Saturday, March 24, 2012

Where's the beef?


The late Clara Peller did a series of great commercials for the Wendy’s hamburger chain in 1984. The ads were so successful that Wendy’s sales jumped 31% in one year, to a total of $945 million worldwide in 1985.

If you’ve ever spent any time in Chicago, you’ll recognize that Ms. Peller exemplifies the no nonsense attitude of the citizens of the Windy City, and the current mayor, Rambo Emanuel, is no exception to that rule. It’s a “lunch pail” kind of town, a place where Charlie Trotters and Nick’s Fish House still cater to the elite, but the average Joe still prefers a cheeseburger and a bottle of beer.

Clare Peller spent most of her life living in Chicago, and is buried at Waldheim Jewish Cemetery.

Her famous catch phrase came to mind the other day, when a brief story on FOX News (which happened to be on the TV at work) caught my eye.

The banner that flashed across the bottom of the screen read,

“Supermarket chain Stop & Shop is joining the growing list of store chains that say they will no longer sell beef with the filler known as pink slime."

(In addition to Stop & Shop, the other stores that will no longer carry beef containing pink slime are Target, Whole Foods, Supervalu, Food Lion, Safeway, and Costco.)

Pink slime.


What the hell is pink slime?

In order to answer that question, I’ll take you back in time a little ways, to the 1980’s. A man named Eldon Roth (who founded the beef giant Beef Products, Inc) pioneered a process where beef trimmings were spun through a centrifuge, exposed to a burst of ammonia gas, and blended with fresh ground meat. The purpose of the ammonia gas was to raise the pH of the combined product, which reduced the possibility of E. coli contamination. According to a 2012 ABC news report, as much as 70% of the beef sold in America contains the modified beef trimmings, which may cause you to worry a little bit, because it DID make the large hamburger chains nervous.

On December 24, 2011, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell announced that they would stop using BPI products in their food.

America has a long history of making sure that the food that we eat is safe. The Pure Food and Drug Act was passed on June 30, 1906, largely in response to the public’s reaction to Sinclair Lewis’ book, “The Jungle”.

Food HAS gotten safer, but that doesn’t mean that some of our most popular foods are good for you. If you’ve watched Morgan Spurlock’s 2005 film, “Super Size Me”, or read Eric Schlosser’s 2002 book, “Fast Food Nation”, you’ll start to recognize the fact that the “all America meal” of a hamburger, fries, and a Coke is something that should be a rare addition to your diet.

It’s America, so you can eat whatever you want, but I’ll leave you with this closing thought:

It’s Big Mac time.

Bon appetit!

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