One Man's "Pink Slime" Is Another Man's Good Old-Fashioned Manufacturing Job

A blog about business and economics.
March 27 2012 7:48 AM

One Man's "Pink Slime" Is Another Man's Good Old-Fashioned Manufacturing Job

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Industrial-scale ground beef.

Wikimedia Commons

Something I find fascinating is that two simultaneous trends we have in the United States are a big wave of nostalgia for a more manufacturing focsed economy and a huge backlash against what's often termed "industrial" food production methods. There is, needless to say, considerable tension between the two views:

A major producer of a ground-beef additive said it is closing three plants after a growing number of supermarkets dropped the product in recent weeks.
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Beef Products Inc. said Monday its decision to suspend production of a ground-beef filler at plants in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kan.; and Waterloo, Iowa, would affect more than 650 employees. Its plant in Dakota Dunes, S.D., where the filler is also produced, will continue operating.
The decision came as social networks teemed with concerns about the product, nicknamed "pink slime" because of its appearance.

The so-called slime, genuinely gross looking, is made by rounding up all kinds of trimmings and sinews and rejected beef bits, spinning them through a centrifuge to separate the little bits of meat from the fat, and then treating the lean stuff with ammonia for disenfecting purposes. The ammonia-doused centrifuged trimmings could then be added back into ground beef mixtures to bulk them up. But consumers don't like to see the sausage getting made, so now plants are shutting down. Presumably as time goes on, if the United States becomes a more prosperous country we'll keep becoming pickier and pickier eaters who demand a less manufacturing-intensive food system.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.