Currently browsing posts about: Beef

Dec 18 2013

American Meat Institute defines Fine, Lightly Textured Beef (a.k.a. “pink slime”)

Yesterday, the American Meat Institute sent out an advisory to the news media with a helpful glossary of terms to “use and avoid in coverage of lean finely textured beef” (LFTB).

Lean finely textured beef (LFTB)?  Recall the pejorative: “pink slime?”

Academic that I am, I love precise meanings.

The AMI says these terms are proper to use:

Lean Finely Textured Beef: This product is produced by Beef Products,  Inc.  More detail is available at www.beefisbeef.com.

Finely Textured Beef: This product is produced by Cargill.  More detail is available at www.groundbeefanswers.com.

Beef: Both LFTB and FTB are defined as beef by USDA.

Product: Just as a steak or roast are considered a product of a company, LFTB and FTB are products of BPI and Cargill respectively.

But AMI says, you should never use this term:

Pink Slime: While this term has been commonly used to describe LFTB, there is nothing slimy about it.  The negative connotation of the phrase “pink slime” shows bias and is inappropriate to describe a wholesome, safe, nutritious and USDA inspected beef product.

You also are not supposed to use the terms Filler, Binder, Extender, or Additive.

Aren’t you happy to have this clarified?

Jul 26 2012

USDA supports Meatless Monday? Not a chance.

I was asked by a reporter yesterday for comment on the press release issued by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in response to USDA’s announced support of the Meatless Monday campaign.  

What? 

My immediate reaction: It’s pretty unbelievable that USDA would support Meatless Monday. Where’s the USDA statement? [see addition below]

The NCBA press release said:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent announcement that the agency embraces the “Meatless Monday” concept calls into question USDA’s commitment to U.S. farmers and ranchers. USDA stated “one simple way to reduce our environmental impact while dining at our cafeteria is to participate in the “Meatless Monday” initiative.”

NCBA said Meatless Monday “is an animal rights extremist campaign to ultimately end meat consumption” and “NCBA will not remain silent as USDA turns its back on cattlemen and consumers.”

Without having seen what USDA said, I told the reporter:

If USDA is really supporting Meatless Monday, that’s big news. Historically, the USDA has worked hand in glove with the meat industry and has firmly resisted suggestions that it would be healthier for people and the planet to eat less meat.

The meat industry complained that the 2010 dietary guidelines pushed seafood and that meat got lost in protein in MyPlate, so they are supersensitive to this issue. Anyone who has ever been to a feedlot or industrial pig farm knows that the environmental issues are huge. You can smell them from miles away.

And what did the USDA actually say?  Oops.  Mistake.

According to the Boston Globe:

The Agriculture Department says a statement on its website encouraging its employees not to eat meat on Mondays was made without proper clearance.

The posting earlier this week was part of an internal newsletter that discusses how staff can reduce their environmental impact while dining at the agency’s cafeteria.

….USDA spokeswoman Cortney Rowe says the department does not endorse the “Meatless Monday” initiative, which is part of a global public health campaign.

Apparently, the USDA pulled the statement within minutes after the NCBA statement went out. 

How did USDA announce this to the public?  On Twitter!

USDA MT @usdapress: USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday. Statement on USDA site posted w/o proper clearance. It has been removed // @FarmBureau

 Food politics in action!

Addition, June 27: Here’s the original USDA Newsletter that caused all this fuss.  Scroll to page 3.

Apr 25 2012

What’s up with mad cow?

You have to feel sorry for the beef industry.  First pink slime, now a mad cow.

Here’s what we know about the latest mad cow scare (the USDA has a page devoted to mad cow disease, so does the FDA, and I wrote about it in my book, Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety).

  • Mad cow is the common name for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a fatal disease caused by abnormal proteins (prions) in the brain and nervous system.
  • The disease affected 37,311 cows in Great Britain in 1992.
  • In 2011, there were only 29 cases worldwide.
  • No human case has been seen in the U.S., except for one in a woman who moved here from England at the time.
  • The affected cow found in California is only the fourth in the U.S. since the testing program started a decade ago.
  • The USDA tests about 40,000 cows a year out of the 34 million slaughtered. 
  • This one was evidently high risk.  It died and was sent to a rendering plant.  It either looked suspicious enough to be singled out for testing or was picked up on routine testing.
  • When the test came back positive, authorities impounded the carcass.
  • It never entered the food supply for either people or pets.
  • How it got the disease in the first place is either unknown or undisclosed.  The most likely possibility is that the disease developed spontaneously (as it does occasionally in older cows).

According to the Wall Street Journal,

The disease was detected on a cow carcass taken in for rendering last Wednesday at an animal-rendering plant in Hanford, Calif., said Dennis Luckey, vice president of Baker Commodities Inc., a Los Angeles-based processor of animal byproducts that operates the facility.

Mr. Luckey said the cow had died at a dairy he couldn’t immediately identify, saying that information was in the hands of the USDA.

The plant renders cows that have died to make commodities such as “high-protein ingredients for poultry feed and pet food,” according to Baker’s website.

During the British mad cow scare of the 1990s, people eating beef and cats eating cow byproducts got the disease, but dogs did not. 

The USDA is issuing assurances that the system is working since mad cow prions from this cow did not get into the food supply for people or pets.

My assessment: The risk of you getting this disease from eating beef is extremely small.

You don’t find this reassuring? Eat your veggies!

Feb 19 2011

American Heart Association says “I ♥ beef”!

The Beef Board, the USDA-managed checkoff program for marketing beef, proudly announces its new partnership with the American Heart Association (AHA).  The Beef Board gets its money from a compulsory tax on cattle ranchers computed every time they sell an animal.  Evidently, the money is well spent.

The AHA will put its HeartCheck symbol on three cuts of lean beef:

  • Boneless Top Sirloin Petite Roast (select grade)
  • Top Sirloin Filet (select grade)
  • Top Sirloin Kabob (select grade)

A member of the Beef Board says: “”We are extremely thrilled to receive the American Heart Association certification because, for consumers, it represents the independent voice of a trusted health organization.”

I’ll bet they are.

Today’s quiz: How much money is the Beef Board paying the AHA to use its CheckMark logo?

I hope it’s a lot more than what the AHA gets (or used to get) for putting its check mark on sugary cereals.  This was $4,500 per product when I updated Food Politics in 2007.  After all, sugary cereals don’t have any saturated fat or cholesterol so they must be heart healthy, no?

Ah partnerships and alliances.  You have to love them.  How will the Beef Board use the HeartCheck?  With an I ♥ Beef  campaign, of course.  Fat content unspecified.

Feb 23 2009

The latest on the meat front

In case you were wondering how come Bill Niman is no longer associated with Niman Ranch meats, yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle explains the whole sad story, one framed by the writer as a matter of idealism vs. economic realities.

Perhaps coincidentally, Nicolette Hahn Niman’s new book,  Righteous Porkchop, is just out.  This is a thoughtful and affecting memoir of her version of the events–her background as an activist lawyer, her romance with Bill, and their work together.  I blurbed it, pointing out that it should establish her as an independent national voice for efforts to reform industrial animal production.

I also blurbed Betty Fussell’s entertainingly researched cultural history of American beef, Raising Steaks. If you want to know what the fuss about humanely and sustainably raised meat is about, these books are a great starting point.

 
Jan 4 2009

The cost of better school lunch meat: yikes!

Food and Drink Examiner Eric Burkett sends this astonishing report from the school lunch front.  The school system in Portland, Oregon asked Oregon State University to conduct a taste test to find out whether kids preferred local grass-fed beef to grain-fed beef of unknown origin.  Results?  The kids could tell the difference but were evenly split on preference.

BUT–the cost difference!   Grain-fed beef =  $17.11 per case (140 patties per case).  Grass-fed beef = $44.85 a case (75 patties per case).  If the weights were the same, this means the grain-fed = 12.2 cents per patty vs. 59.8 cents each for the grass fed.  Is this really true?

If so, I can’t think of a better reason for some new farm policies.

Aug 30 2008

Court says no to private testing for mad cow

Sometimes I think we live in an alternate reality.  The U.S. Court of Appeals (District of Columbia Circuit) has now overturned a lower court ruling that allowed Creekstone Farms Premium Beef to conduct its own tests for mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE).  Imagine!  Creekstone wanted to demonstrate that its beef was free of BSE so it could be sold in Asia.  But that would imply that other meat was not safe and force other companies to test as well.  Apparently, the USDA does not think that would be fair and the Appeals Court agrees.  What about fairness to beef eaters?  About that, the court had nothing to say.

Aug 13 2008

Whole Foods eats crow

Here’s a story for you. Whole Foods has just recalled ground beef contaminated with the toxic form of E. coli, 0157:H7. The company had had to go into full damage control. It needs to. The beef came from Coleman Natural, which used to take pride in the quality of its meat and its safety procedures. But Coleman was bought by Meyer Natural Angus last spring, and Meyer uses Nebraska Beef for processing. Nebraska Beef has a history of problems with E. coli 0157:H7. Whole Foods didn’t check. This is a fine mess, one that I attribute to the usual results of pressures on corporations to please their stockholders, never mind public health, but I am curious about one thing: What is Meyer Natural? Is it owned by another, larger company? If so, which?

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