Food & slime

First, there’s a detailed and very interesting article about Pink Slime, in the Emporia Gazette (east-central Kansas, pop. ~25,000) this week. The USDA microbiologist who coined the term is apparently from there. He makes a lot of good, sensible points. For example:

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “They’re going, ‘ah it’s safe. It’s 100 percent beef.’ Okay great, it’s 100 percent beef. It’s just not as wholesome and nutritious as fresh ground beef. And then they don’t label it and people are paying nearly full price for whatever percentage of additive they are getting. They sell it for almost the same price as good, fresh ground beef.”

And then he goes on to explain why – things like levels of insoluble protein, bacteria load, and how much of it is in “regular” food, anyway? One thing to note: this guy is the real USDA. Not one of the political appointees at the top of the heap, doing the bidding of agribusiness – but a real scientist who probably got into it because he cares a bit about both science and food.

This article contains useful information, for people who want to understand the issue and make their own decisions. In contrast, I was really disappointed with the
Boing Boing science editor’s approach to the issue last week, which was basically that “Given the massive amounts of energy it takes to raise a cow, I'd rather have us use all the cow, rather than waste the gross parts. And, when it comes down to it, I'm not convinced that pink slime is any more gross than, say, what goes on in 3/4 of French Provencal cooking.”

Cute, but not so useful. You can get a couple of cabezas (sheep heads with fur still on) in the market at Concepción, Chile for 1500 pesos (three bucks). But you’d better have an old-fashioned, traditional Chilean recipe to give you a clue what to do with them! And in any case, I don’t think the point is that connective tissue and other non-steak parts of the cow are off limits. The point is, if we’re paying for hamburger and it’s always been made in a particular way, out of a particular type of raw material, then not telling us you’ve changed the formula is a bit of a problem. Especially if the new product has a higher risk of being contaminated and the government is putting it in school lunches.

Second, here’s a reminder from the Daily Yonder of where the money we spend on food goes, from the USDA’s Economic Research Service. ERS is an interesting place to visit for data – although most of the farm data is limited to agribusiness-style agriculture. It’s better on “rural” topics like demographics, food deserts, etc.

Third, here’s a story from the
Organic Consumers Association (which originally appeared on AlterNet) about Monsanto threatening to sue Vermont if the state requires GMO labeling. It’s absurd that a corporation thinks it can bully a state – and Ethan Allen’s state at that! Bottom line, it amounts to an admission by Monsanto: “Yes, we know our products are really bad for you and that if given a choice, you would avoid them. Our only hope is to prevent you from knowing which products contain our shit.” Hopefully, Vermonters will do the sensible thing and simply boycott any product that does not carry a label, and begin buying large quantities of products whose label says NO GMOs. That will send a bigger message, in the long run, than legislation.

Finally, as if to prove that corporate arrogance isn’t limited to Monsanto, some idiots at a Chicken Shack fast food company attacked a regular guy over his “Eat More Kale” t-shirts. Kale is really good for you (as fast food chicken sandwiches aren’t). We grow kale, and eat a lot of it in smoothies, kale chips, and salads. And I’ve never eaten a Chick-Fil-A sandwich, and never plan to. So of course, I bought a t-shirt.


Looks like there’s wind in Minnesota too! Click on the map, to see the current wind conditions in the continental US, in motion! By Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, who have done loads of interesting data visualization - and thanks to Boing Boing for pointing it out. It’s cool and pretty. And it gets you thinking about where we might want to put windmills