"For Love of Neighbor" is a new documentary film offering a hopeful vision for Christian engagement in politics. Click here to learn more.

We Should All Eat More Pink Slime

My farmer’s daughter take on “pink slime” went up on the Daily Caller a few weeks ago. One commenter insinuated I’ve received money from the meat industry for my opinions. Hah. I wish. Then we wouldn’t have to borrow money to buy our new house. If you’ve been on a technology fast for the past few months, “pink slime” is what ABC News decided to call beef bits extracted from previously discarded slaughtered cows and puffed with ammonia gas to eliminate any E. coli, a process responsible for ending the previous slew of related deaths. The short of it is, I think “pink slime” is perfectly fine, and am rather astounded we can extract every bit of beef from the cow. Less waste, more food. It’s like the Native Americans and buffalo, except without the letting most of the buffalo herd lie on the plain dead after chasing them over a cliff part. And the “ammonia treating?” Please. That stuff is already in cheesecake, chocolate, apples and more. Megan McArdle’s guest blogger posted some more pertinent information:
Schools that are replacing pink slime seem to be doing so with ground beef rather than, say, vegetables. This means that a lot of the decline in the demand for pink slime will be offset by an increase in demand for normal ground beef, which will mean more cows will be slaughtered. So will the number of cows produced and slaughtered increase or decrease? In the end, the cattle industry reports that this filler saves about 10 to 12 pounds of edible meat from every cow, and this is the equivalent of 1.5 million heads of cattle. Despite the lower revenues from each cow discussed above, the demand shift effect will likely outweigh the lower profit effect so that the net impact will be a significant increase in the number of cattle that will be raised and slaughtered every year.
This pits cow-hugger against cow-hugger, right, because they must weigh eating small amounts of hype-labeled “pink slime” versus killing 1.5 million more cows each year. But where are the normal people who would like to pay $2.50 rather than $5.00 for a pound of hamburger, or the taxpayers who have to pay less for the 111 million pounds they buy each year through the national school lunch program (why do we even HAVE that program)? What is also interesting is this earlier quote: “Many people aren’t opposing pink slime because it’s bad for us, but because doing so shows that we care.” In other words, the demand that pink slime be eliminated is a moral one with an economic consequence. That’s fascinating, because a lot of people wouldn’t see it that way, but it’s true, and is an example of how values get pulled into the market constantly. In fact, I would say they are inseparable. The question is not whether values will be in the market, but which values will predominate. In this case, find me agreeing with Megan’s guest blogger, Adam: “With no health or nutrition gains to be had, I don’t see how the pink slime critics claim the moral high ground here.”