Farm & Garden

Pink Slime. Finely Textured Beef. Soft Serve Beefaconda...

April 04 2012 - 9:30 AM

Pink-slime-1A post last week about a meeting with the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance courtesy of a PR company got me thinking about the amount of spin that the food industry is engaged in. While we were talking about broad stroke concepts of scale, sustainability and quality it seems to me that the big issue of the week is the pink slime. Or rather finely textured beef, which is its technical name except that this beef has no texture and is frankly un-beefily pink.

I was going to provide a rundown of what exactly the substance is but chances are you've heard or read that info by now. Instead here's a link to Mark Bittman's commentary which goes over the details honestly. Below is an excerpt that relates it to our USFRA meeting last week.

The answer lies in the industrial production of livestock on a scale that’s far too large to sustain without significant collateral damage. E. coli, found in the digestive tracts of cattle, is common on factory farms where cattle are fed only grain. (Their stomachs are meant to digest grass.) The incomprehensible quantity of manure produced by these cattle — also often containing E. coli — is deposited on the land, sometimes seeping into the water supply; that’s how you wind up with E. coli in vegetables. To make matters worse, “healthy” farm animals are routinely fed so many antibiotics that E. coli, salmonella and other pathogens are developing resistance to commonly prescribed drugs.

These issues are only issues because of our industrial scales of production. It is the answer to the question that went unanswered by the farmers and ranchers at that meeting, "How do you know when a farm is too big?" Look at the picture. It's worth 1000 words.

You can weigh the pros and cons of this particular ingredient and the processing it receives but the bottom line is that about 1.5 million more cows will be slaughtered to make up for it. From in the words of David Chang, High Priest of the venerable temple of pork that is Momofuku:

I've maintained this for a while now: I think meat is going to take a back seat to vegetables and grains. Moreover, that's how the world eats. No one really has a 64-ounce T-bone steak — only in America. I think that meat will be much more used as a flavoring agent rather than the centerpiece of a dish. And just like most other cultures, meat is going to be eaten on celebratory occasions, because I think it is going to be quite expensive. Food is going to get expensive. People just have to embrace that notion.

I simply agree that we eat too much meat.

On a lighter note, I REALLY like "Soft-Serve Beefaconda" especially given the picture. Anyone got a better name?

-Josh Brusin