Temple Grandin — the famed animal scientist, author and inspiration behind the HBO film about her struggle with autism — says she didn’t know much about “lean finely textured beef” this spring when the controversy broke over the so-called “pink slime.” So she remained mum on the subject that grossed out a nation.
“I only like to talk about things that I know about,” Grandin said, explaining her silence during a Wednesday phone interview with All We Can Eat.
Well, Grandin has since educated herself, and she’s clearly in support of pink slime, the pejorative term to describe carcass trimmings that are heated, run through a centrifuge (to remove fat) and treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill pathogens. To Grandin, it’s all about waste.
“It should be on the market. It should be labeled,” she says of the meat filler. “We should not be throwing away that much beef.”
By Grandin’s calculations, cattle producers will lose about 15 to 30 pounds of meat per animal without the filler. “That’s sinful,” she says. For big plants, it’s like taking a “truckload of cattle and [saying], ‘We’re just going to throw these cattle into the garbage.’ ”
To be fair, others have suggested that eliminating pink slime might be bad for business, human health and the environment. (It certainly didn’t do much good for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, either.)
Grandin thinks the beef industry responded poorly to the pink slime crisis and has paid a high price for it: Beef Products Inc., the maker of the filler, has closed three plants and laid off hundreds of employees. Grandin ultimately thinks the industry will recover and probably find a spot in the marketplace again for the controversial product. One way to gain favor with the public, Grandin says, is to dump the ammonia in favor of a citric-acid treatment: “People like the idea of lemon juice more than they like the idea of ammonia.”
She also thinks the beef industry needs to post online videos to show exactly how the manufacturing process works, so it won’t seem so mysterious and, well, freaky. Grandin says consumers have learned how hot dogs are made, and it hasn’t killed off the frankfurter market.