Possibly you will remember the great controversy that raged last summer over something called Mechanically Deboned Meat - MDM for short.
It was a process that permitted the very last scraps of meat to be removed from the bone by machine. While saving all these scraps the machine also ground up some of the bone which then became part of the ground meat.
The meat industry and the Department of Agriculture thought this was an absolutely splendid idea because it saved a lot of meat and was very profitable.
Consumer groups thought it might not be so splendid because there were no tests to show how safe such a product was. In additon, processed meats, such as hot dogs and bologna, which contained MDM, were not labeled so there was no way for shoppers to know if they were purchasing products containing MDM.
The consumer groups went to court, seeking an injunction against the use of MDM, and they won. This left several members of the meat industry with some rather costly MDM equipment on their hands.
But not for long. The Department of Agriculture has announced a new use, and new name for the equipment. Rechristened a desinewing machine, itmakes "juicier, more tender hamburgers" according to a press release from the Agriculture Research Service (ARS).
The machine now removes connective tissue from old cows which are the source of most hamburger today.According to Dr. Russell Cross, a food technologist with USDA, it is the connective tissue in the old cows which makes the meat tough.
USDA is interested in the quality of ground beef patties because they buy so much of it for the school lunch program.
During the last year tasting panels at ARS in Beltsville, Md., made up of ordinary citizens who have nothing else to do and want to make $2.50 a day, have been sampling hamburgers made both from beef ground the old way and beef ground by a desinewing machine. According to Cross the desinewed beef always rated higher for lavor, tenderness and juiciness.
What's more, "the best patties overall" came from desinewed beef from old bulls.
Cross said, however, unless the schools learn how to cook the patties better, so they don't end up tasting like "hockey pucks," it won't make much difference how good the raw ingredients are.