Between the Lines: Is it awful, offal or neither?

You'd think we've been invaded by aliens or something.

Pink slime, which first bubbled up in news stories weeks ago, once again was a major topic of the mainstream media last week as local leaders, including several governors of Midwestern states and our own Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, toured a place that makes the stuff.

They walked through Beef Products Inc.'s plant in South Sioux City, NE, to show their support for the company and the thousands of jobs it creates in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas.

"It's beef, but it's leaner beef, which is better for you," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said after watching a presentation of how the textured beef product is made.

Beef Products, the main producer of the cheap lean beef made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts, has drawn extra scrutiny because of concerns about the ammonium hydroxide it treats meat with to kill bacteria. The company suspended operations at plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa this week.

The tour by local political leaders is part of a push-back by the beef industry, as major supermarket chains (and their customers) have been recoiling lately from the news that the pink slime, er, lean finely textured beef, has likely been a major ingredient in ground beef for years now.

I can't help but think that the first settlers to populate our state – you know, our great-great-great grandparents – if they are able to watch the current goings-on, would look at each other, shrug, and ask, "What's the big deal?"

Generations of people, driven by necessity, found a use for nearly everything. They threw nothing away. The pink slime, I mean lean finely textured beef, is really the continuation, when you stop and think of it, of a process that's been in place, well, practically forever.

From the time man discovered beasts are a darn good source of protein, he's hunted them. And ultimately domesticated them, so that livestock feeding and butchering became a way of life.

Our forefathers (and mothers) consumed as much of each critter — wild or domestic — as possible. Pigs' feet were pickled. Cooking techniques and recipes were developed to make hearts, livers, gizzards and other parts of our hooved and feathered friends palatable.

It's just normal to do that sort of thing. And, it still is. Thus, we have pink sli… check that — lean finely textured beef — along with a bevy of other meat products to choose from when we visit our supermarkets.

And, you can thank your lucky stars that you live in a country where there's always plenty of pretty "normal" stuff available to eat.

If, by chance, you were born in Korea, a staple of your diet may be sannakji — a baby octupus cut into small pieces and served immediately. Occasionally you can see the octopus tentacles squirming on your plate.

Born in Scotland? Belly up to a big serving of haggis, made with the minced heart, liver and lung of a sheep mixed with onion, spices, oatmeal, salt and stock, and boiled in the sheep's stomach for a few hours.

Should you ever find yourself wanting a snack to ease your hunger as you wander the streets of Bangkok, Thailand, don't worry. Vendors there sell fried grasshoppers, crickets, scorpions, spiders and worms.

Right now, as you read this, a fellow man, woman or child on this planet is dining on balut. Or munching on fugu. Or slicing up some hakarl for their dinner guests. Or maybe some sesos.

I bet these same people would think nothing of chomping into a hamburger made of lean finely textured beef.

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One Response to Between the Lines: Is it awful, offal or neither?

  1. Randall says:

    Nice play on words in the title, well written article.

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