Tag Archives: fast food

PINK SLIME: state governors promote the nutritional value of ammonia-washed processed beef filling

State budgetary crises seem to be a remnant of the past and local governments are apparently no longer associated with inefficiencies and waste.  Obviously, our political heroes have already determined the best means of developing local communities, successfully created jobs and reduced unemployment, significantly improved local schools, addressed childhood obesity and crafted an intricate plan to pay for the rising costs of health care.  They’ve served their constituents, overcome the challenges and are now bravely seeking a new campaign.

So, no longer content to merely revel in their success, local government leaders are now promoting the consumption of lean finely textured beef, thereby touting the benefits of “pink slime” and discouraging further public outcry against the widespread use of the filler.

As we’ve already learned – in no small part because this story just won’t die – lean finely textured beef, commonly known as pink slime, consists of fatty beef scraps and connective tissue that originate from those parts of cows that are highly susceptible to contamination due to their exposure to considerable amounts of feces.  Producers wash the scraps with ammonia hydroxide to remove Salmonella and E. coli and other pathogens.  After treatment, the parts are spun in a centrifuge, thereby transforming the product into a pink gelatinous mass that is used as a filler in commercial and retail meat products.

Information relating to the use of the pink slime has been shrouded in secrecy for years, in no small part because the United States Food and Drug Administration authorized producers to simply label the ingredient as meat.  The public therefore had no meaningful way of knowing that they were consuming the product until recent reports revealed that around 70 percent of meat bought at grocery stores and other retailers contained the ammonia-washed ingredient.

The outrage was considerable, and it resulted in dwindling demand for meat containing lean finely textured beef.  As a result, last week, Beef Products Inc., the largest manufacturer of the ingredient, announced that it would suspend operations at several facilities, including its plants in Garden City, Kansas, Amarillo, Texas and Waterloo, Iowa.  The closure of these plants will likely reduce the production by a whopping 900,000 pounds per day while resulting in the temporary layoff of around 650 employees in affected states.

The company isn’t going down without a fight, though, and it has since announced that it would embark on a massive public relations campaign designed to restore confidence in the product.  Lacking for substantive challenges and no longer concerned about the appropriate use of taxpayer monies, governors from affected states have joined the public relations campaign to crusade against the lack of demand for the product.

On Thursday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Texas Governor Rick Perry banded together to tour Beef Products Inc.’s facility in South Sioux City, Nebraska.  They were seemingly impressed by their foray – which lasted a full thirty minutes –  and they want you to know all about it.  The governors issued a joint statement that assured the world that “[o]ur states proudly produce food for the country and the world – and we do so with the highest commitment toward product safety.  Lean finely textured beef is a safe, nutritious product…”  Individually, they echoed the sentiment:

  • Governor Perry focused on the damning effects of the reduction in demand.  He was concerned that the decreased consumption of the filler will deprive the public of a “safe” product that “is very much needed in this country…

Ironically, the most vocal response to the politician’s campaign did not originate with a consumer advocacy group or an organization of concerned citizens.  Instead, the fast food industry has assured the public that it disavows the use of lean finely textured beef filler regardless of the governors’ claims about its safety and nutritional value.  That’s right – even the industry that has historically peddled highly processed pseudo-beef and the most unhealthy foods has drawn a proverbial line in the sand.

On Friday – the day after the governors attempted to rally public support for the use of lean finely textured beef – Wendy ran an advertisement in eight major newspapers, including the New York Times and USA Today.  It plays upon the old catchphrase of “Where’s The Beef” and appears as follows:

The advertisement isn’t the first statement that the fast food industry has made about the use of pink slime.  Earlier, McDonald’s claimed that it no longer used lean finely textured beef in its products.   Taco Bell and Burger King have also assured the public that they have ceased using meat containing the filler.

What does that mean?  It means that politicians want you to eat a product that they claim is healthy and safe even when the freakin’ fast food industry won’t serve to the public. Tune in next time, when state governors campaign against the use of seat belts and promote the benefits of illegal drug use.

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OVERHEARD AT A FAST FOOD CHAIN: sir, would you like mustard, ketchup or ammonia with your burger… and do you want fries with that?

The word “pink” is said to be derived from flora in the genus Dianthus, which includes carnations and around three hundred other flowering plants known for their colorful frills.  The word has since been used to describe a color varying from light crimson to pale reddish purple.

Today, pink is often associated with Valentine’s Day and is frequently referred to as the “color of love.”  The word has evolved in cultural significance, and pink is now commonly used as an adjective to describe cadillacs, elephants, panthers and slips.

And the color just may be giving the fast food a bit of a black… sorry… pink eye.  Rim shot!

At the same time that McDonald’s was announcing its new processed chicken product and Taco Bell was increasing its line of breakfast offerings, someone revived an image of a pink tubular substance and began circulating it throughout the ‘net.  The photograph soon went viral, and an untold number of recipients were greeted by a rather disturbing image of gloved hands manipulating a material that closely resembles a rosy intestinal discharge.

Then it got worse.  The caption indicated that the mass is actually a biological component that has been constructed for use in the production, sale and consumption of meat served by a number of fast food restaurants.  In other words, we’ve been eating the damn thing.  As the Fooducate Blog originally reported,

[s]omeone figured out in the 1960′s that meat processors can eek eke out a few more percent of profit from chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows by scraping the bones 100% clean of meat. This is done by machines, not humans, by passing bones leftover after the initial cutting through a high pressure sieve. The paste you see in the picture above is the result…

Then it somehow got even worse.  I stumbled upon an older article drafted by Blogger Michael Kindt, author of Early Onset of the Night, where he described the process in a little more detail:

Basically, the entire chicken is smashed and pressed through a sieve—bones, eyes, guts, and all. it comes out looking like this.

There’s more: because it’s crawling with bacteria, it will be washed with ammonia, soaked in it, actually. Then, because it tastes gross, it will be reflavored artificially. Then, because it is weirdly pink, it will be dyed with artificial color.

In other words, we’ve been consuming the edible equivalent of a biological dumping ground – but only after its contents have been scrubbed with a commercial cleaner and flavored with some type of contrived extract.

And we’ve probably been consuming this deep-pink-something for quite some time.  Several years ago, the underlying processing was the subject of at least some national attention and criticism.  At the time, Beef Products Inc. began using the procedure to more efficiently market and distribute increasing quantities of beef and beef-like substances.  McDonald’s, Burger King, retail grocery stores and others quickly embraced the procedure and the innards-and-ammonia combination became a key component of ground beef used to prepare federally subsidized school lunches, commercial ground meat, big macs, whoppers and various super-sized delicacies.

Recently, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver reignited the campaign to remove beef filler containing ammonia from the retail food industry.  He denounced its use on his show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, claiming that industry was “taking a product that would be sold at the cheapest form for dogs and after this process…  giv[ing] it to humans.”  The mainstream media began covering his crusade, and a video of his televised efforts has since also gone viral.

It seems to have worked.  McDonald’s recently announced that it would remove all products distributed by Beef Products Inc from its restaurants.  Burger King and Taco Bell have also discontinued the use of so-called “boneless lean beef trimmings” in their food.

McDonald’s even published a statement on its website that describes its decision to sever ties with Beef Products Inc.  In the release, the fast food giant confirms that it will no longer use the processed filler in its products, but also explains that the decision “was not related to any particular event but rather to support our effort to align our global beef raw material standards.”  Reading between the lines, McDonald’s seemingly acknowledges Jamie Oliver’s campaign while simultaneously denying that it had any effect on its plan.

And, as an aside, the statement was attributed to Todd Bacon, McDonald’s Senior Director of Quality Systems for Supply Chain Management.  I can’t make this stuff up: the man who is authorized to speak about processed beef filling really is named after a pork product.

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RUTHLESS RECIPES: an updated list of the top five worst fast food breakfasts

In 1973, McDonald’s first introduced its Egg McMuffin.  The sandwich consisted of an egg, a slice of ham and cheese served on a toasted english muffin.  The company later added a full slate of breakfast foods to its growing menu.  As early as 1987, the red-headed clown served nearly one-fourth of all breakfasts ordered from restaurants in the United States.

Now, over forty years later, Taco Bell is rolling out its new First Meal line of early-morning offerings and Wendy’s will soon be expanding its breakfast menu.  Other fast food chains are also beginning to place a similar emphasis on the market for breakfast.

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but that doesn’t mean that the fast food chains are exclusively offering decent, healthy foods.  Shocker, eh?  Well, the following meals are particularly atrocious:

SUBWAY’S FOOTLONG MEGA BREAKFAST SANDWICHJared Fogle tipped the scales at 425 pounds, but lost over half of his weight by eating nothing but Subway sandwiches for a little less than a year.  The fast food chain capitalized on his weight loss by hiring him as a spokesman for the company, and Jared has now appeared in around twenty commercials touting the healthy benefits of Subway’s offerings.  You won’t hear him say a word about Subway’s Footlong Mega Breakfast Sandwich.  The freakish combination of eggs, bacon and sausage weighs in at 1,310 calories and contains 79 grams of fat, 31 grams of saturated fat, 550 milligrams of cholesterol and an absurd 3,190 milligrams of sodium.  It’s closely followed by the Footlong Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich, which lightens the load by around 100 calories and 370 milligrams of sodium.  Jared is ashamed.

MCDONALD’S BIG BREAKFAST WITH HOT CAKES.  Eating McDonald’s Big Breakfast with Hot Cakes will lead to a big belly, the need for big clothes and big risks to your health.  The offering is a dangerous combination of two pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage… and a buttermilk biscuit… and hash browns.  The company has somehow managed to pack 1,090 calories into the meal, which fittingly compliments its 56 grams of fat, 19 grams of saturated fat, 575 milligrams of cholesterol and 2,150 milligrams of sodium.  Do yourself a favor and eat scrap metal instead – the hardware may not be as flavorful, but it should prove to be a much healthier alternative.

BURGER KING’S BK ULTIMATE BREAKFAST PLATTERBurger King‘s sales have been slipping.  It’s same-store sales are down nearly 4%, and analysts predict that it will now trail both McDonald’s and Wendy’s in gross sales.  It gets an “A” for effort, though, as its BK Ultimate Breakfast Platter somehow manages to dwarf McDonald’s Big Breakfast with Hotcakes.  The chain is almost inexplicably able to fill a plate with scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns, a biscuit and three pancakes.   The resulting mess contains over 1300 calories, 72 grams of fat, 26 grams of saturated fat, 455 milligrams or cholesterol and 2,490 milligrams of sodium.  The chain was even thoughtful enough to include a bit of trans fat in the mix.

CINNABON’S CARAMEL PECANBON.   I feel a little guilty about including this entry, because any franchise that believes that Life Needs Frosting probably isn’t the mecca of health.   This is almost like shooting fish in a barrel, except that one of the fish is really a Caramel Pecanbon that somehow packs in nearly 1,000 calories and almost a full day’s worth of total fatOkay, I don’t feel guilty anymore.

HARDEE’S COUNTRY FRIED STEAK ‘N’ GRAVY BREAKFAST PLATTER.  Earlier this month, Hardee’s proudly announced that it would begin offering its Country Fried Steak ‘N’ Gravy Breakfast Platter, a four piece meal includes a breaded beefsteak smothered in sausage gravy, hash rounds, eggs and a buttermilk biscuit.  The combination isn’t quite as bad as it sounds, but still provides a hefty 660 calories, derives nearly three-fourths of its calories from 42 grams of fat and 13 grams of saturated fat and includes nearly a full day’s worth of sodium.  The company accurately describes the assemblage as a “stick-to-your-ribs breakfast staple,” that also  continues the franchise’s “fine tradition at breakfast.”  The second quote may be spot-on, but only if that tradition includes its Big Country Breakfast Platter with Bacon, Syrup, Jam and Butter and the gut bomb that it refers to as its Loaded Breakfast Burrito.

On a somewhat related note, yesterday was National Blueberry Pancake Day and tomorrow marks the celebration of National Croissant Day.  Read into that whatever you will…

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UNHAPPY MEALS: fast food franchise’s processed chicken leads to addiction, prostitution

Some folks suffer from addictions to crack cocaine, black tar heroin or other illegal substances.  Others develop dependencies on caffeine, tobacco, alcohol or prescription medications.

Stacey Irvine found herself addicted to McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.

The seventeen-year-old factory worker from Birmingham in the West Midlands of England was first introduced to the bite-sized chunks of processed meat when she was only two years old.  She developed an insatiable appetite for the food and ate virtually nothing but Chicken McNuggets during the ensuing fifteen years.  During that time, Stacey never once tasted fresh fruit or vegetables.

Unfortunately, Stacey has now learned that Chicken McNuggets are nearly the nutritional equivalent of dishwasher detergent.  She recently collapsed after struggling to breathe and was rushed to the hospital.  Doctors thereafter demanded that she change her diet or die.

This situation’s a bit extreme, but the concerns associated with the processed fast food are well-known, and even McDonald’s has published an exhaustive list of the ingredients used in the preparation of Chicken McNuggets.  At one time, chicken only accounted for about half of a Chicken McNugget, while the remaining ingredients consisted largely of sugar, corn syrup, synthetic components and stuff that may have been engineered in a petroleum plant.  United States District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet once considered a lawsuit involving the food and accurately summarized the dangers of the product:

Chicken McNuggets, rather than being merely chicken fried in a pan, are a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook. A Chicken McNugget is comprised of, in addition to chicken: water, salt, modified corn starch, sodium phosphates, chicken broth powder (chicken broth, salt and natural flavoring (chicken source) ), seasoning (vegetable oil, extracts of rosemary, mono, di- and triglycerides, lecithin). Battered and breaded with water, enriched bleached wheat flour (niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, bleached wheat flour, modified corn starch, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, dried whey, corn starch. Batter set in vegetable shortening. Cooked in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, (may contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated corn oil and/or partially hydrogenated canola oil and/or cottonseed oil and/or corn oil). TBHQ and citric acid added to help preserve freshness. Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an anti-foaming agent.

Of course, we’ve always been told that pictures are worth a thousand words.  Well, this image of a pink intestinal-shaped substance used in the preparation of the food has gone viral.  And it scares me.

Thankfully, McDonald’s is now pushing a new and improved form of processed chicken.  The company refers to its latest discovery as Chicken McBites, and it describes the product as “poppable pieces of premium chicken breast seasoned to homestyle perfection.  Tiny in size, huge in taste, they’ll bring a little joy to your day.”

At least one food critic is not impressed.  Yesterday, Carey Polis, the Associate Food Editor at the Huffington Post, published her review of the new offering.  She summarized the nutritional qualities of the product by writing:

Perhaps McBites were introduced just to be snacked on, as a “light” version of McNuggets if you just want a quick salty fix, however, the regular sized box of McBites are about as filling as a 6-piece McNuggets. And when you compare the calorie counts — 470 vs. 280 — you’ll see that McBites have about 68% more calories than their predecessor, a result of the starchy, oil-collecting batter outweighing its chicken counterpart.

This unflattering review likely won’t deter Khadijah Baseer.  The thirty-one year old resident of Los Angeles, California, stands accused of approaching vehicles at a McDonald’s drive-thru and offering to perform oral sex on the passengers in exchange for Chicken McNuggets Khadijah has yet to publicly offer her opinion about the new Chicken McBites, but her alleged actions suggest that she’ll almost definitely agree with McDonald’s that they’re “tiny in size, huge in taste, [and] they’ll bring a little joy to your day.”

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TACOS, BELLS, BEANS AND BREAKFAST: fast food chain proves that the early bird gets the… burrito?

Wake up, sleepyhead.  The alarm clock is screaming, which can only mean that it’s time to stumble out of bed, grab a pot of caffeine, throw on those clothes and head out into the great unknown.

Unfortunately, your stomach’s grumbling, your mouth is parched, and last night’s happy hour has devolved into this morning’s awful headache.  You need food.  Pronto.

The first few minutes of the morning can seem like a painstaking journey through purgatory, but eating at least some type of breakfast can ensure that the remainder of the day is a much more pleasant experience.  Breakfast is, after all, the most important meal because it ignites the metabolism, serves as an excellent source of sustained energy and allows us to operate with heightened efficiency throughout the morning and the remainder of the day.  It’s also critical component of a healthy diet, at least in part because eating breakfast leads to the production of enzymes that metabolize fat and help control weight.

Taco Bell agrees.  

That’s why the fast food chain plans to serve breakfast at around eight hundred locations. Find your keys and grab the antacids, pal – it’s time to make an early morning run to the border.

Unfortunately, these retail locations won’t be serving breakfast from the chain’s traditional menu.  For better or worse, the early birds will need to wait until later in the day to fuel their bodies with a thousand fun-filled calories of Volcano Nachos.  They’ll also have to pass the time before they can consume nearly a full day’s worth of sodium in the 980 calorie XXLGrilled Beef Stuft Burrito.  And, trust me, your co-workers, colleagues and the janitorial staff will be thankful that you didn’t start the day with a hearty helping of Pintos-n-Cheese or a handful of infamous Bean Burritos or Cheesy Bean and Rice Burritos.  Seriously.  

Instead, the chain plans to offer a new line of breakfast dishes under its “First Meal” moniker.  Customers will still be able to think outside the bun, except they’ll now be able to chose from breakfast burritos, hash browns, sausage and egg wraps, hot or iced coffee, and Cinnabon delights.  The food will still be cheap, with items ranging in price from a couple of quarters to around three bucks.  Not bad, and incredibly efficient, considering that customers will likely be getting somewhere around four hundred calories for every dollar spent.      

Still, the offering is sure to leave a few folks scratching their head.  The First Meal menu doesn’t come close to resembling anything that we’ve come to expect from the franchise.  It looks, almost inexplicably, like a slacker simply copied the breakfast menu from McDonald’s, Burger King or some other trans fat franchise.  The chihuahua is definitely disappointed. 

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