The Truth about 'Pink Slime'
By Andrew Gunther
Last week, The Daily broke the news that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) planned to buy 7 million pounds of Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT)—otherwise known as “pink slime”—for school lunches. Some reports state that 70 percent of prepackaged grind on retailers’ shelves contain it. The resulting backlash has had more effect than anyone expected. Following a public outcry and hundreds of thousands of signatories to petitions to try to get the product out of schools, Beef Products, Inc. (BPI), the world’s leading producer of BLBT, has launched a new counteroffensive website, “pink slime is a myth.” So where does the truth lie?
Obviously, Boneless Lean Meat Trimmings sounds a lot more appetizing than “pink slime.” But whatever you call it, what is it? And how is it produced? The “pink slime is a myth” website says that BLBT is the meat and fat that is trimmed away when beef is cut. This is true as far as it goes. But BLBT isn’t quite the same as the bits of meat that you or your butcher might cut off the edge of a steak or other piece of meat. BLBT is the fatty trimmings that even BPI agrees couldn’t be separated with the knife. In the past, these trimmings were used for pet food or converted into oil rather than being served as hamburgers to people.
BPI discovered that first simmering the trimmings so that the fat separates from the muscle, and then using a centrifuge to spin off the fat and so extract the protein from the trimmings, resulted in a lean product that could be used in food. The next challenge was to make this recovered “meat” safe to eat. BPI is well aware—having commissioned its own reports in the past—that trimmings from the outer surface of the beef carcass have the potential for greater contamination with bacteria than other cuts of meat. These scraps of meat are susceptible to contamination with E. coli and Salmonella. The BPI answer is to send the centrifuged “meat” mixture through pipes where it is sprayed with ammonia gas intended to kill the bacteria. The end product may not exactly look like “slime”—and some of the photos accompanying blogs on this topic have actually been of recovered poultry meat rather than beef—but it certainly doesn’t look like beef either.
Some estimates suggest that as well as being put into school food, 70 percent of all hamburgers contain at least some “pink slime.” BPI says that BLBT “rarely” makes up more than 25 percent of the final product—but that’s still a lot of recovered meat “waste” that wouldn’t be in any hamburger you made from beef you’d ground at home. Interestingly, when Beef magazine’s website ran a story deriding the “media hysteria” and supporting the new “pink slime is a myth” website, the comments from ranchers—a group not generally inclined to take a non-industry line—were disparaging. The general feeling was that beef producers could not and should not defend this product. It seems that everyone aside from those making money from pink slime can see that when you have to use a centrifuge and add ammonia to fatty scraps of meat to make it lean and “safe,” you really shouldn’t be trying to sell it as “beef.”
Even the fast food companies McDonald‘s, Burger King and Taco Bell stopped using meat that was treated with ammonia last year. These are not companies that sell their products as being healthy and wholesome—yet they recognize that this treated meat fills consumers with distaste. Today, the grocery chain Kroger released a list of products containing “pink slime” so you can avoid them should you wish. Kroger is honest enough to admit the presence of pink slime, and hopefully the company is considering removing it from its stores.
So, if pink slime isn’t good enough for McDonald’s, why on earth does the USDA think it is good enough for our children? One argument is that with tight budgets, ammonia-treated recovered meat is a cheaper option to provide protein in school lunches. But the estimates I’ve seen suggest that the savings are as little as a few cents a pound. While this adds up to a fair amount when you buy 7 million pounds of meat, are the savings really worth it?
The picture does not improve when you see what former USDA microbiologists say about BLBT. Gerald Zirnstein was the man who first coined the phrase “pink slime” in an email message to colleagues back in 2002. He said that calling the product “ground beef” as USDA wanted to do amounted to “fraudulent labeling.” Another USDA scientist, Carl Custer, interviewed a few days ago was concerned that the department had approved the ammonia treated beef for sale without obtaining independent confirmation that the product did not have a food safety risk. Yet, in 2009, there were two back-to-back incidents of salmonella contamination which caused 52,000 pounds of BLBT to be recalled.
With amazing shamelessness, the American Meat Institute (AMI) is also trying to promote pink slime as being sustainable. Their argument is that utilizing these trimmings in a world where red meat protein supplies are decreasing and global demand is increasing is a good thing and improves the efficiency of the beef industry. But this product wasn’t wasted before BPI came along with its centrifuges and ammonia—it had less profitable uses. And sustainability—as well as feeding the world an adequate supply of protein—is far more complex than ensuring a constant supply of a protein that no one in their right mind would want to eat. We can do a lot more to feed the world in a sustainable way by thinking about our eating habits and purchasing high-welfare pasture-raised meat.
Some within the USDA pushed for pink slime to be listed as an ingredient on the hamburger patties to which it was added. But because the substance was designated simply as “meat,” there’s no way of knowing if it’s been added to the grocery store grind that you’re buying. Likewise, the USDA considers ammonia gas a “processing agent” rather than an ingredient, so the addition of ammonia does not have to be listed anywhere.
This is the same old story—if you want to be sure of what you’re getting, then you need to buy meat from farmers who are producing a high quality, unadulterated product—a product that doesn’t need to be treated with ammonia hydroxide in order to reduce the risk of food poisoning. A product that is truly sustainable. You need to look for meat produced by Animal Welfare Approved farmers.
If you do nothing else, sign this petition to get “pink slime” out of our children’s diets. Sign the petition to the USDA by clicking here.
For more information, click here.
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The environmental disaster that Mauritius is facing is starting to appear as its pristine waters turn black, its fish wash up dead, and its sea birds are unable to take flight, as they are limp under the weight of the fuel covering them. For all the damage to the centuries-old coral that surrounds the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, scientists are realizing that the damage could have been much worse and there are broad lessons for the shipping industry, according to Al Jazeera.
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Transitioning to renewable energy can help reduce global warming, and Jennie Stephens of Northeastern University says it can also drive social change.
For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.
"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."
To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.
"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."
So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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If weather is your mood, climate is your personality. That's an analogy some scientists use to help explain the difference between two words people often get mixed up.
Size Matters<p>Climates are a bit like woven tapestries. The big picture is important, no question. But so are all the seemingly minor details found inside the larger whole.</p><p><a href="https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/en/persons/tommaso-jucker" target="_blank">Tommaso Jucker</a> is an environmental scientist at the University of Bristol. In an email, Jucker says he'd define the term microclimate as "the suite of climatic conditions (temperature, rainfall, humidity, solar radiation) measured in localized areas, typically near the ground and at spatial scales that are directly relevant to ecological processes."</p><p>We'll talk about that last bit in a minute. But first, there's another criteria to discuss. According to some researchers, a microclimate — by definition — must differ from the larger area that surrounds it.</p><p><a href="https://www.cfc.umt.edu/research/paleoecologylab/publications/Davis_et_al_2019_Ecography.pdf" target="_blank">Forests</a> provide us with some great examples. "The climate near the ground in a tropical rainforest is dramatically different from the climate in the canopy 50 meters [164 feet] above," says University of Montana ecologist <a href="https://www.cfc.umt.edu/personnel/details.php?ID=1110" target="_blank">Solomon Dobrowski</a> in an email. "This vertical gradient among other factors allows for the staggering biodiversity we see in the tropics."</p><p>Likewise, scientists observed that a 2015 partial <a href="https://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/bees-stopped-buzzing-during-2017-solar-eclipse.htm" target="_blank">solar eclipse</a> caused the air temperature of an Eastern European meadow to <a href="https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wea.2802" target="_blank">change more dramatically</a> than it did in a nearby forest. That's because trees provide not only shade, but their leaves also reflect solar radiation. At the same time, forests tend to reduce wind speeds.</p><p>All those factors add up. A 2019 review of 98 wooded places — spread out across five continents — found that forests are 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) <a href="https://natureecoevocommunity.nature.com/posts/47363-forests-protect-animals-and-plants-against-warming" target="_blank">cooler on average</a> than the areas outside them.</p><p>Now if you hate the cold, don't worry; there's a cozy exception to the rule. According to that same study, forests are usually 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than the external environment during the wintertime. Pretty cool.</p>
A Bug's Life<p>When does a microclimate stop being, well, micro? In other words, is there a maximum size we should be aware of when discussing them?</p><p>Depends on who you ask. "In terms of horizontal scale, some have defined 'microclimate' as anything that is less than 100 meters [328 feet] in range," Jucker says. "I'm personally less prescriptive about this."</p><p>Instead, he says the "scale at which we want to measure [a particular] microclimate" ought to be "dictated" by the questions we're trying to answer.</p><p>"If I want to know how temperature affects the photosynthesis of a leaf, I should be measuring temperature at centimeter scale," Jucker explains. "If I want to know if and how temperature affects the habitat preference of a large, mobile mammal, it's probably more relevant to capture temperature variation across [tens to hundreds] of meters."</p><p>For instance, solitary plants have the power to generate itty-bitty microclimates. Just ask <a href="https://www.colorado.edu/geography/peter-blanken-0" target="_blank">Peter Blanken</a>, a geography professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the co-author of the 2016 book, "<a href="https://amzn.to/2XN6FT8" target="_blank">Microclimate and Local Climate</a>."</p>
The urban heat island effect is a good example of how microclimates work. NOAA
Microclimates on a Grand Scale<p>It's no secret that our planet is going through some rough times at the macro level. The global temperature is <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/" target="_blank">climbing</a>; nine out of the <a href="https://www.noaa.gov/news/2019-was-2nd-hottest-year-on-record-for-earth-say-noaa-nasa" target="_blank">10 hottest years on record</a> have occurred since 2005. And by one recent estimate, roughly 1 million species around the world are <a href="https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2020-02/ipbes_global_assessment_report_summary_for_policymakers_en.pdf" target="_blank">facing extinction</a> due to human activities.</p><p>"One of the big questions that ecologists and environmental scientists are trying to answer right now is how will individual species and whole ecosystems respond to rapid climate change and habitat loss," says Jucker. "...To me, [microclimates are] a key component of this research — if we don't measure and understand climate at the appropriate scale, then predicting how things will change in the future becomes a lot harder."</p><p>Developers have long understood the impact small-scale climates have on our daily lives. <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/urban-heat-island.htm#pt0" target="_blank">Urban heat islands</a> are cities that have higher temperatures than neighboring rural areas.</p><p>Plants release vapors that can moderate local climates. But in cities, natural greenery is often scarce. To make matters worse, plenty of our roads and buildings have a bad habit of absorbing or re-emitting heat from the sun. <a href="https://www.google.com/books/edition/Microclimate_and_Local_Climate/LHUZDAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=urban%20heat%20island" target="_blank">Vehicle emissions</a> don't exactly help the situation.</p><p>Still, it's not like Boston or Beijing are thermal monoliths. Sometimes, the documented temperatures <a href="https://e360.yale.edu/features/can-we-turn-down-the-temperature-on-urban-heat-islands" target="_blank">within a single city</a> vary by 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (8.3 to 11.1 degrees Celsius).</p><p>That's where metro parks and city trees come in. They have nice cooling effects on nearby neighborhoods. "Several cities around the world have developed programs to increase urban green spaces," says Blanken. "Tree planting programs and green roof programs, have been shown to lower surface temperatures, decrease air pollution and decrease surface water runoff (urban flash-flooding) in urban areas."</p>
An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.
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By Jeff Berardelli
Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020
If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.
<div id="ecf36" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c2dcc9d48a6cd61f247df1544539a783"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1290959314132361216" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Naming heatwaves is a good idea—making the abstract concrete, the invisible visible. Why should hurricanes and wild… https://t.co/hDWgYb79Ob</div> — Ed Maibach (@Ed Maibach)<a href="https://twitter.com/MaibachEd/statuses/1290959314132361216">1596623660.0</a></blockquote></div>
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Thailand has a total population of 5,000 elephants. But of that number, 3,000 live in captivity, carrying tourists on their backs and offering photo opportunities made for social media.
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