Remember Pink Slime, that ammoniated boneless lean beef trimmings made of previously inedible beef byproducts like fat and connective tissue that were used in pet food and cooking oil until it snuck into 70% of all hamburgers eaten in the United States and sold by McDonald’s, Burger King and most grocers or fast food establishments until a grass roots campaign started by Jamie Oliver ended this food type in the diets of most Americans?
While Pink Slime may be gone, equally unappealing and/or potentially more dangerous meat types remain in the U.S. food supply – White Slime aka Mechanically Separated Meat, Advanced Meat Recovery and Irradiated Meat.
White Slime or Mechanically Separated Meat is made by forcing animal carcasses through a highly pressured separator to remove bone from the edible bits. The edible bits are then ground into a paste-like batter. In 2004, mechanically separated beef was outlawed because of the fear that the spinal tissue might carry mad cow disease that could sneak into the food supply. Mechanically separated chicken and pork continues to be made and is in a wide range of products like luncheon meats, hot dogs and chicken nuggets. Fortunately, this is labeled on the products that you buy at the grocery store although it is not required on restaurant menus.
A variation on Pink Slime can still be made using an approach called Advanced Meat Recovery. That is the use of machinery to scrap, shave or press meat off of the bone. So long as the resulting meat has less than 150 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams of meat, it is labeled as beef, chicken or pork. If the resulting bits have a higher level of calcium, it is labeled as Mechanically Separated Meat as the calcium signifies higher amounts of bone in the meat.
Most troubling is a USDA statement that 60% of the largest meat processors in the United States do not meet federal food safety regulations for the prevention of E.Coli bacteria in their products. This safety issue results in 73,000 infections and 60 deaths annually. To address this problem, much of the U.S. meat supply is irradiated. This is where the meat is exposed to radiation in order to kill the bacteria. With the meat now safe per the FDA, it is widely distributed throughout our food supply.
Dr. Samuel Epstein of the University of Illinois’ School of Public Health disagrees with the FDA, “The government’s assertion that irradiated food is safe for human consumption does not even pass the laugh test.” Irradiated meat receives 150 times the radiation experienced in a chest x-ray. In addition to the carcinogen benzene (a key hydrocarbon found in gasoline), the treated beef contains ‘unique radiolytic products’ recognized to be carcinogens shown to cause genetic toxicity. Stated in layman terms, irradiation creates bad stuff that can cause long-term and serious adverse health effects. The FDA based their assessment that irradiated food is safe on five of over 400 studies on the subject. Many of the other studies showed a concern that the treated product heightens the risk of cancer as well as genetic damage to the consumer. Irradiation causes the loss of up to 80% of the vitamins found prior to the irradiation. Additionally, the longest study on which the FDA based their assessment was fifteen weeks – hardly long enough to know the health effects caused by long-term consumption of foods exposed to high levels of radiation. Most troubling, other studies done on animals demonstrated that long-term exposure to irradiated meat as a source of food caused increases in cancers, kidney damage and sterility.
So what to do? For beef, eat dry aged grass fed beef. In general, grass fed beef helps to keep you healthy with cancer and heart disease fighting omega 3 fatty acids, high quality protein, conjugated linoleic acids and vitamin E – all things that are very good for you. For other meats, buy organic as health risks besides those highlighted already such as antibiotics and hormones make much of the meat supply a long-term health concern. As many fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices are irradiated, buy organic as that is the only way that you can know that you are not exposing your family to irradiated food.
PS: Real kobe beef is only sold in Japan or Macau. Kobe beef in the United States is essentially Angus beef relabeled as Kobe beef for marketing and profit purposes.

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