The Pink Slime Backlash

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Burger processing at a facility in in San Francisco, California (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Eric Schlosser, co-producer of  the documentary "Food, Inc." and author of Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the American Meal (now with a new afterword), discusses the controversy over the product known as "pink slime" and what the backlash tells us about the meat industry and food safety.

Comments [36]

40 years ago the average family spent in the vicinity of 18% of their income on food and around 9% on health care. Those numbers have since switched.

70% of all antibiotics goes into animals in the factory farms so they can stand knee deep in their own feces without getting sick.

Off the shore of Louisiana there's a giant dead zone the size of Connecticut from the fertilizers used upstream on the Mississippi.

Natural food, IE without pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics, high-fructose corn syrup, etc etc, would not look so expensive if the full health and environmental costs [which have very real economic costs] were taken into account.

America is caught in a perennial debate about how to deal with the rising costs of health care and Medicare. We could start by revamping the food system so it doesn't involve poisoning our kids, ourselves and the environment. That's not elite, it's common sense, and long term, it's economical.

Unfortunately, the current system is run by companies with the goal of making money with a side business of serving calories rather than serving nutritious food with the goal of making money money doing so.

Apr. 05 2012 03:03 PM
mac from manh

Dear Bill from New Rochelle,
You've proved my point: seduced. (But why don't you eat dogs, Bill?)

Apr. 05 2012 12:55 PM

This is a glimpse into NPR editing as to "form".

Apr. 05 2012 12:21 PM
Go Vegan from NYC

Bill, I'm still in the process of completing graduate work in animal welfare science, but I have done a lot of study on chickens in particular and can tell you there's a ton of scientific research out there on the issue of overcrowded husbandry conditions of poultry in America - overcrowding is definitely prevalent. The welfare problems surrounding both battery cage and cage-free laying hens and boilers are sadly many. I highly recommend checking out the work of Marion Dawkins of the UK if you'd like to learn more.

Apr. 05 2012 12:06 PM

The processes involved in producing this product are as benign as those involved in producing a radio show or network. Both products are smooth, non-toxic and extend volume. "Boney" problems are avoided (is this guest arguing against the economic benefits of the types of programs that were permitted by the "Wickard v. Filburn" decision? [progressive "national agricultural policy" is always determined by the powerful])

Apr. 05 2012 12:03 PM

I'm with Estelle.

"It's insane" that they're feeding them prozac? How so? The conditions of battery chickens suck and prozac probably mitigates them. Maybe if we gave them prozac just before we killed them instead? Prozac in their food is "insane" but an axe to the neck (to be rustically free-range about it) is okay? I find it difficult to understand the gripe here if you don't have a problem with animals being killed for your dinner table in the first place. Show what's actually detrimental about this use of prozac or your guest is fear-mongering by way of complaining about the apparently legitimate problems of overcrowding he alluded to, and that patent intellectual dishonesty makes me distrust your guest's claims about overcrowding in turn.

Also, Brian, please, please, please follow up on caller Melanie's claim that factory farms are more expensive than free-range. I remember hearing, either on your show or on Lopate's, a segment regarding the elitism of free-range products, which the vast majority of people simply cannot afford, and how all the free-range meat produced in the country would not feed Manhattan. What would it mean to convert the entirety of our country's meat production to free range? For starters, how much more space and infrastructure would that require? I can't help but think of the often stated fact that suburbs are worse for the environment and more expensive to maintain than densely populated urban centers as pointing to the consequences we'd face.

Don't misunderstand me as being for the conditions in which our meat is produced. This just strikes me as convenient criticism from people who can afford more appetizing alternatives in a world with an "insane" amount of people to feed.

Apr. 05 2012 11:46 AM
Go Vegan from NYC

Bill, like most primates, we are omnivores - not exclusively carnivores.

Apr. 05 2012 11:43 AM
Bill from New Rochelle

No, mac from manh, we eat meat because we are meat eaters.

We eat too much meat, yes (and I suspect that you eat too little.)

But, if God wanted us to eat just plants, we'd have no incisors; we'd have teeth like a cow, or a horse.

We have carnivor teeth because we are carnivors. GRRRRRR.


Apr. 05 2012 11:33 AM
mac from manh

People will never accept a vegetarian school lunch. We have been seduced by the meat industry and society as a whole to think that eating flesh is necessary. There is only one reason to eat flesh and it is the same reason to eat candy: it tastes good. But is it a good enough reason? Apparently so. I suggest, in Swiftian tradition, that we eat dog.

Apr. 05 2012 11:25 AM
Bill from New Rochelle


There was a woman on WNYC earlier this week, a guest nutritionist, who made the penultimate comment on Pink Slime:
"It is perfectly safe and nutruitional....It is PET FOOD."

And I asked Bill Griffith, who writes ZIPPY THE PINHEAD COMICS, and Bill told me that Zippy loves Pink Slime...
"Pink Slime is the most important meal of the day! I have
mine for breakfast with a side of Green Slime!"

Apr. 05 2012 11:25 AM
David from NYC

Kosher meat products do not have pink slime.

Apr. 05 2012 11:23 AM
jeanne from cobble hill

of course public schools serve pb&j- my children's public school in Brooklyn offers it every day.

Apr. 05 2012 11:23 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Which governments decide what food is acceptable for school lunches--state or federal? I remember the "ketchup is a vegetable" episode on the federal level, but what's the role of the states?

Apr. 05 2012 11:23 AM
Elizabeth from Mystic,CT

Why are kids so disrespected everywhere in our culture? We aren't feeding them well, or educating them well or taking care of their health.

Apr. 05 2012 11:23 AM
Sarah from Weston, CT

What about deli meat? What sort of slim is in that?

Also, what about ground turkey? Is there a similar product to pink slime in turkey?

Apr. 05 2012 11:23 AM
Bill Israel from Dix Hills, NY

Mr. Schlosser makes some cogent points; antibiotics in meat, treatment of animals and workers in plants, however, when he talks about what the plant looks like, i.e. some futuristic operation out of "The Matrix", my question is: WHO CARES? Do you prefer seeing the slaughterhouse, and the bolt to the head to kill the animal, or, see the animal gutted, or any other gore vs the centrifuge?

Apr. 05 2012 11:22 AM
john from nyc

The delivery of food to school is HUGE business.

A lot of bribing in that business

Apr. 05 2012 11:22 AM
jmurphy from long island

the city grades my favorite restaurants. what grade would a school lunch get?

Apr. 05 2012 11:21 AM
Go Vegan from NYC

Industrialized food practices are often highly inhumane - birds (outside of the lab) are not covered by the US Animal Welfare Act, so the conditions poultry often endures (overcrowding, tiny cages, beak trimming, broken legs from weight gain beyond their skeletal capacity to hold, etc.) are not technically covered. Terms like "free-range" and "cage-free" are also not well defined legally or well regulated, and often end up being marketing labels rather than true indicators of the animals' welfare. Additionally, chronically stressed animals undergo physiological changes, including the production of the stress hormone cortisol. You are indeed what you eat.

Also, in terms of "sustainability," meat production is one of the most inefficient food production systems out there. Animals must consume enormous qualities of grain and the runoff from their waste is a huge pollutant in the environment.

Be less cruel to other beings: go vegan.

Apr. 05 2012 11:21 AM

Chickens getting Prozac? I wonder how the Rx coverage of the workers compares to that of chickens?

Apr. 05 2012 11:21 AM

Isn't all supermarket chicken supposed to be drug and hormone free now? By law? How do they get away with feeding the chickens Benadryl? Are there going to be penalties?

Apr. 05 2012 11:20 AM

Schlosser still hasn't given a consequences-based argument against this stuff. I'd like to agree, but give me a real reason.

Apr. 05 2012 11:17 AM
jmurphy from long island

why not use the slime in dog food and save the good stuff for humans?

Apr. 05 2012 11:17 AM
Edward Peters

Pink slime seems the food industry equivalent of particle board furniture, if you accept it, buy it, feed the machine, what do you expect.

Apr. 05 2012 11:16 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Emmanuel - If people want to buy pig snot or cow feces because they "can't" afford to purchase organic food - fine, just label it.

Apr. 05 2012 11:16 AM
johanna from manhattan

thank you, thank you for exposing these horrid practices and all the many long-reaching terrible effects.

Apr. 05 2012 11:15 AM
john from nyc

The industry will get around....

Buy a couple of politician, pay some cash to FOX to confuse the issue.

Before we know it, we'll be back to business..

Apr. 05 2012 11:14 AM
Henry from Katonah

I keep hearing the year 2005 in connection with more , unlabeled use of this product in hamburger, approved by the USDA. Is this another example of the GW Bush administration allowing industry to have its way?

Apr. 05 2012 11:13 AM

I dont understand why pink slime is outrageous.. When you have people spending a lot of money to eat organic, and are totally obsessed with things like veganism, and other dietary choices along green -'moral' lines-- shouldn't pink slime be welcomed as using food that would be otherwise discarded and wasted?!

Apr. 05 2012 11:12 AM
SteveH from B'klyn

Centrifugal, that would be a
Rodent Extractor........

Apr. 05 2012 11:12 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

My biggest "beef" with pink slime was the lack of labeling. "Pink slime" may be safe but it should have been labeled.

Apr. 05 2012 11:10 AM

Isn't it pretty much the same thing as prepackaged ground beef?

Apr. 05 2012 11:09 AM

I gave up on beef a few years ago. But is this type of thing in ground chicken and turkey
What is the fat content of the slime

Apr. 05 2012 11:07 AM

Yeah, let's just make school lunches 100% vegetarian. It'll make a massively positive impact on kids' health, combat that pesky childhood obesity epidemic, and—while it's at it—result in a significant reduction in the cruelty inherent in the factory farm system.

Apr. 05 2012 11:03 AM

pink slime is a red herring.

consumers of "ground beef" ought to know that their food is ammonia'd too, along w most or all supermarket meat. Ammonia is a crucial factory food ingredient -- even caramel color in colas are produced with ammonia.

the outrage, i suspect, is the result of peaking under the curtain of our food system, and the meat we allow our government to feed our kids, nothing less and nothing more.

Apr. 05 2012 10:51 AM
Michelle from nyc

I first learned about pink slime from the movie Food Inc. years ago. Why has it taken this long to finally have Diane Sawyer talk about it?

Apr. 05 2012 07:53 AM

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