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Apr 3

Written by: Greg Runyon
4/3/2012 3:41 PM 

There's quite the brouhaha going on right now here in farm country about what is alternatively known as “lean finely textured beef” or “pink slime” depending on your perspective. People in the beef industry and their backers in government prefer the former term, while other people who are a tad less easy to categorize prefer the latter. Who is it that is pushing the “pink slime” moniker? I don't really know and I'm too lazy to look it up and besides it's probably a little hard to pin down its origins. I think it was a story on ABC News that ratcheted up the trajectory of the term. It really doesn't matter anyway.

The citizenry, or at least a significant enough percentage of us, seem to have come to the conclusion that regardless of what you call it, we don't care to consume it. That seems to be causing enough trouble for its main producer, I think their name is Beef Products Inc., that BPI is closing a few of their production facilities, including one right down the road in Waterloo. It stinks that people are losing their jobs, no question about it. They've done nothing wrong.

This is the free market in action, though. Consumers have decided that they don't care to unknowingly consume this product. Quite frankly, I'm with them. I'd like to have as few hidden things in my food products as possible, and this was a pretty big “hide.” Do I think this food is dangerous and not safe to be consumed? No. I just think it's gross. So do a lot of other people, apparently.

Now you've got some governors of beef centric states like Iowa campaigning to get people to eat this stuff, saying things like, “You've been eating it for 20 years, why quit now?” They're on TV happily chowing down on lean finely textured beef burgers. Look, we know we CAN eat it. We just don't really want to, and we certainly don't want to have this stuff just tucked into what used to be sold without it and then to be told “It's just as good.” No, the free market is saying that it's NOT just as good. Free marketeers like Terry Branstad here in Iowa are not so free-market-friendly in this case. No, we should continue to eat what we as a people have determined to be a subpar product simply because some people will lose their jobs (and more important, I'm guessing, is that some fat cats who donate to gubernatorial campaigns will lose their investment in this company.)

I like beef. I like ground beef. I'd just like it to be the highest quality available, and not needing to be treated with ammonia to make it safe for me to eat. How about we feed this stuff to our dogs or cats or whatever, and save the yummy cuts of beef for people? Am I willing to pay more for a higher quality product? Yes. Would I like some labeling indicating the use of fillers like finely textured beef so I can make an informed choice? You bet.

And just why is it finely textured, anyway? Is it because they have to grind the holy hell out of it to make it palatable? I don't know, but doesn't that seem like a reasonable explanation? And doesn't it seem reasonable that some people wouldn't care to unsuspectingly be consuming a lower-grade product? It does to me. I don't care if it gets sold, but let's have some information available so we can make an educated purchasing decision.

I'm going to continue to eat beef. I'm going to continue to eat ground beef. I'm sure I'll unwittingly from time to time eat lean finely textured beef, and I'll be just fine. That does not mean, however, that cutting a solid product with some leftover scrap in pursuit of the almighty profit margin is okay with me. It shouldn't be for beef producers, either. Try to put out a quality, appetizing product. There, was that so hard?


Copyright ©2012 Greg Runyon


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