"Pink Slime" and "red meat" controversies heat up

Gerald Zirnstein, a former USDA scientist, told ABC News that 70 percent of ground beef sold at supermarkets contains filler called "pink slime," a phrase that he coined while working at USDA, reports Supermarket News.

Consisting of salvage trimmings of beef that are sprayed with ammonia to kill bacteria (to make it safe), the filler is simmered at low heat and then spun in a centrifuge to separate out excess fat.

The beef industry describes the result as "lean finely textured beef" or "boneless lean beef trimmings," and the USDA does not require its listing as an ingredient on ground beef labels. However, consumer attention to the additive is growing. Bowing to consumer pressure, McDonald's announced in January that it would discontinue the use of the additive.

American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle said in a statement that boneless lean beef trimmings are safe, and the process using food grade ammonium hydroxide gas obeys federal rules. "Some recent media reports created a troubling and inaccurate picture, particularly in their use of the colloquial term 'pink slime.'  The fact is, BLBT is beef.  The beef trimmings that are used to make BLBT are absolutely edible," Boyle said. "In fact, no process can somehow make an inedible meat edible; it's impossible.  In reality, the BLBT production process simply removes fat and makes the remaining beef more lean and suited to a variety of beef products that satisfy consumers' desire for leaner foods."
 
If that wasn't enough abuse, there is a new research study by the Harvard School of Public Health that suggests eating any red meat increases the likelihood of premature death. Over 120,000 physicians and nurses were surveyed, and those who ate the most red meat were more likely to die over the 20-year course of the study. Adding just one 3-ounce serving of unprocessed red meat -- a piece of steak no bigger than a deck of cards -- to one's daily diet was associated with a 13 percent greater chance of dying during the course of the study.
 
Getting to the meat of the matter, studies like these make me ask the question, 'What else did these people have in common (other than particularly stressful occupations) and what other commonalities were there in their food consumption?' Since those questions haven't been answered to my satisfaction (it's a survey rather than a scientific study), I will continue to enjoy red meat.