Sunday, January 15, 2012

Disgusting Things You'll Be Eating Less Of

Over the past decade or so, more and more attention has been given to ammoniated beef. If you're not yet aware, ammoniated beef is beef trimmings which are treated with ammonia hydroxide in an effort to kill bacteria, and then sold to consumers as hamburger filler when it would otherwise be placed into pet food. The USDA termed it as "pink slime" in 2002, and since then, word has slowly trickled out to the general public in various forms, who in turn became increasingly disgusted (although no less fat) as they were informed by such chefs as Jamie Oliver and Anthony Bourdain, and the 2008 documentary Food Inc., exactly what was going into that fast-food burger.

We should single out Oliver and his short-lived ABC show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. This is how he taught this particular lesson:

Well, not anymore, at least if you eat at McDonald's, Burger King or Taco Bell. Those three restaurants have announced that they will no longer be using ammoniated beef. Yes, you were eating this stuff at those places. You won't be anymore.

That still, however, leaves the National School Lunch Program, which you'd have thought, hoped, would be ahead of the fast-food places on this. In fact, at least one former USDA employee blames Oliver for the fact that this is even an issue. While the fast-food chains didn't mention Oliver in their statements explaining their decision, Dr. Richard Raymond, the USDA's former Under Secretary for Food Safety, rebuts:

"This move, although not exactly described as such by the three fast food chains, was because of the 'ick factor' as revealed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver... I guess after the two prior attacks, the Oliver video must have been over the top, and it is scary that an activist can potentially take away one of our interventions that makes our food safer. That is not how food safety policy should be determined... If consumers and restaurants are up in arms about the use of ammonia and can potentially drive a company out of business by their actions, I can only wonder what they are going to do when they look at the other chemicals in use to try and protect us from foodborne illnesses, chemicals like liquid chlorine and lactic acid just to name a couple... There are just certain unpleasant realities of how meat is processed in this country. Those of us with farm backgrounds maybe can accept them a little more readily than someone who has led a life sheltered from these realities."

Yeah, Raymond. What ARE we going to do when you tell us about the liquid chlorine that goes into the beef alongside the ammonia. I eat steak- beef that presumably hasn't been through that process- and I'm fine. For God's sake, I eat sushi- raw, uncooked fish- and I'm still here. I've got an immune system. What do I keep it around for?

Also, I may live in what amounts to suburbia, but it's still Wisconsin, America's Dairyland, and you've got farms ringing this town on all sides. I've taken my fair share of field trips to farms. I've watched my share of videos of slaughterings and the aftermath thereof, the entire process from which the animal goes from living being to corpse to separated animal parts to food product. I'm a big boy. I can take it.

I'm not sure I could take watching ammonia and chlorine go into my food, though.

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