Commentary: Ignorance, pink slime and Sarah Palin

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Commentary by Gary R. Acuff, Professor and Director, Center for Food Safety, Texas A&M University and H. Russell Cross, Professor and Head, Department of Animal Science, Texas A&M University

So is she? Is Sarah Palin stupid? If you watch ABC, NBC or CBS – yep, she is dumb as dirt. If you get your news from Fox News, she is brilliant and insightful. What about Al Gore? Is he an environmental nut case? Watch Fox News and you will be convinced he couldn’t change a flat tire. The “main stream” networks will present him as forward thinking and intellectual. Rush Limbaugh? Bill Maher? The source of your news will slant the information you are provided and, if you are not careful, your ultimate opinion on the individual or issue. News organizations know that their ratings, and therefore their revenue, depend on loyal viewers. And viewers are only loyal when the news grabs their attention or their fear.

Today the news is all about Lean Fine-Textured Beef (LFTB) or “pink slime” as ABC has boldly labeled it. To hear Diane Sawyer describe it, ABC News has completed an exhaustive “investigation” to protect you from exposure to something that is presented as another vile and devious plot of the beef industry. Their exposé has provided a public service by showing consumers that they are unknowingly eating something meant for pet food, and the public outcry has undoubtedly boosted their ratings and generated potential advertiser revenues. Never mind that the information provided was false and misleading. Does that really matter? Not really. Just place that information in context with everything else you are hearing: Sarah Palin is stupid, Al Gore is an environmental wing nut, Barak Obama is a Socialist, you are eating pink slime.

What are the facts? Does it matter? Public perception is all that matters when you have a product to sell. We understand that it is impossible to market a product that exists counter to public perception. We can’t tell the consumer that raw meat may contain pathogenic bacteria and that they need to use a thermometer in the kitchen to make sure they cook it properly. We tell them instead that our regulatory agencies require extensive testing of ground beef and the product they buy can be assured to be safe. Hogwash.

Are you familiar with the expression “sick and tired?” That’s where we are right now. We are sick and tired of the news media hijacking the truth, minimizing science, frightening consumers and creating a false crisis, just to boost their ratings. We have seen too many people hurt, too many businesses destroyed, all for the benefit of some talking head’s career. We are fed up. And we hope the food industry is fed up as well.

It is time to stand up and defend the U.S. food industry. The only people who can do that are the people who know the truth, and that is not the news media or some random “consumer on the street.” We all need to defend our colleagues in the food industry who are being wrongly accused. Individuals are powerless against the news media, but the food producing community as a whole is strong. How many of us ran for the shadows when “pink slime” was “exposed?” Don’t expect anyone to come to your aid when a ridiculous story is broadcast on your product. And, believe us, that situation is right around the corner. Do you think you have science on your side? That didn’t help “pink slime” and it won’t help you unless we all (industry and academia) resolve to defend the truth.

It is time for all of us to rise up and put an end to this nonsense. Sarah Palin is not brilliant, but she is not stupid. Al Gore acts a little nutty, but he has a passion for the environment and is trying to get people to take notice. Lean Fine-Textured Beef is not unsafe, deceptive or pet food. I (Cross) approved the use of this product in food when I was Administrator of FSIS because it is safe and an excellent source of nutrients. In this age of sustainability, it would be insane to waste millions of pounds of excellent protein. We need to step up and be the clear-thinking, informed source of information – before it is too late.

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March, 14, 2012 at 05:25 PM

You are correct and I agree with most of you article, but Pink Slime is deceptive and is not beef... it comes from the "scraps" that at other plants are sent to edible rendering. The Slime is made from kidney fat, cartilage and other parts that one would not normally eat or consider edible. Some folks eat cow or pig intestine but if you put it in my hamburger I should have the right to know, this company is so secretive on their process that one can do nothing more then wonder. Either way... I don't want it in my kids school lunch... period!!! Regardless of what you think!

March, 15, 2012 at 01:45 PM

I'm curious. Where do you get this information that so called "pink slime" is from scraps? It is 100% beef. Have you ever been to a facility that processes LFTB?

Wyo  |  March, 14, 2012 at 05:56 PM

Would suggest you stick to food your political commentary leaves a lot to be desired. Almost any free thinking American realizes how biased and inadequate the mainstream media is. One of the real problems with this issue is that Jamie Oliver........a popular foodie......coined the term "pink slime". Without that term this whole story and controversy would have never reached the level it did.

Caribbean  |  March, 14, 2012 at 08:35 PM

The 30% profit, or any profit received from the incorporation of pinkslime into the children's food cannot compensate for the health hazard if any of these company slips up in the treatment of the bi-product, because it cost, and the acceptance of it, will see the increase of LFTB from 15% to 30 %. These companies main aim is PROFIT/MONEY at the cost of our health and existance. Tell us the truth.

March, 14, 2012 at 06:09 PM

You are correct and I agree with most of you article, but Pink Slime is deceptive and is not beef... it comes from the "scraps" that at other plants are sent to edible rendering. The Slime is made from kidney fat, cartilage and other parts that one would not normally eat or consider edible. Some folks eat cow or pig intestine but if you put it in my hamburger I should have the right to know, this company is so secretive on their process that one can do nothing more then wonder. Either way... I don't want it in my kids school lunch... period!!! Regardless of what you think!

March, 16, 2012 at 09:36 AM

If the meat contents were as you say Does that mean that the meat has been detrimental to our health all of these years? Where did you get the information that these meat by products is put into ground beef. sounds like hype to me. Those parts might be in Sausage which is fine if approved by the USDA.

Caribbean  |  March, 14, 2012 at 08:24 PM

I agree that the source of the news salnts the information and we no longer know who has the truth. But, however, nutritious and safe the product is with the LFTB 'pinkslime, we need to exercise our God given right to choice, and choose what we should eat. Therefore, I advocate, include it in the list of ingredients. our way, the future

Oh  |  March, 23, 2012 at 10:34 AM

you want an ingredients list on your meat? okay... IT'S MEAT!

CA  |  March, 14, 2012 at 10:38 PM

The problem is that people don't want to eat ammonia, or meat treated with ammonia. Label the product beef with ammonia, problem solved.

Missouri  |  March, 15, 2012 at 09:54 AM

david, you are eating ammonia on a daily basis and it is definately NOT all the result of addition by a company. Ammonia is a natural substance present in many life-forms. That being said, exactly how would you reduce the bacterial burden found in ALL food sources if you wish to dispense with a naturally-occurring and affordable substance?

NH  |  March, 15, 2012 at 12:07 AM

If pink slime is beef then the grocery store could presumably sell you 100% pink slime as beef, true or false? If it's beef, why would there be a maximum proportion in adding it to beef? 50/50 ok? 70/30? I don't really care about eating it, but I'd like to know what % it makes of the product. If 1 store sells slime free and the other doesn't the prices make the slime burgers look better. That's unfair to the stores and unfair to consumers.

Missouri  |  March, 15, 2012 at 09:50 AM

"Pink Slime" is 100% beef. You are confusing the fat percentage labeling on the package as the amount of LFTB.

ID  |  March, 15, 2012 at 07:44 AM

Buy your beef locally. Find a local quality producer and processer. Your family is worth it and the beef tastes like beef!

West Branch Michigan  |  March, 16, 2012 at 07:41 PM

I agre with you. Also it sounds to me that Cholesterol is being added to the Hamburg. That makes me not want it added to mine. We stopped buying burger from Supermarkets and will only buy it from a local meat store.

Vermont  |  March, 15, 2012 at 09:18 AM

Nelson I agree with you. Buy local and do not put your faith in government entities that should be protecting our well being. They appear to be toothless and if you want to get scared I recommend "Food INC" as further education into this systemic problem. Additionally buy organic for the safety of your family.

Texas  |  March, 15, 2012 at 09:45 AM

Heath, you are part of the ignorance mentioned in this very article. There are more falacies in the first five minutes of "Food INC" than in a month of nightly news reports. Organic is hype, not health! To each his own if you want to purchase organic products, but don't think you are getting a healthier product, because that simply isn't true. In a time with decreasing agricultural land, organic is a step backwards with no hope to produce the food needed to feed this country and especially not the world.

Craig A. Moore    
Billings, MT  |  March, 15, 2012 at 09:29 AM

I wonder how many of these people would be shocked to learn there are a lot of restraunts that rinse their chicken in a chlorine bleach/water bath before cooking. Bath, rinse and into the fajita.

KS  |  March, 15, 2012 at 11:25 AM

LFTB is made from trim that remains after larger cuts are made. It is all USDA inspected 100% safe. I applaud the food industry for coming up with a resourceful way to make an edible and safe food product and not putting it to waste. I have been in one of these plants before and I assure you, they are focused on customer safety. LFTB is nothing new to the market, and the process is not being hidden.

March, 16, 2012 at 05:26 AM

Pink Slime is to beef what McNuggests are to Chicken. Certainly not quality muscle fiber. It is the otherwise discarded renderings AFTER all the quality lean meat has been removed. McNuggets are "mechanically recovered skin and gristle, reprocessed into patties". No real lean chicken meat involved. If you like McNuggets, you'll love pink slime.

March, 16, 2012 at 08:28 AM

Seriously? McNuggets? That's your conspiracy? McNuggets are good! If sewer rat tasted like pumpkin pie, I'd be rat hunting on a daily basis. If you don't like McNuggets, that's your call. But you are in the minority.

Okanogan WA  |  March, 16, 2012 at 06:51 AM

I’m not going to comment on the pink slime, because I haven’t followed it that closely. Reason being, I won’t buy commercial beef. What I am going to comment on is your statement, “It is time to stand up and defend the U.S. food industry. ” Why? The multinational corporations in cahoots with the NCBA and the USDA (collusion) have betrayed the American people. They’re only interested in putting cattlemen in America out of business and importing beef from out of the country. As for me and my house, until they label beef, COOL, with something more than a multi-country label, I will continue to refuse to buy beef from restaurants, grocery stores, etc., and continue to buy my beef locally. If the day arrives where there is no more cattlemen left in the U.S. (which is where we’re headed if the NCBA, USDA, and multinationals have their way) then I will stop eating beef entirely. I’m suppose to trust the U.S. food industry – what a laugh! Not as long as they are in collusion with the USDA and NCBA along with the multinationals and packers to destroy U.S. cattlemen with a goal of outsourcing our food production just like all the rest of our industry in this country.

Fresno, CA  |  March, 16, 2012 at 07:39 AM

Re: the media hijacking the truth, I ask this: If the liberal media's revenue stream from George Soros could be frozen, would the liberal media change their outlook on "the course of human events?"

Vic Torius    
March, 16, 2012 at 07:51 AM

What is next," Soylent Green." If the meat industry and food processors are not trying to scam the public, they need to have a third party film and document the entire process for making the "pink Slime" , then label it as something other than regular beef. I eat potted meat and bologna and spam but, all of those have a list of the ingredients, granted it may be misleading or false but, at least the potted meat is not being sold as " Caviar" or "livers of a fatted goose",. The food industry not the government can be trusted, that is why we have criminal courts and trials, because, people are basicaaly dishonest when it comes to making money.

Oh  |  March, 23, 2012 at 10:40 AM

okay... how about they call it "Lean Fine-Textured Beef". that to me sounds a lot better than pink slime. oh wait.. the industry never called it pink slime. the moral panickers called it pink slime in order to make it sound disgusting.

Wanda Z    
Arkansas  |  March, 16, 2012 at 08:23 AM

I saw the processing of pink slime. I have no complaint until the very end where water and ammonia are added to kill harmful pathogens such as ecoli. I'm sorry...I don't want ammonia in my food. How can it have health benefits, other than as filler, if it has been bombarded with ammonia?

March, 16, 2012 at 08:32 AM

Wanda Z    
Arkansas  |  March, 16, 2012 at 08:34 AM

It is the bits and pieces of pink muscle and such that get cut away with the fat trimmings. It is put in a centrifuge and the fat is extracted. It is then washed in a mixture of water and ammonia. The ammonia is to kill all the little bugs that send us to the hospital or have us camping out in the bathroom for a day or so. The ammonia has to leave it practically useless as a nutrient. So, at best, it is a filler. Hardly what growing bodies need to keep them healthy.

John Williams    
Corona , CA  |  March, 16, 2012 at 08:54 AM

You are correct ! Perception is reality and lives as well as companies are being damaged . ABC , CBS , NBC etc. have become sensation peddlers . FOX at least makes an effort to be " fair and balanced " and that is why I watch it . The three " big ones " are shamelessly biased in reporting the news , and their bias is even injected into their shows like 20/20. I'm sick and tired of the whole lot ; except Fox News .

KC  |  March, 16, 2012 at 11:39 AM

John: FIX News? Fair and Balanced? Keep drinking the Kool-Aid.

March, 16, 2012 at 09:05 AM

So what are the "facts"? Are you going to present them? Those of us out there with half a brain, get that the news media is slanted either left or right or that there is definitely an agenda. The news media is owned by only 6 major corporations, who are all in bed with the government and have come to love that nice cozy relationship. What about the nice cozy relationship the beef industry has with the government? I for one am tired of getting substandard beef when all the good stuff, which you admitted in another article, is being shipped out of the country to Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, etc., because they're willing to pay the high prices. Yet American consumers are stuck with paying high prices for the substandard, not even choice rated beef in the grocery stores, some of which comes from Mexico. If I want good beef, I have to buy it locally, and pay high premium for it. So on a budget, I either decide I don't need beef, or cut something else out of my food budget. Whether the pink slime story is truth or not, our beef basically "sucks" compared to what it used to be 30 years ago. I'm old enough to remember. And things have changed greatly. You guys need to stop taking government subsidies and get the government out of farming, period! Or are you merely interested in the money (no matter where it comes from) and not the American people? I understand that beef is a commodity. The price goes up and it goes down depending of supply and demand. However, when the futures investors get in between, the prices can really skyrocket, and the consumer suffers. So what are the facts? What ARE you doing in the food industry that is actually beneficial to the American consumer? I'd really like to know.

Florida  |  March, 16, 2012 at 09:18 AM

I think you used Sarah Palin to attract people to read your article. Sarah is gifted; intelligent; and, accomplished. Al Gore is dishonest & not just "a little nutty." He lead the fabrication of a supposed danger that is at the root of much of the disaster to our economy. From your political commentary, I learn that I should place a vote of no confidence in your science opinion.

Aunt Jane    
Georgia  |  March, 16, 2012 at 09:41 AM

You eat it! I'd rather not. I buy from a local store that I trust to sell me quality products. I wouldn't panic over it but... NO THANKS. And I quit McNuggets awhile back!

March, 16, 2012 at 10:13 AM

But Al Gore IS a wing-nut! A wing-nut who probably doesn't truly believe his own pseudo-science as he's laughing all the way to the bank!

MI  |  March, 16, 2012 at 10:18 AM

I had to chuckle when I read it because this article was just as slanted as all the rest. If we should stand up for any food industry it should be local food producers not factory farms which produce unhealthy animals and food. Also, I believe the average "consumer on the street" is becoming more aware of what "real" food is and what it is not and is not as ignorant as the author of this article maintains. Saying something is 100% beef is rather misleading. Cow eyeballs and lips can also be called 100% beef but most people don't consider them food for their dinner table. And last I heard, it was the whistle blower from the agency who had coined the term "pink slime". And yes, this was originally stuff that was used for pet foods. If the "food industry" wants to utilize deceptive terms and/or disregard health for profit then they shouldn't be surprised when people stop buying their stuff. I am all for the free market chooseing what should or shouldn't be viable when it comes to business. It has an uncanny ability to sift out garbage and put it where it belongs...which is NOT in my food thank you very much.

Pottsboro Texas  |  March, 16, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Pink Slime is to Beef like Obama was born a United States citizen.

Scottsdale, AZ  |  March, 16, 2012 at 11:03 AM

It seems to me that if the scraps used to make "pink slime" require washing in an ammonia hydroxide rinse to kill pathogens in order to make it safe for consumption; it is not ideal for consumption by me, my cats, or dog. I don't buy into the theory that it's safe to consume any amount of ammonia hydroxide, or its residue, and believe that if it was such an innocuous thing, then this information would have been brought to light many years ago.

Missouri  |  March, 16, 2012 at 11:20 AM

Jenny and Llyann, sorry for the delay in response Llyann but there is a limit on the number of responses or time between. Anyway, here are some helpful links. I did not want to go into the esoteric perambulation on ammonia production inhumans (and other animals) but did find some sites with the chemical pathways illustrated: Last but not going to be your favorite: Ammonia is created during nitrification in the soil as well. Farming utilizes anhydrous ammonia for a nitrogen source. In large quantities or used as a weapon in gaseous form, ammonia can indeed be deleterious. Will not contest that point. However, as a means to lesson bacterial load in foods, the amounts have minimal possibility in compromising one's health.

Canada  |  March, 16, 2012 at 11:11 AM

You pose the question about Obama being a socialist as though it is media propaganda. I don't need the media to tell me that, all I need to do is look at his policies and the people he spends him time with. The Mao Christmas Tree ball didn't hurt either.

Washington State  |  March, 16, 2012 at 11:14 AM

Pink Slime is processed to make dog food filler, shouldn't be passed on for human consumption. This is smart for using the beef leftovers for dog food, but we as humans are putting our health, our well-being & immune systems in jeapordy when exposed (consume) to any kind of processed foods. Yes, I understand that chemicals, like ammonia, have been around for years (in our household cleaning products & many used to process our foods) but...the long-term consumption is deadly. Why is America NOT the healthiest Nation in the world & obesity, diabetes, heart failure becoming a bigger threat in our health. Too much processed foods. Don't take my word...visit

Phil Hood    
San Jose, CA  |  March, 16, 2012 at 11:21 AM

I'm with you on supporting the food service industry. However, as an experiment I've only watched Fox News during this election cycle. I have to say, "Sarah Palin has nothing to say." The quality of her commentary is close to zero. In fact, she proves your point, for if she wasn't Sarah Palin Fox wouldn't let her comment on these primaries or anything else.

Calif.  |  March, 16, 2012 at 12:15 PM

The answer is simple; anyone that doesn't want LFTB can always buy "organic", or a whole chicken, or ? If you are just "waking up" to food being processed to make it economical, you must have been in a cave for many years. Even kids know this! Political comment: you are not being forced to buy this product (like Obamacare). There are more things to be "outraged" over. Don't fall for the liberal media "rope-a-dope" to change the discourse of the REAL problems in the USA!

Batavia  |  March, 16, 2012 at 10:25 PM

Your answer is incorrect. If anyone does not want to eat punk slime, buying "organic" is not the answer. "Organic" is only a paperwork sham to get fools to pay more for the same food of the same or lesser quality. As long as the cow the pink slime comes from is "organic", then the pink slim will be "organic". "Organic" is not a measure of quality, but instead is a measure of the paperwork being completed properly so that something can be called "organic". So enjoy your "organic" pink slime. lol

David Chamberlain    
oregon  |  March, 16, 2012 at 06:57 PM

You can eat all the pink slime you desire. I will buy the steak and have it ground. Sarah Palin is not extremely brilliant but I would rater have her than the socialist, white hater that is in the White House. Al Gore is a hypocrite. Are you aware of the house he lives in? Bush built an enviromentally sound house in Texas. Anyone give him credit for same? Have you lost your marbles?

Robert Walker    
Las Vegas, Nevada  |  March, 16, 2012 at 11:24 PM

McDonald's Corporation was at one time, the largest buyer of cow hides in the world. 100% beef. I used to love beef. We raised our own on the farm, along with our own pork and chicken. The hamburger in the meat department does not look like the hamburger we made with a hand turned meat grinder in my Grandfather's shed. Nor does it taste the same. Peace, Robert Walker

FL  |  March, 17, 2012 at 01:54 AM

One word: ammonia. I have never used ammonia to clean my meat. It doesn't matter if it's a gallon or a millionth of a gallon. Don't put ammonia in my meat. The co-author is defensive because he approved this garbage. That makes him garbage. Anyone who would put their name on this articles is likewise garbage.

PA  |  March, 17, 2012 at 12:29 PM

One of the least illuminating articles, I have ever read. Perspective is reality. Thanks for having ghe courage to put your name to this piece, it will save me time in the future. BTW AlGore is an idiot!

USA  |  March, 18, 2012 at 12:13 PM

Disclosure in food ingredients is all I ask for, if I am to eat lips and rectums as a part of my meal I want to know about it. Aged beef is one of the safer beef alternatives, irradiation is another.

MN  |  March, 18, 2012 at 02:33 PM

All I know is that the hamburger that I buy in the store doesn't taste near as good as hamburger that is made at the local locker. I quit buying hamburger at the grocery store several years ago. I grew up on a small farm and we raise hogs, chickens and beef, while we butchered our own chickens, the hogs and beef were taken to the locker. None of the meat that is available in the store even comes close to the meat we ate that was processed locally and the way we wanted it. We never allowed organ meat to be ground into burger or sausage, we would request that it be packaged separately and the dog loved it.

Sterling, Alaska  |  March, 18, 2012 at 08:44 PM

All this talk of 'pink slime' made me hungry for a hot dog! I think I'll make one for the dog too!

Texas  |  March, 19, 2012 at 09:25 AM

The food industry has deceived us for years. Not only is the meat used in "pink slime" a by-product, chemicals are used to clean it. It is not labeled and that in itself is enough to sound off the alarm. Why was it such a secret to the consumer for so long?

Jay Truitt    
DC  |  March, 19, 2012 at 10:37 AM

First, thank you Gary for the comments. Secondly, the simple fact that science had NO part in the decisions by USDA should ring an alarm bell for the industry. We started down this road by considering 'abundance of caution' and 'safe' as the same idea in public policy years ago—a bad idea then and a bad idea now. Then too, we failed to get the government (then the Bush administration) to land solidly and squarely on science based fact in exchange for our ability to gain market share and export back in the short term. Was it the right decision? Clearly that depends on if you benefited from the export of animals to Japan over the past several years (and yes if you’re in the industry you benefited--the only question might be how much) but I fear we have now trained a generation of decision makers to respond without first asking the important questions... Is this Safe? Is it Wholesome? Is it Nutritious? Heck, if the opponents of this product were to watch cottage cheese being made they might have to hungry all together. The fact is the product is, was and will be safe. The sad truth now is that the shrink in our industry just went up. Just like exports, it will affect everyone directly or indirectly. Schools will pay more for product, food prices will be pressed in the wrong direction and innovation will be stifled. Nothing last week made the food supply safer, we just made it more expensive.

We Want REAL BEEF    
USA  |  March, 23, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Shame on pseudo Corporate Cowboys & Cattlemen for SELLING OUT to mega crap food processors. For you gen-x ropers, you know your grand daddies wouldn't have eaten cow guts on the range, why feed chemically treateed BUTCHER FLOOR SCRAPS to average Americans? YOU guys should be the ones outraged first. We slickers know you and farmers secretly (or not so secretly) hate each other, but you're both giving into Big Agra who pollutes your fields, plays god with genes, and poisons our food. All for a buck. Shame.

Kansas  |  March, 26, 2012 at 09:07 PM

Hey, "we want real beef," your pre-prgrammed prejudice and pseudo intellect are showing. You're thoughts seem ot be straight out of the ABC News play book.

South Sioux City, NE  |  March, 27, 2012 at 01:08 PM

Please visit educate yourself and others.

Ssc me  |  March, 27, 2012 at 01:10 PM educate save a family from hardship.

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