With the makers of boneless lean beef trimmings – pejoratively tarred as “pink slime”— suspending operations at three of their four plants, the activists’ whirlwind campaign against hamburger meat may soon finish. The probable result of all the hoopla will be more cows raised for slaughter; by one estimate, 1.5 million more.
Of course, the principal objection to the recovered beef, which is essentially scraps that might otherwise be wasted, is that it is “the lowest common denominator.” And while nobody is calling ground beef the pinnacle of culinary achievement, perhaps grossness isn’t the right measure by which to judge safe foods. For instance, gelatin snacks are made from ground up animal bones, yet kids always seem to have room for them. Or should these also be removed from the cafeteria?
Indeed, one of the cheerleaders of this latest scare, Mark Bittman, once touted a cookbook called (in French) Yuck! It’s Good: Delicious Cuisine from Repulsive Foods. Haven’t heard of it? The book was written by a French chef who prides himself on making traditional foods from otherwise refused foods, including less commonly eaten meats. Based on the article, Bittman himself appears fond of cow’s tongue, hardly an everyday food free of “yuck factor.”
So what’s the difference between a “real butcher” and a beef processing company? Both use whatever meats they can get off the cow without compromising food safety. The butcher surely sells his “artisan” products for more money, enabling food snobs to smirk over their acquired tastes for ox tongue and blood sausage. The company uses machines to pick the cow clean of meats that even the most precise butcher can’t get, and then uses a technique to make the trimmings healthier by decreasing the amount of fat.
Apparently one of these things is good, and one is so bad hundreds of workers must lose their jobs and a million more cows must die. The foodie world expects no less.