Daily Archives: 04/10/2012

Why You Should Learn to Love Pink Slime

So Pink Slime seems destined to go down in one way or another.  We’ll stop using it in many place, or use less at least for a time.  As discussed below though there really isn’t much of a demonstrated health or nutrition issue with using Pink Slime.  Instead maybe it’s a way to show we care.

Another reason I think is that as urban society, most of us don’t really have much exposure to chain that puts food on our table.  How many people out of a hundred have seen an animal slaughtered, or could picture where that piece of meat on their plate actually came from?  Not many.

I grew up on a farm and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a complete butchering, but I ‘d like to think I know my burger had a mom.

I think most people don’t want to know so much about where their food came from.  When they find out so much as they know about Pink slime they don’t like it.

Adam Ozimek — blogger at Modeled Behavior and associate at Econsult Corporation

There have been a lot of complaints and outrage lately over the beef product known as “pink slime.” Officially called Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB), these are beef additives made from processed trimmings of beef leftover from other cuts. It’s worth considering some of the economic issues involved in pink slime.

Many seem to have the impression from the complaints that there is something unsafe or unhealthy LFTB. For instance, the following comes from the Change.org petition asking the USDA to ban pink slime from schools:

Two former government microbiologists claim that, for political reasons, pink slime was approved for human consumption by USDA over serious safety concerns…

Even apart from safety concerns, it is simply wrong to feed our children connective tissues and beef scraps that were, in the past, destined for use in pet food and rendering and were not considered fit for human consumption.

Despite these complaints about safety and whether the meat is “fit for consumption,” if you read the pink slime critics who are knowledgeable of such things, you’ll see that these claims are false. For instance, Marion Nestle reports that it “is not really slimy and it is reasonably safe and nutritious”. If safety and nutrition aren’t a problem, then why shouldn’t we eat it? …

If people’s desire to regulate pink slime isn’t about health, safety, or even taste, then what is it about? Robin would probably suggest that it is about signaling. Pink slime is seen as low status, and even though consuming it is not bad for our selves or our children, we would ban it to show that we care. This Hansonion hypothesis is borne out pretty clearly by a lot of pink slime complaints. Nestle herself makes it about as clear as possible that signaling is why she is critical of pink slime:

Even if LFTB is safe, nutritious, and tastes like hamburger, it may not be culturally acceptable. Do we want LFTB in our food? Or do we and our children deserve better? Serving healthy and delicious food is a way to show respect for our culture, food, children, and schools, and to invest in the future of our nation.

Our children deserve “better”, but better in what way? Apparently not safety, nutrition, or taste. Many people aren’t opposing pink slime because it’s bad for us, but because doing so shows that we care.

… a lot of the decline in the demand for pink slime will be offset by an increase in demand for normal ground beef, which will mean more cows will be slaughtered.

So will the number of cows produced and slaughtered increase or decrease? In the end, the cattle industry reports that this filler saves about 10 to 12 pounds of edible meat from every cow, and this is the equivalent of 1.5 million heads of cattle. Despite the lower revenues from each cow discussed above, the demand shift effect will likely outweigh the lower profit effect so that the net impact will be a significant increase in the number of cattle that will be raised and slaughtered every year.

You are probably wondering why we should even care how many cows are produced? After all, if a cow ever got the chance, he’d eat you and everyone you care about. But in his forthcoming book, An Economist Gets Lunch, Tyler Cowen argues that less cows are a good thing given the polluting methane that they produce (cow farts). So we should worry about the negative environmental externalities that this increased production of cows lead to.

Email this Article Add to digg Add to Reddit Add to Twitter Add to del.icio.us Add to StumbleUpon Add to Facebook

Why You Should Learn to Love Pink Slime
Megan McArdle
Thu, 05 Apr 2012 17:00:00 GMT