by Melissa Ida
As you may have noticed in the news lately, more and more of us these days find ourselves asking the question “Where’s the beef?” The straight-forward answer to this question is that there is little to no beef anymore — at least, not in our big business American markets.
In the recent media, ABC News revealed that 70% of all beef products found at the supermarket contain a filler ingredient commonly known as “pink slime.” First coined by former USDA scientist Gerald Zirnstein, pink slime is a cheap meat filler substitute scientifically known as lean finely textured beef, or LFTB. It consists of meat trimmings which have been treated with ammonia gas. The process of making pink slime is rather simple, although scary. Beef is first heated at low temperatures to separate fat from muscle. This fat, or meat trimmings, is then spun in a centrifuge to finish the separation. Once separated, the meat trimmings are sent through a series of ammonia-spraying pipes and flash-frozen into bricks and distributed to meat packers and supermarkets, where it is then added to most ground beef. In addition to pink slime, there exists a lesser known, but just as controversial ingredient in most meat, poultry, and seafood products in American markets.
“Meat glue,” a man-made adhesive used to “glue” meat scraps together and fashion a regular cut of meat or product, is a commonly occurring ingredient in the processing of beef, pork, lamb, fish, and chicken products. Technically known at transglutaminase, meat glue is a powdered enzyme derived from pork and beef blood plasma. It creates solid pieces of meat by way of gluing and refrigeration. As a finished product, it is hard to discern any difference between cuts of meat infused with meat glue and natural cuts with genuine fat. When using meat glue in its powdered form, a surgical mask must be worn, as the substance can trigger blood clots. In Europe, meat glue has already been banned, since food poisoning can result in meats that have been treated with meat glue and have not been properly cooked. This incident is more likely to occur because pieces of cut meat have been relocated from their original positions, causing exterior surfaces which were already exposed to air-prone bacteria to become interior ones, thus requiring higher temperatures to kill off potentially harmful bacteria than those of naturally occurring interior surfaces. If this trend continues to escalate, it is only a matter of time before it becomes abolished from our markets like pink slime. Until then, we must decide how to go about buying our own meats.
Buying meat that has been shipped over sea or from several states is not the way to go. As it has been witnessed, the further our meat comes from the less we know about it. Therefore, it cannot be reiterated enough that buying local is buying best. So go out and support your local farmers, businesses, and vendors. In doing so, you’ll rest assured knowing where the beef is.