The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

You can help by becoming a follower. I'd really like to know who you are and what your thoughts are on what I'm doing. Every great leader needs followers and if I am ever to achieve my goal of becoming the next great leader of the Italian culinary world :-) I need followers!

Grazie mille!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Schools Take "Pink Slime" to the Woodshed (Updated)

Well, well. It turns out America's public schools can be educated places after all. In a move that speaks well for the future, American schools overwhelmingly rejected LFTB – or “pink slime” as most prefer to call it – as an ingredient in their school lunch programs. Given a choice – something that was never offered before – school systems in all but three states said they weren't going to feed dog food to their children anymore. The USDA estimates that about 20 million pounds of filler-free beef has been sold to schools while only about a million pounds of the “slimed” product will make its way into school cafeterias. Those cafeterias, by the way, are located in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. South Dakota, of course, is the home of “slime” producer Beef Products, Inc. (BPI).

Oh, pity poor BPI! We media meanies have distorted the truth and caused them so much damage that they've had to close down plants and lay off 650 people. All those people out of work! All those innocent families devastated by the likes of me and ABC News and Jamie Oliver and Bettina Siegel, the blogger who launched an anti-slime petition that garnered a quarter-million signatures. I'm trying to feel the guilt. I really am. But I'm just not feeling it. Maybe because I think it's just another attempt by BPI and others to emotionalize the issue. Another ring in the circus they've created to try to justify the existence of their product.

The center ring was the one in which they gathered all the clowns.......I mean, governors.......from the beef-producing states and took them on a sanitized tour of their facilities, a tour which culminated in the spectacle of all the guests chowing down on slimeburgers. Of course, when members of the media asked pointed questions or attempted to gain access to company execs not on the approved performance roster, they were given the bum's rush.

And the company's “beefisbeef” website is another masterful piece of obfuscation that doesn't really answer any questions and somehow manages to make you feel guilty for even asking them. “Beef is beef,” say the slime producers. “Sugar is sugar,” say the high fructose corn syrup pushers. Do you see a theme here?

The fact is I really don't care whether or not their product is “safe.” It probably is. People eat cow tongues all the time. Why not grind up the other end of the alimentary canal and make burgers out of it? Years ago, Jay Leno featured a grocery store ad in his “Headlines” segment. Through an unfortunate elimination of the letter “g”, the ad touted the sale of “Black Anus Beef.” Who knows? Maybe it was actually an early advertisement for LFTB.

No, my problem with “pink slime” is that it has been added to our food supply without our knowledge or permission. I don't care how “healthy” it is. I don't care how “natural” it is. I don't care if it's “approved” by the USDA. It wasn't approved by me, dammit, and that's where I take issue. If you're going to grind up the eastern extreme of a westbound steer and slip it into my burger so you can save a few pennies, fine. Wonderful! Just tell me about it so I can decide if I want it on the menu. Is that so difficult? My dogs have been eating LFTB for decades and none of them have dropped dead from it, so it's probably safe. But what gives you the right to serve me an Alpo-burger without telling me about it?

I don't like additives in my food. I don't like high fructose corn syrup, I avoid mono-sodium glutamate, I eschew any of those chemical concoctions that most people can't even pronounce. And I don't want “pink slime.” Period.

After I wrote this, a couple of people took me to task for a lack of objectivity and a lack of research and a lack of understanding, etc. Okay. Read my profile again. "I'm entitled to my opinion -- and so are you." And then read the first sentence of the previous paragraph. "I don't like additives in my food." I'm not particularly trying to be objective. I don't like additives and LFTB is an additive. If they prepackaged LFTB and sold it at the meat counter, then I could decide whether or not I wanted to buy it and mix it in with my ground beef. But they don't. Somebody else makes that decision for me and they do it without informing me. At the risk of being both unobjective and redundant, I don't care if it's safe. I don't want things in my food that I don't put there. In the case of things I can't avoid, I do my best best to limit my exposure. When I can avoid additives, preservatives, and fillers, I do.

You want research? Here you go. Canada does not allow LFTB because it does not allow the use of ammonia in food. Under Chapter 4.3.3 of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency "Manual of Procedures," they do allow FTM (Finely Textured Meat) in the preparation of ground meat or identified as ground meat when:
  • it has a minimum protein content of 14%; and
  • bones emerging from separation equipment must be essentially intact and recognizable to assure that the bones are not being crushed, ground or pulverized; and
  • it complies with the standards set out within Schedule I of the Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990. The term "regular", "medium", "lean" or "extra lean" must be used as appropriate in order to indicate the maximum fat content (i.e. 30%, 23%, 17% or 10% respectively).
LFTB doesn't meet requirements for sale in the UK and the European Union has banned it outright.

Oh, and while we're being objective, here's an objective comment from an editorial in the Sioux City Journal, an objective source if ever I've seen one: "Aided and abetted by a cowardly backtrack by the United States Department of Agriculture in giving schools the option of avoiding LFTB in their cafeterias, this vicious attack has been loudly promulgated by a disenchanted former government worker, a mommy blogger, a handful of duped national media figures and thousands of wannabe activists."

So the USDA is being "cowardly" for offering American citizens a choice?

Just call me a "wannabe activist."


  1. Ron, This is the first time I found your blog. I love your BIO! I laughed out loud reading it. I do have to disagree with your post, however I do find it entertaining! I am pro-lftb, probably because I have worked with LFTB for almost 10 yrs now and know the facts about it. But, in today's day and age the facts aren't really as interesting as a great food scare so of course no one is going to hear the truth. The problem is, no matter how hard companies try to "conform" to what the public wants/demands, it simply doesn't matter. People forget 1 small detail, "practice what you preach." You will see in this link, that just doesn't happen. By the way is a great factual site. LFTB is 100% USDA inspected beef. No bones, no organs, no tendons, no additives, no anus, and no fillers. Just 95% lean beef. Another great fact for you. It's not pet food. You can feed your dog filet mignon if you want, but please leave my option to eat LFTB alone.

  2. I totally agree with you and am disgusted at how they feed our children at school cafeterias...
    I spent most of my life in Sardinia, where I buy my fruit and veggies from the people that grow them and food is so good.
    The thing that I miss most in the States is food that tastes good!!! So I try to grow my own and cook at home most of the time.
    It's not easy but I try.