Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Miss a question? Go here.
The meat industry calls it "lean, finely textured beef." The public calls it "pink slime." Whatever it is, this beef-based food additive composed of ground beef scraps and connective tissue treated with ammonia has made headlines, which led to supermarkets yanking it from their shelves and caused one of its producers to go out of business.
On Monday, Chow Bella reported that chef Dan Moody, who held a pop-up dinner at Posh and visits the Valley frequently, defended the merits of pink slime (in the broader context of feeding oneself) on his blog. He even had a bit of a spat about it with celebu-chef Tom Colicchio on Twitter this week.
So where do Valley chefs and restaurateurs stand on the subject? Here's what some of them had to say.
Chef Matt Taylor, Noca
Being a Canadian-born cook where any meat additives and the importation of such is banned along with the use of ammonia in food products, I'm not for it -- and I can't see anyone else making a strong argument for it, as well, apart from the producers. It's basically the baking soda (used to cut another widely consumed product) of the meat industry. The scary/saddest part is that this practice has not only occurred with supermarket-grade meat, but with some of the "highest quality" producers in the country, who in turn sell it to some of the most respected restaurants in the nation. If the practice is banned outright, finding a trustworthy source for ground meat products will be harder to find.
Michael Monti Owner, Monti's La Casa Vieja
Certainly not anything I want coming out of my kitchen, but not a threat to the continuing existence of humanity. We are made to burn a variety of fuels.
Lauren Bailey Owner, Windsor/Churn, Postino Central, Postino East
This is the tip of the iceberg for what consumers should know about the food they eat and how it's processed. It's a global problem, and with each bite we have a choice. The fact that this piece of information went viral and consumers demanded clean food just proves how powerful our dollars and decisions are. We have a long way to go, but I for one was happy to see this practice leaked and for consumers to avidly reject it.
Chef Kurt Jacobsen Hidden Meadow Ranch
Pink slime, as in any other "overly processed" food, is not my idea of food. In a world where so much effort is put into growing healthy food, pink slime does not reach the scale of edible. Eat the fat or throw it in the trash.
Justin Micatrotto, Co-Owner, Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers in Arizona
People need to take personal responsibility to inform themselves on what they eat, drink, etc., instead of relying on media headlines to influence it one way or another.
Joshua Hebert Chef and owner, Posh
It's nice to know there are boundaries to our conveniences, both in price and time, once we know what's being put in our food. It's good to see people finally saying enough is enough: "We're willing to pay the extra money for quality beef if you get pink slime out of our food."
James Porter Chef and owner, Petite Maison
"Pink slime" is a really unfortunate term. Personally, I love hot dogs, Spam, and scrapple -- and for that matter, head cheese.
Deborah Schneider Chef and partner, SOL Mexican Cocina
I'm disgusted but not surprised, since it explains the dead-meat smell in so many fast food places. Very high "ick" factor.
Chris Osborn Owner, Cadillac Ranch
I prefer to buy the more expensive Certified Angus Beef to avoid pink slime. Once I was made aware of it, I tend not to order burgers, etc., where I am unsure of the quality of the beef they are serving on their menus. I think the FDA should make it mandatory to post notices on meat at stores and on menus for places that sell or serve beef with this product added to it.
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Devin Walsh Chef and Owner, Calistro California Bistro
Pink slime is just one of the many problems with our food industry. Everything these days is a business first, but at some point, pushing revenue needs to be harnessed with quality of product. Pink slime eliminates "oxidation" of ground meat. Oxygen turns meat brown, which is unappetizing. If the quality of product was more of a standard, supermarkets would grind meat to order instead of grinding mass quantities ahead of time with pink slime. Even if you argue that pink slime comes from a lean beef product and is not a chemical, it's the practice of misrepresentation (making old meat look fresh) that bothers me and still falls into the "processed foods" category.