Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Sad Saga Of 'Pink Slime' - You Can't Fix Stupid

 In his famous 1859 work On Liberty, Utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill was emphatic in his support of free speech, so long as it did not cause harm to another person. As you might expect, people have debated the meaning of "harm" in this context ever since.

While so-called Yellow Journalism—as popularized by media barons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer—has been blamed for such things as our entry into the Spanish-American War and the assassination of President William McKinley, there is no shortage of unassailable examples of irresponsible reporting causing real harm to real people.

One of the best-remembered examples is the notorious 1921 case of silent movie star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and alleged rape and homicide victim Virginia Rappé. As many are unaware even today, Arbuckle was completely innocent of the charges against him, and had to suffer through three trials at the hands of San Francisco District Attorney Matthew Brady, who knew quite well that his key witness was lying. It was at the third trial that Arbuckle was actually proclaimed innocent by the jury.

Indeed, Judge Sylvain J. Lazarus was tempted to drop all charges from the first, and probably would have done so, but for the outrageously mendacious and sensationalistic coverage of the story by Hearst's San Francisco Examiner, that whipped up public hysteria and facilitated the fraudulent prosecution. Hearst would brag later that he had sold more newspapers on the Arbuckle case than on the sinking of the Lusitania.

In fact, Rappé was not raped or murdered at all. She died of a ruptured bladder (not related to an external source) with signs of acute peritonitis. Arbuckle's career would never recover—much less his health. His cause was defended by fellow comic Buster Keaton, while actor William S. Hart—who had never worked with Arbuckle—jumped on the bandwagon and made statements against him.

Surely, 91 years after the Arbuckle affair, the American public is far too sophisticated to fall for such gross misrepresentation by the media, right? Wrong. If anything, the public is more clueless now than in 1921, if you consider the present day's ease of access to unlimited information on virtually any topic, and how this should make a big difference in its understanding of current events—but doesn't.

Case in point: The Pink Slime affair.

"Pink Slime" is the not-so-complimentary term given to what the beef industry calls lean, finely textured beef. This product is made from trimmings left over after carcasses are cut into steaks or roasts. A centrifuge separates the lean beef from the fat, creating a fabricated product that is more than 95 percent lean. The meat is treated with a mist of ammonium hydroxide (long approved for such use by the FDA), to prevent or eliminate bacteria.

The textured beef process has been approved by the FDA since the early 1990s and raised little controversy until a few weeks ago, when the social media went viral over its depiction as "pink slime," by ABC News and food activist Jamie Oliver. As it happens, the images Oliver used on his "reality" TV show were not of the beef product in question. Rather, they were of a chicken product, but who cares if the real "reality" here is to simply boost ratings?

Based on this media hysteria, plants have already been closed, and hundreds of jobs have been eliminated. Listen to Russell Cross, head of the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, and a former administrator of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service:
Although there are some who call for labeling this safe and nutritious food product, the fact is, the USDA recognizes that this product is what it is: 100% beef. There is no need for labeling LFTB—because nothing is being added that is not beef.

What the public needs to know is that because of this situation, about 13 pounds of quality beef per animal now will be wasted. We'd need to raise an additional 1.5 million cattle each year to make up for this loss. The price of the raw material for ground beef has increased more than 15% in the past few weeks. Guess who will get to pay for the increase? The consumer.



Anonymous said...

Now we have "Meat Glue"

Meat Glue: The New Pink Slime
Miami New Times (blog) - 1 hour ago


Anonymous said...

Well, it's all protein.

One man's mechanically recovered meat is another man's brawn. Boiled pigs head, ears cheeks, tongue and brains, anyone? But americans won't even eat liver.