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Tuesday Talk: Where do we go from pink slime?

April 17, 2012 By Rachel Weeks, Communications Specialist

Farmers markets, CSAs, and programs like Farm-to-School have grown in popularity in Minnesota—fighting food deserts and increasing nutritious options, while national concerns about food regulation and products such as “pink slime” have sparked debates about how we source and process our food. Safety and the ‘ick’ factor are undeniable forces. As a part of the nation’s bread basket, Minnesota’s economy is closely tied to the food industry.

What policies will move us toward a healthier Minnesota and a sustainable food system?

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  • norm hanosn says:

    April 17, 2012 at 7:41 am

    From everything heard from knowledgeable people on the matter, the so called “pink slime” is probably more healthy for you than many other animal products that you eat.  Unfortunately, the “pink slime” handle given to it by some gets in the way of a scientific appraisal of its value.

  • Dan Conner says:

    April 17, 2012 at 8:04 am

    While I am a great offender myself, I think we need to cut the amount of meat consumed in our country.  I understand we kill 9 billion animals a year for meat.  8 billion of them are chickens.  I think that’s too much meat.  We probably6 need to switch to more vegetables and just less food altogether.  Then, pink slime will be obviated.

  • Greg Kapphahn says:

    April 17, 2012 at 8:13 am

    I can’t help but wonder if going back to the days when the local stores sold local produce whenever possible, and local meat markets or meat counters in local stores bought their animals directly from local farmers and actually did the entire job of butchering them on site might help.

    In these days of high transportation costs, I can’t help but believe that shipping produce and animals off to far away, centralized distribution facilities where prices are controlled by, and the vast majority of the profits absorbed by multinational corporations that are generally willing to do whatever they can get away with to increase their profit margins means farmers get less, consumers pay more, and quality-control problems are much harder to discover.

    “Conservatives” have worked hard to push our food supply system toward complete control by those large multinational corporations.  Local creameries have long since disappeared (except, of course, for my neighbors in Millerville whose butter remains the best in the state). 

    Thanks to former Gov. Pawlenty’s government massive government cuts, there are so few state inspectors now available that it takes many months to get an inspector on site to inspect and certify (or re-certify) a local meat processing facility (such certification required in order to legally sell products to the general public). 

    Perhaps increasing the number of inspectors and having the state facilitate supermarkets buying and selling meat, dairy, and produce locally (at least in rural areas) would b a good place to start when it comes to safe and affordable food.

  • Spock says:

    April 17, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Pink slime is big ag’s idea of a healthy economy. It turns what was waste into a viable, profitable product. This is what you get along with filthy concentrated animal factories, sick and miserable animals, overused anti-biotics, super bugs, pollution and government corruption to keep their filthy practice a secret. We need to reform farm policy to reflect nutritional guidlines and portion the budget accordingly. Growing mountains of corn is not sound policy in my opinion, and farmers who can’t even feed themselves on their own crop is just not right. We have a health crisis in this country and it is directly tied to farm policy.

  • Jim Ruen says:

    April 17, 2012 at 8:49 am

    If you want to do something about pink slime and other concerns with corporate profit driven “modifications” in our meat system, vote with your dollars. Take a drive down Highway 52 and pick the small meat processors on the way. You can choose from Greg’s Meat in Hampton, Lorentz Meats in Cannon Falls, R-4 Meats in Chatfield, Willies in Fountain or Oak Meadow Meats in Harmony. All do custom processing. All of them also make high quality specialty meats, some prize winning.
    I live near Fountain and so Willies is my choice. You only go in their once and you’re a part of the family that runs the place. When you ask for bacon, they ask how thick (I like #6) and they slice it. When you ask for a ham steak, they ask how thick you want it and they slice it.
    While Willie and his wife and son don’t process the animals for the meat sold across the counter, I know and trust them to select high quality carcasses and to handle them with care. The reason is they know each and every person that eats that meat. They have a personal relationship with each of us customers. When they decide whether or not to include a scrap of questionable origin meat in the ground beef, it is not a matter of corporate profits. It is personal pride and the fact that their friends will be eating the end product that sends it to the discard bin. I don’t have to worry about pink slime at Willies. When Willie had an aneurism a few years back the front step of the grocery/locker plant was festooned with flowers and well wishes.
    Places like Willies, Gregs and the others exist across Minnesota. Take advantage of them. Get to know them and buy from them. Ask about local farmers who might sell a beef, lamb or hog for processing. This is the only way the meat industry will change. You’ll never have enough inspectors, regulations or quality control to compare with what these people “bring to the table.”

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    April 17, 2012 at 11:14 am

    I’d add that moving away from red meat to chicken, turkey, nuts and fish (plus whole grains, fruit and vegetables) would help Americans avoid heart disease and perhaps even colon cancer.

    Some grocery stores and restaurants have signs advising customers that they sell locally grown produce, including meats from animal that have not been subjected to feedlot or other cruel practices that necessitate the antibiotics we don’t want in our food.

    Consumers can be taught to be wary of any food that lists in infinitesimal type a l-o-n-g list of chemicals as ingredients and salt contents as high as a two-day maximum intake.  My favorite peanut butter, for instance, does not even contain salt, so the ingredients list says only “contains peanuts.”

    Perhaps schools could sponsor gardens in which students raise veggies to be served in their cafeterias.  It would save money while improving their menus.

  • Ginny says:

    April 17, 2012 at 11:46 am

    It’s not practical for most people to drive around Minnesota getting the best meat possible, as good an idea as that sounds. The whole push for local meat and produce of all kinds is being promoted in many TC restaurants and some grocery stores—most notably our co-ops and Farmers’ markets. The St. Paul markets have ONLY locally grown and processed food, and this produce is much cheaper. There are a couple of meat vendors who are at the St. Paul market year around. More and more farmers’ markets are opening all over MN. New Hope started one a few years ago; I’m sure there are many others.
    Co-ops have drawbacks for many people: in some areas, they are too far distant. The food costs more in general but there are many ways around that. You can buy in bulk and you can reduce the amount of meat you eat in favor of less expensive meals that may use meat as only one ingredient or as a flavoring in a dish—that’s the way many other countries, like China and Japan, use it. (There are many many protein rich non-meat products.)My co-op also gives people help in shopping and cooking more cheaply.
    Hippocrates said, Let food be your medicine and I try to follow that. Eat healthier and medical costs may go down. My medical costs are really low and I’m in my 70s.
    It’s not just the cost of medical care, either. It’s the misery.

  • akk says:

    April 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    I think the heart of the issue is how far people are from real food.  When people understand that food is actually an animal (that is either raised & slaughtered or hunted) or a plant, then we can begin to rebuild to a healthy food system again.

    Our culture’s reliance on convenience items designed to instantly gratify hunger - regardless of nutritional content - and to get us to by the item again are a challenge.  The prevalence of these items has changed how our culture views eating and food. 
    And note the word “item” is being used not “food” intentionally.

  • Ginny says:

    April 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I don’t know if any local schools do this, but in St. Paul there are community gardens, especially in poorer neighborhoods. A Frogtown (north of Summit) deal has just been made to acquire several acres for parks and the like, and some land for demonstration gardens to show residents how to grow their own food.
    Some churches also do this. Mine does and gives the food to people who need it. House of Hope on Summit also started a big garden in their sizable front yard—evoking protests from some Summit residents decrying the looks of it in this nationally preserved area. I think it is continuing this year, though; the simple fences and cleared land are still there.
    Maybe they can add another category to historic preservation.
    I will bet other organizations—non-profits and companies—could set aside room for a garden to help their community and their members.

  • Ginny says:

    April 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    I think you’re right. I am often appalled at what relatives and a few other people I know eat. Some are almost all chemicals.
    My sister-in-law once brought my mother a bottle of some sort of cinnamon flavoring because she liked it so much. I looked at the ingredients: there was no cinnamon whatsoever in it.
    I don’t let my dog eat junk—which too often we see on the street during our walks.
    No wonder people’s thinking is so askew.