Monday, April 21, 2014

Sunday Roundup: Eating Burgers

04/01/2012

Craig Letch, left, director of quality assurance for Beef Products Inc., introduces the product known as lean, finely textured beef — "pink slime" to detractors — and the cuts from which it is made to (l-r) Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels and Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy, during a tour of the South Sioux City, Neb., plant where the beef additive is made.

Some governors of beef-producing states are closing ranks around "finely textured beef." (To others, the chemically treated beef scraps are known as "pink slime.")

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad sent a letter to Iowa schools urging them to continue using the product in burgers. And governors (or lieutenant govs) from Kansas, Texas, South Dakota and Nebraska toured a Beef Products Inc. plant in South Sioux City, Nebraska, where the finely textured beef is produced. Then they ate burgers.

"Dude, it's beef," said Nebraska Lt. Gov. Ricky Sheehy. "The negative results do not stop at one company. The impact does not stop at our Nebraska borders. The ramifications of reducing this beef will be felt throughout the entire beef industry and potentially to consumers worldwide."

The governors worried that news reports of ammonia-soaked beef could hurt beef sales nationwide. "This hysteria that we're seeing is going to affect everyone to some degree," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said

In a less than reassuring comment, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said there was probably more ammonium hydroxide (the chemical used to preserve the beef scraps)  on the cheese and bun of a cheeseburger than in the beef.

R-CALF president Bill Bullard was unimpressed with the reaction to the "pink slime" controversy. "Nearly 80,000 beef cattle operations were forced to exit the cattle industry in just the past 10 years and USDA does nothing," Bullard wrote in an email. "But, when the corporate processors get caught passing off what used to be pet food as 'new' human food, USDA falls all over itself to help its corporate friends.  Something is seriously wrong here."

• A statehouse reporter in Jackson, Mississippi, tells the Daily Yonder that a bill relieving big telecoms of the responsibility of providing landline access to all is still alive.

The bill is described here. It's much like other bills backed by AT&T in Ohio and Kentucky. According to AP reporter Jeff Amy, the bill would take away the state Public Service Commission's ability to regulate prices for about 30,000 landline phones. 

In Ohio and Kentucky (where the bill failed), rural residents and legislators objected, saying the legislation would mean a loss of service in their communities.

• The Obama administration and five states have agreed to speed up approval of offshore wind farms on the Great Lakes. 

The turbines have been opposed by residents who say the structures will spoil views and wildlife habitat. 

• There's a problem in Pella, Iowa. The tulips are blooming — about a month before the early May Tulip Time celebration

Kyle Munson of the Des Moines Register reports that people in the Dutch-American town are spraying beds with a solution of whiskey because they think it will delay the blooms. 

• Organic growers will appeal a lawsuit against Monsanto that was tossed out earlier by a U.S. District Court judge. 

The farmers want to prevent Monsanto from suing farmers or dealers if their organic seed becomes mixed with Monsanto's patented seed. The judge rejected the suit earlier in March, criticizing the farmers  for a "transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists."

"Farmers are under threat. Our right to farm the way we choose, and to grow pure organic seed and healthy food on our farms for our families and for our customers is under assault," said Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, lead plaintiff in the case.