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Pink Slime "Just a Symptom" of What’s Wrong with Meat Production

Tom Laskawy of Grist takes up the topic of pink slime:

What pink slime represents is an open admission by the food industry that it is hard-pressed to produce meat that won’t make you sick. Because, I hate to break it to you folks, but ammonium hydroxide is just one in a long list of unlabeled chemical treatments used on almost all industrial meat and poultry.

Helen Bottemiller of Food Safety News has dug up a document from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that lists hundreds of other chemicals that processors can apply to meat, including calcium hypochlorite (also used to clean swimming pools), hypobromous acid (a germicide in hot tubs), DBDMH (1,3-dibromo-5,5-dimethylhydantoin, used in water treatment), and chlorine dioxide (for bleaching wood pulp). Most of these “ingredients” are not required to be listed on the packages of meat you buy.

On his Small Bites blog, Andy Bellatti notes that pink slime is really just a small piece of the factory farm problem:

We can’t forget that the majority of ground beef in the United States, even if free of said “slime,” comes from animals (35 million beef cattle, to be exact) that are treated miserably, is processed by employees under horrible working conditions, and severely damages the environment. And, of course, there are also the rampant recalls and food safety concerns.

“Pink slime” is one of many symptoms of a broken food system. Even if the meat industry were to announce the end of ammonia-treated beef, they should continue to be held accountable for a multitude of atrocious practices as well as a food product that poses various health risks.

New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman picks up on the fact that pink slime is simply a symptom of what ails our food supply:

The fact that pink slime was a “solution” might lead you to ask: What’s the problem?

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.

The Food and Drug Administration has been ordered to reach a conclusion as to whether the routine feeding of antibiotics in factory farms poses a danger to the food supply and to human health. The factory farm industry, concerned only for its own profits, will fight any conclusion that requires them to stop pumping antibiotics into the animals at their facilities. Whether the government has the fortitude to stand up to the big lobbying firms is something we will soon discover. While this is only one of the issues that ails the world of factory farming, it’s a big one.