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In the latest chapter of the neverending saga of grossly horrific revelations about really nasty stuff done to food by industrial producers, ABC News brings us…pink slime!

What is it? It’s a beef byproduct that ABC says is used as filler in 70% of ground beef sold in supermarkets in the United States. Because the U.S.D.A. doesn’t require processors or retailers to list Pink Slime as an ingredient, very few consumers were aware of the existence of this lovely product which has been in common use for almost twenty years, until a former U.S.D.A. scientist decided to blow the whistle and ABC news decided to run with the story.

What’s the big deal? Pink Slime (called ‘Lean Finely Textured Beef’ by the industry) is made with waste trimmings that are heated at a low temperature to soften them up, then put in a centrifuge to separate muscle from fat, then sprayed with ammonia to kill bacteria, then compressed into bricks and flash frozen for shipment to meat packers and grocery stores.

The product was reviewed by the U.S.D.A., where scientists who recommended against allowing its unlabelled use in product sold as 100% ground beef were overruled by former Undersecretary of Agriculture Joann Smith, who is quoted as saying, “It’s pink, therefore it’s meat.” Upon leaving her post Smith promptly took a seat on the board of a ‘big meat’ company, raking in $1.2 million over the next seventeen years.

Is any of this actually surprising? Apparently so. ABC says it was inundated with questions from viewers, desperate to find out how they can find slime-free ground beef. ABC tried to find out, surveying the nations biggest grocery chains. Whole Foods, Publix, Costco and H-E-B (a Texas outfit), were the only big grocers who said they don’t use the stuff.

In a follow-up segment, ABC visited Brooklyn’s own Fleishers Organic and Grass-Fed Meats in Park Slope, to interview owner and butcher Josh Applestone about good ground beef. Applestone’s definition of 100% fresh ground beef? “It should be whole muscle, ground, made into a patty and put into a freezer.” That’s it.

One benefit of living in Brooklyn? Access to good meat. Fleishers in Park Slope, and The Meat Hook and Marlow & Daughters, both in Williamsburg, work only with whole, pasture-raised animals from local farms, and good, local meat can be found at most of the borough’s Greenmarkets and farmers markets.

 

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