Last updated on 2013.07.09
I love it when a guy named Bones tells me to eat the assorted remnants of cattle. South Dakota Ag Secretary Walt Bones has added his voice to the cries of South Dakota officialdom urging Americans to keep eating the recycled livestock leavings, also known as "pink slime" or "lean finely textured beef."
The State of South Dakota has also used our tax dollars to promote Eldon and Regina Roth's commercial product with this official fact sheet, which says pink slime progenitor Beef Products Inc. has never made anyone sick. This official South Dakota fact sheet/advertisement also suggests that the intense reprocessing of livestock leavings at BPI may indeed prevent the need to crowd thousands more water-guzzling, corn-demanding, richly pooping cattle into industrial feedlots.
I will grant that fretting over the actual chemical and tissue content of the many of the things we eat is a sure route to indigestion, if not starvation. I still like a good hot dog, and I will dwell in happy ignorance of the horrors that lead from "Oink!" to "Pass the ketchup!"
The South Dakota fact sheet gets the attention of the University of Michigan's Risk Science Blog, which focuses on the dreaded ammonia content of pink slime beef. UM's Andrew Maynard digs up a 1973 nutrition paper that lists the ammonia content of a whole bunch of common foods. The results—hold your nose:
By the 1973 numbers, unless your diet consists entirely of bananas, cereal, celery, and grits, you're eating ammonia. Modern pink slime beef has about double the ammonia content of 1973 ground beef, but onions, mayo, ketchup, and lots of cheeses still out-ammonia BPI's recaptured beef waste.
If you really think about it, everything you eat is just a few chews away from becoming barf and poop (yeah, enjoy your breakfast). Astronauts drink recycled urine, and soon, if we keep pouring our water into fracking, so will we. If you want to critique pink slime as gross, you have to do more than shout, "Oh my God! Ammonia!" You need to prepare a much more thorough critique of industrial agribusiness. So pass the ammonia ketchup and mayo... and that old copy of The Unsettling of America.