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It's just beef

BY BENJAMIN EVANS | APRIL 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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I usually think of Silly Putty when I hear the phrase "pink slime."

You know the stuff — the fun, weird gel that comes in a small cylinder container so you can make farting noises with it. God, I love it.

But now when I hear the phrase (over and over and over again), all I can think of are beef tendons and fat being baked together and sprayed with ammonia. And oddly, I get hungry.

Thank you, general public, you have ruined Silly Putty for me.

Yeah, the process is gross and disgusting — pieces of the cow not good enough for the prime cuts are separated and put into a vat that heats everything up, liquefying it together, then spraying it with an ammonia-based compound, giving it a pinkish color.

But, guys, it's just beef. And it's the same beef we've been eating for almost 30 years.

The removal of most "lean, finely textured beef," the other name for "pink slime," from the nation's food supply will increase beef prices. Because the U.S. cattle inventory is at a 52-year low, data showed retail beef prices soared 11.5 percent last year and will go up another 4 percent to 5 percent this year.

I'm not going to lie — I don't want to pay more than $2 for a crappy McDonald's hamburger. I could barely take it when McDonald's said it would pull a slice of cheese from the McDouble. And I have no doubt that most of the country is with me there.

And before the recent public negativity, "pink slime" was in about 70 percent of hamburger and other processed products nationwide. Some plants could make around 900,000 pounds a day.

Now, we want to stop production and raise the price of beef because it's gross the way it's made?

Come on, guys. Food, Inc. was good, but I still want a cheap hamburger, and I still want the beef industry to make me a cheap hamburger.

Yes, there are critics who say the beef is mostly composed of tissues that don't have the same nutritional value as meat. Also, it should be said, some of the scraps used are more likely to have fecal matter in them. Obviously, this increases the risk of illness.

But this is exactly what the ammonia treatment is for — to kill the bacteria in the meat. The pink in the slime is a good thing because it is keeping you from getting sick. Thank you, pink, I appreciate your looking out.  

Even Hy-Vee thought about pulling all the meat from its shelves but decided, in a streak of brilliance, to keep it and label the different types of beef separately, so the consumer can choose.

"In response to this feedback, Hy-Vee has made a decision to offer both kinds of ground beef — both with and without lean, finely textured beef," Hy-Vee said in the statement. "Both products will be identified so customers can determine for themselves which type of ground beef they want to buy."

What an idea — golf clap for Hy-Vee giving the consumers the power to decide for themselves and not just summarily yanking it off its shelves.   

At a press conference March 28, Gov. Terry Branstad and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tried to fight against the negative publicity. They claimed it has cost manufacturer Beef Products Inc. (BPI) a ton of business, forcing it to shut down a plant in Iowa and other regions.

"I believe that the national media have permeated this discussion with a poisonous tone that is detrimental to our beef industry, that will hurt jobs and will hurt cattle producers in the state of Iowa," Branstad said. "The time for bad mouthing and distortions is over. The time for the truth to prevail and combat this ugly situation that we currently find ourselves in is here."

In other words, it's beef. It's always been beef, it always will be beef — and according to Vilsack, it's safe and affordable beef.

"I can guarantee you that if we felt that this was unsafe, we [the government] wouldn't allow it to be marketed," he said at the conference.

So, make your own choice — you don't have to eat the beef. You can say it's gross and call it foul, but at the end of the day, it's still beef, and I'm still hungry.


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