Mar 31, 2012
You be the judge
On March 29th, 2012, Governors Rick Perry of Texas, Terry Branstad of Iowa, and Sam Brownback of Kansas, toured a Building Performance Institute, Inc. (BPI) facility and then took part in a subsequent nine-member panel featured at a press conference to express their support of BPI. The company has recently experienced serious economic fallout from what it says is an inaccurate and unsubstantiated accusation that BPI is adding unsafe and unhealthy products to its hamburger. BPI closed three of its four plants after a campaign against the product, dubbed "pink slime" by its critics, caused a consumer backlash. BPI has started fighting back with a massive public relations campaign.
"Dude, it's beef!"
"Let's call this product what it is and let 'pink slime' become a term of the past," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said this past Thursday after the tour. "Dude, it's beef!
Among the industry officials also taking part in the tour and panel were Gary Acuff, director of the Texas A&M University Center for Food Safety; Elisabeth Hagen, USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety; and Nancy Donley, past president of STOP, a non-profit organization she has spearheaded since her six-year-old son Alex died due to an E. coli poisoning in 1993. Acuff noted that sensationalized reports about the process used to obtain lean finely textured beef (LFTB) products for processing and the nutritional quality of the end product were a "misrepresentation of the characteristics of lean beef trimmings."
"It’s being called a cheap, low-quality product," Acuff says, but it's a safe, sustainable product borne from consumer demands over the past 30 years. It helps ensure that consumers have the lean products they desire. The process makes use of advanced intervention technology to reduce the risk of food-borne disease. It is a responsible use of as much use as possible of the lean meat from a beef carcass."
Gov. Sam Brownback noted that the media hype has already resulted in closure of a BPI facility in Kansas, which laid-off 300 employees. BPI facilities in Waterloo, IA, and Amarillo, TX, were also closed this week. Gov. Rick Perry commented that he was uncertain as to why the subject of LFTB had become such a focal point.
"Pink slime" is a term coined in a 2002 e-mail that former USDA microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein sent to his colleagues, expressing his concern over the quality of the beef products resulting from the use of ammonium hydroxide in the processing method. Ammonium hydroxide is ammonia combined with water. The compound is used extensively in food processing, including baked goods, cheeses, chocolates and puddings. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration affirmed use of ammonium hydroxide in 1974 after extensive review of scientific literature about the compound and a detailed rule making process. Use of ammonium hydroxide elevates pH in finished product. This is important, BPI says, because bacteria, especially gram-negative bacteria, like E coli 0157:H7 and salmonella, prefer an environment with a lower pH. By raising the pH, the odds of any pathogenic bacteria in the finished product are greatly reduced.
The USDA will not eliminate hamburger containing LFTB from school food choices, primarily because of the nutritional, low-fat quality and cost-effectiveness of the meat. Schools, however, will be able to choose whether or not they purchase hamburger containing LFTB, although alternative products are more costly.
As consumers demanded answers to these questions, commercial beef producers will have their hands full dispelling myths and correcting misinformation. Discover Magazine recently published an article that looks at both sides of the conversation and ultimately concludes that the ruckus came from the media, and the pink slime controversy is nothing to be scared about.
Here’s an excerpt from that magazine article:
"What’s more interesting to me – and what hasn’t been covered especially well in the slime stories – is that foods that are ammonia-processed are remarkably widespread. Among them are breads, pastries, cheeses, chocolates, breakfast cereals, sports drinks, fruits, vegetables….in other words, if we’re going to worry about chemical processing, beef products need to stand in line.
"The real issue here is transparency. Our government should not be colluding with private industry in hiding additives from the consumer. And, in fact, there are signs that the USDA is tending to agree. USDA’s Elizabeth Hagen, emphasized that the product is considered safe and added: "It seems to me that the larger issue here is labeling and transparency."
Well folks, it’s time for you to make a choice about what you want your family to eat? Whether a BEEF producer raises his or her cattle on 100% Grass Pastures or in a Feed-lot is not the issue. This latest smack in the face to BEEF is widespread and all encompassing to the entire BEEF industry. Arm your self with knowledge and shop smart! As I always say, BUY FRESH, BUY LOCAL and be safe. But most of all, arm yourself with knowledge about the producer you buy your food from. NOT TELEVISION MEDIA!! In my opinion, processed food is rarely good for anyone. The fresher the better, and the less processed the safer.
You be the judge.