told me directly yesterday at lunch that so-called Pink Slime isn't bad for your health at all...

In fact, he said it was much better than the alternative. His exact words were this: 

"When a cow or pig is slaughtered there are all sorts of left-over little bits of meat that are scrapped off and minced up into a sort of "hamburger." Into this mix, Pink Slime, which is grown from bacteria is added, to fill out the product and hold it together. Usually about 10% ~ 30% of this "hamburger" consists of Pink Slime. It isn't bad for your health at all and is MUCH better than the alternative."

Of course, being the kind of anal-retentive person who likes to learn stuff and double check my information, I looked it up. 

All this time I had thought that Pink Slime was poisonous and filled with all sorts of deadly chemicals, but it is not. Pink Slime is supposedly completely safe. Please refer to Pink Slime is Safe To Eat:

The controversy over ammonia-treated beef - or what critics dub ‘pink slime’ - broadened this week as it was revealed that the caustic cleaning chemical is also used in cheese. 

Related compounds are also used in baked goods and chocolate. 

Ammonia, known for its noxious odor, became a hot topic with the uproar over what the meat industry calls ‘finely textured beef’ and what a former U.S. government scientist first called ‘pink slime’… 

…For example, ammonia compounds are used as leavening agents in baked goods and as an acidity controller in cheese and sometimes chocolate.    

‘Ammonia's not an unusual product to find added to food,’ Gary Acuff, director of Texas A&M University's Center for Food Safety, told a recent press conference hosted by Beef Products Inc. ‘We use ammonia in all kinds of foods in the food industry.’   

After critics highlighted the product on social media websites and showed unappetizing photos on television, calling it ‘pink slime,’ the nation's leading fast-food chains and supermarkets spurned the product, even though U.S. public health officials deem it safe to eat. 

The outrage, which many experts say has been fueled by the term ‘pink slime,’ seems more about the unsavoriness of the product rather than its safety.   

‘This is not a health issue,’ said Bill Marler, a prominent food safety lawyer. ‘This is an 'I'm grossed out by this' issue.’    

OK. Now I hear you say, "Mike. Pink Slime? Well, what's this got to do with anything and why is this in a blog about Marketing and Japan?" 

Glad you asked that question. 

This little episode has everything to do with Marketing... I don't want to say it has anything to do with Japan as some readers may be having dinner while reading this.... 

Stick around, this is a very fascinating story...Let me tell you about it...

Remember a while back in Europe the huge scandal about Horse Meat being in the hamburgers and meat products at several fast food restaurants and grocery store chains? Yeah, it is a big deal and still lots of heads are rolling over this scandal. I had thought that horse meat wasn't so bad to eat, but my friend tells me that, "Horse meat is nasty stuff because it's full of all sorts of chemicals and some of those chemicals are known carcinogens!" ....Ewwww!

Horse meat could be cancerous?! Yikes! I didn't know that! So, now you know why people are up in arms about horse meat in their beef hamburgers...

Please refer to: What's behind the horsemeat contamination scandal

(CNN) -- Horsemeat has been discovered in products labeled as 100% beef and sold in Sweden, the United Kingdom and France. Food authorities in those countries have launched investigations but the supply chain being studied includes still more countries…

…In one sample from Tesco -- Britain's largest grocery chain -- the horsemeat accounted for about 29% of the burger.

This story was, and still is, huge news in Europe. CNN goes on to claim the reason for this tainted horse meat getting into the food chain. The article continues

How did horsemeat enter the food chain?

Britain's FSA said the evidence it had "points to either gross negligence or deliberate contamination in the food chain."

"Gross negligence" or "deliberate contamination"? Hmmm? Well, lucky readers, this isn't exactly why this happened. Of course, it was deliberate contamination. No doubt about that. But why was it deliberate?

Why would anyone deliberately "contaminate" the food? Well, folks it has nothing to do with trying to kill people... It has everything to do with Marketing and the Mass Media and sensationalism.

Before this scandal broke about the horse meat, Pink Slime had been taking a big hit everywhere on the Mass Media. The revulsion by the public (due to typically uneducated and sensationalistic mass media fueled hysteria) created a back lash towards Pink Slime. Suddenly the public was grossed out by Pink Slime and thought they were eating 50 gallon barrels full of deadly Ammonium every time they ate a chicken nugget. 

Because the public outcry was so bad, even retailers had to try to placate their customers and so they began a campaign to stop buying products that had Pink Slime in them.

Still following me here?

OK. So the big grocery chains and the big fast food chains start complaining about Pink Slime and they begin an informal boycott of products that contain Pink Slime.

Now, let's not forget something about sales and the free market; the customer is King! For distributors and whole sellers, the chain stores and restaurant chains are their customers; what the customers wants, the customer gets. Large retail stores have huge sales and very much clout. One contract with a large retailer is worth tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars a year in revenue for a distribution company. 

Getting a deal with a major retailer is the Holy Grail for a salesman from any distributor. 

Of course, the stores also need to increase sales and profitability while cutting costs. So when a buyer at a chain tells a salesman that they no longer want to buy the beef product that has the Pink Slime in it, what is the salesman to do? 

The buyer now wants to buy the same amount of beef with no Pink Slime in it for the same price. Of course, the beef is sold by weight. But now the meat no longer has 10% ~ 30% extra weight in it that the Pink Slime accounted for. 

The stores want the same weight in meat yet they do not want to pay more or increase their beef prices to customers as that would hurt their sales!

What is the salesman to do? Many of these companies now stood to lose contracts worth millions and millions of dollars simply because the possibly the public has been misinformed (again???) by a mass media that is only interested in ratings and selling advertising space.

What is the wholesaler and the distributors to do? It's a big problem and a terrible dilemma. Back at the Corporate HQ, the bosses of all these distributors and whole sellers got together and tried to find a solution.

What could they do? The process for making these beef and meat products had been the same for many years; it called for a 10% ~ 30% addition of Pink Slime. The products were completely safe, yet the public no longer wanted to buy them, yet they wanted the beef for the same price? How could the manufacturers sell their meats for the same competitive price when they suddenly had to eat an - sometimes up to - 30% increase in costs? They couldn't...

The entire beef industry in Europe was in a crisis! Bankruptcy loomed for many. What to do?

My friend I mentioned before from the food industry told me that this is EXACTLY what happened: The executives and presidents all met at a lodge in the country to discuss a way, any way, to rescue their industry and their businesses... It was a dark time for the industry...

That is, until, as my friend described, one of the company presidents looked out the window towards the beautiful mountains in the distance and the fantastic country view... He stared at the mountains and contemplated life, the trees, the birds, his family, his entire purpose for living...

Was it all to end this way? Just as the presidents of those companies were about to give up and throw in the towel, a lone horse walked up to the window, looked in at the presidents of the wholesalers and distributors and whinnied. 

Just like this:

And now you know.... The Rest of the Story.

NOTE: Generally speaking, I don't really care too much about this as I never eat stuff that has been processed. May I recommend that you do the same? Please read: The Super Healthy Breakfast - Raw Food:


Andrew Joseph said...

If it's 100% beef, it of course applies to the meat content. It should be 100% beef.
The slime - that doesn't count against the percentage.
Chicken - that's where people should be up in arms, as processors plump up the bird carcass with a water/brine solution - some up to 50%. It's standard practice in the industry, and there are regulations to ensure there are maximum levels of water content added. It adds weight, and makes a small cut look larger. But, it's at least 100% chicken.
Pink slime is part of the process. Processing meats - even fresh meats - is nothing new.
Still... you did nice work here.
Horse... of course people are upset by having it in their meat purchase. If someone is buying beef meat and it has other meats in it, it should say it is blended.
Labeling is very important in all countries (except a few, who don't), and failure to comply means closures and heavy fines.
We Canadians go to the US and buy a lot of horses at auctions (less than $100 each!) and transport them back to Quebec and slaughter them there for sale to the French-Canadian market where it is sold exactly for what it is. Horse meat.
And, while food producers could sell a beef product with horse on it, and not list it anywhere on the label except the ingredients list, they could NOT call it 100% beef. The percentage, as far as meat labeling goes - and there are specifics with different types of food groups - only refers to the actual meat involved.
I've been eating pink slime for years, and I'm okay.
I've eaten horse - basashi - and I'm fine. People are only upset because they feel as though they gave been deceived, and in the case of different meats in their beef product - they have been lied to. Horse meat is a much cheaper meat substitute than cow.
Canada has food inspectors, US the FDA, and they all do their best to monitor all food processors.
It's like bacteria in the processing plant... there's always some there. There are acceptable amounts. It's right there where the ring elements touch the top of YOUR stove, your countertops, bathroom, couch.
People panic too much.

Anonymous said...

Reading Karen DeCoster's blog was how I found out about pink slime.

While reading your blog I kept thinking, "He's saying she's wrong. Uh-oh."
Or perhaps I've mis-read one, or the other, or both?

ANyway, the phrase 'pink slime' never really bothered me unlike many I know. I always related the phrase to the pink fluff Jello-like desert that is commonly served in the unitedstate at family get togethers, pot lucks and such. Many people rave about it, I don't care for it though.

[Gross-out alert, don't continue reading if you're easily grossed out.]

If it wasn't the ammonia in pink slime which causes many people to experience bloody diarrhea after eating fast food, I wonder what is the culprit?

- IndividualAudienceMember

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Nah! No! No! (Neeeeegh!) I'm not saying Karen Decoster is wrong and I'm not saying Pink Slime isn't bad. I'm just relaying what my friend told me who is in that industry and that I can see his (and the people in that industry) point of view.
I don't know about the bloody diarrhea from ammonia in Pink Slime that was in fast food. I think ALL fast food is poison and am not the least bit surprised when I hear people getting sick from eating it...
Heck, I think all sorts of naties in fast food is a part of the agreed to verbal contract when you order that stuff. Bleech!

Anonymous said...

There is more evil in the world caused by laziness and indifference than outright malevolence. I believe in this case the former.

Anonymous said...

"Labeling is very important in all countries... and failure to comply means closures and heavy fines."

Which goes to show, threats of closure, and heavy fines are all failures which do not work.

"Canada has food inspectors, US the FDA, and they all do their best to monitor all food processors."

That was funny.
It seems like you've never worked in a food processing plant.

I never thought of it this way: "the agreed to verbal contract when you order that stuff." No doubt.

- IndividualAudienceMember

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