Well, how funny is this? At the kind urging of Lunch Tray readers concerned about my mental state, I decided to enjoy a one and a half hour sanity break yesterday afternoon and took my son to the zoo. . .
. . .and thereby missed, after almost 24/7 monitoring, THE BIGGEST DEVELOPMENT in pink slime news!
Here it is from the Associated Press:
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer schools choice in ground beef buys amid growing concern over an ammonia-treated filler critics call “pink slime.” Under the change to be announced Thursday, schools will be able to choose between beef patties made with the filler or bulk ground beef without it. The policy will affect food at schools this fall because of existing contracts.
A USDA official with knowledge of the decision says the agency wanted to be transparent and school districts wanted choices. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcement.
The USDA buys about a fifth of the food served in schools.
The controversy centers on a processed ingredient common in ground beef that is exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria.
Before I say anything else, let’s all take one long moment and savor this news. Because whatever this announcement means in the end, you and I — and almost a quarter million others — managed in just over ONE WEEK to get a federal agency to change course on an issue we care about.
I find that truly awe-inspiring, and I’m guessing you do, too.
OK, now for the true import of this change. The short answer to that question is: I’m still digging.
As soon as I heard the AP announcement I emailed USDA, but have yet to receive a reply. I also have calls in to my own school food sources to discuss the practical import of, for example, being able to get your pink-slime meat already shaped into patties whereas your slime-free meat can only be acquired in bulk. We already knew the pink slime option was cheaper — that’s the whole point of pink slime — but now there might be an even greater cost differential for schools if they need to expend their own funds on labor to convert bulk beef to patties. Does this create an even higher bar for districts wanting to avoid pink slime, or is this really no different than the situation before the change in policy? These are just some of the questions I want to get to the bottom of.
And of course, there is still the much larger issue of disclosure. While my petition focused on the use of pink slime in school food, I feel strongly that the media firestorm we created and the overwhelming response to the petition was animated by another concern as well: many Americans were learning for the first time about this substance and the fact that it’s in, reportedly, 70% of our ground beef without any sort of labeling for those who wish to avoid it. That’s deeply troubling to a lot of people. So while my Change.org petition didn’t mention product labeling, I do feel that issue is now very much part of the discussion.
I’ll do my best to get answers to all of these questions in the coming days and will share what I learn here.
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