The Great Hall
In a real stew ... over red meat The Great Hall: In a real stew ... over red meat
By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, February 21, 2006 - 02:17 pm: Edit

By RICK WEISS (part 1)
Washington Post

February 21, 2006, 10:55 AM EST

WASHINGTON -- Picture two steaks on a grocer's shelf, each sealed in clear plastic wrap. One is bright pink, rimmed with a crescent of pearly white fat. The other is brown, its fat the color of a smoker's teeth.

Which do you reach for?

The meat industry knows the answer, which is why it has quietly begun to spike meat packages with carbon monoxide.

The gas, harmless to health at the levels being used, gives meat a bright pink color that lasts for weeks. The hope is that it will save the industry much of the $1 billion it says it loses annually from having to discount or discard meat that is reasonably fresh and perfectly safe but no longer pretty.

But the growing use of carbon monoxide as a "pigment fixative" is alarming consumer advocates and others who say that it deceives shoppers who depend on color to help them avoid spoiled meat. Those critics are challenging the Food and Drug Administration and the nation's powerful meat industry, saying that the agency violated its own rules by allowing the practice without a formal evaluation of its effect on consumer safety.

"This meat stays red and stays red and stays red," said Don Berdahl, vice president and laboratory director at Kalsec Foods in Kalamazoo, Mich., a maker of natural food extracts that has petitioned the FDA to ban the practice.

If nothing else, Berdahl and others say, carbon-monoxide-treated meat should be labeled, so that consumers will know not to trust their eyes.

The legal offensive has the meat industry seeing red. Officials deny their foes' claim that carbon monoxide is a "colorant" - a category that would require a full FDA review - saying that it helps meat retain its naturally red color.

Besides, industry representatives say, color is a poor indicator of freshness as meat turns brown from exposure to oxygen long before it goes bad.

"When a product reaches the point of spoilage, there will be other signs that will be evidenced - for example odor, slime formation and a bulging package - so the product will not smell or look right," said Ann Boeckman, a lawyer whose Washington firm represents Precept Foods LLC, a joint venture between Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. and Hormel Foods Corp. that helped pioneer the technology.

Much is at stake. The U.S. market in "case-ready" meats - those packaged immediately after slaughter, avoiding use of butchers in grocery stores - is approaching $10 billion and growing, said Steve Kay of Cattle Buyers Weekly. The new technology "will finally make this the case-ready revolution, rather than the case-ready evolution," said Mark Klein, director of communications for Cargill's meat business.

It is a revolution some want stopped in its tracks.

"We feel it's a huge consumer right-to-know issue," said Donna Rosenbaum of Safe Tables Our Priority, an advocacy group in Burlington, Vt., created after four children died and hundreds became sick after eating tainted hamburgers from Jack in the Box restaurants in 1992 and 1993. Last month, the Burlington group and the Consumer Federation of America wrote to the FDA in support of a ban.

At the core of the issue is how the FDA has assessed companies' requests to use carbon monoxide in their packaging.

It started about five years ago, when Pactiv Corp. of Lake Forest, Ill., urged the FDA to declare the approach "generally recognized as safe," or GRAS - a regulatory category that allows a firm to proceed with its plans without public review or formal agency "approval."

The FDA told Pactiv in 2002 that it had no argument with the proposal. In 2004, Precept Foods received a similar letter, and recently Tyson did as well.

The FDA has also deemed carbon monoxide GRAS for keeping tuna looking fresh.

Kalsec acknowledges that the process would hurt his company, which sells natural extracts that help keep meat looking fresh. But he and consumer advocates say more is at risk than the market for extracts.

They note that the European Union has banned the use of carbon monoxide as a color stabilizer in meat and fish. A December 2001 report from the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Food concluded that the gas (whose chemical abbreviation is "CO") did not pose a risk as long as food was kept cold enough during storage and transport to prevent microbial growth. But should the meat become inadvertently warmer at some point, it warned, "the presence of CO may mask visual evidence of spoilage."

How is it, Berdahl and others ask, that something can be deemed "generally recognized as safe" when there is enough scientific debate over the issue to warrant a ban in Europe?

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, February 21, 2006 - 02:18 pm: Edit

(part 2)
"I just picture a refrigerator truck breaking down in Arizona and sitting there for an afternoon. Then, `Hey, we got it repaired and nobody knows the difference,' and there you go."

Opponents also say the FDA was wrong to consider carbon monoxide a color fixative rather than a color additive - a crucial decision because additives must pass a rigorous FDA review. They note that freshly cut meat looks purplish red, and that the addition of carbon monoxide - which binds to a muscle protein called myoglobin - turns it irreversibly pink.

Proponents of the gas counter that meat turns from purple to red just from sitting in air, and that CO prevents the next step, in which meats turn brown. They also say that consumers should pay attention to "sell or freeze by" dates as the best indicator of freshness.

George Pauli, associate director for science and policy in the FDA's Office of Food Additive Safety, defended the agency's decisions. "In general, statute says you cannot use [substances] in a deceptive manner, and the question is what is a deceptive manner," Pauli said.
Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

By Cookingfresh (Cookingfresh) on Tuesday, February 21, 2006 - 06:29 pm: Edit

Is this such a strech from all the other forms that are currently being used? Coating fruits and vegetables in wax products, feeding salmon color coding so it looks more "salmon Like" ( step right up and pick the color of salmon you would like today). Geneticly altering tomatoes so they are more round, redder and look perfect but have no flavor. Gassing avocados to ripen. Injecting growth hormones to get more pounds on the hoof. Where does the madness end??? As my sign in name sugguests,I think I'll pay the extra for the real thing.

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - 09:53 am: Edit

Crock of crap, the opposition to co. No, it's not a colourant, and yes, the mfctrs must put a "best sell by" date on the packages. Bannanas have been gassed since the 1930 to promote quicker ripening, and tomatoes and stawberries are being gassed as well.

That being said, I don't like the direction Cargill is going in. They raise the beef, slaughter it, dress it, and now portion pack it. Next thing you know they'll be putting the portion packs on the grocer's reach-in shelves, jut like the dairy or the potato chip guys. Waaay to much area for Cargill to controll, almost like a monopoly.....

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - 05:20 pm: Edit

Major Controllers of food corporations

Food is Power!

Food Control

Interesting food articles

GM, GE food articles

By Cookingfresh (Cookingfresh) on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - 07:29 pm: Edit

I could be wrong but I don't think the gasing is to quicken the riping as much as it is to just ripen the produce that was picked and shipped green so as to lessen the amount of spoilage on the way to market. This while not harming you or I it does take out most of the flavor. Thats why I try to use local farmers and Pro-act from my produce company. Farm fresh, no gas, no wax.

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - 09:15 pm: Edit

Food for thought(pun intended):
"Who was the biggest beef producer through feedlots and fatteners? Greyhound bus. Who was the biggest pork producer in the world? Arnior, owned by Greyhound bus. One Of the largest cattle feeders by volume in the U.S. as well as one Of the largest grain companies is Cargill, (run by Whitney McMillan, Tri Lat member), and they bought Missouri Beef, one Of the largest beef packing plants."
You'll see that the CEO, Chmn., of Cargill, Inc. is a CFR and TC member.

I am certain if people were to do some research about multinational food conglomerates, e.g., Archer Daniels Midland(ADM), ConAgra, Monsanto, etc., they would(if their eyes were wide open!) see that they control the food.

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Thursday, February 23, 2006 - 10:00 am: Edit

Yeah, you're on the right track, Andapanda. This isn't about gassing meat, it's about squeezing out the smaller in-store butchers and more profit other than the feedlots, and packing of meat. Up to now no one's really bothered with gassing meat. Why? Because the in-store butcher can sell fresh meat and it won't discolour within two days. If it does, he can either sell it as a frozen product or turn oxidized ground beef into hamburger patties. He can also vacuum pack.

But Cargill wants to portion pack everything, that includes 1/2 lb ground beef and two-packs of pork chops. The cost of vacuum packing these smaller items would be cost prohibitive, yet the items must have a shelf life of at least a week, and it'll take at least a day for packing and shipping before the items even reach the store. So gas flushing makes sense, but it also means that they'll squeeze out the in-store butchers, and rule the market and pricing structure of portion controlled raw meats.

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Thursday, February 23, 2006 - 04:44 pm: Edit

I had worked as a meat department apprentice in a high-end supermarket a few years ago, and I can say from my own experience, that most of the meat was already pre-portioned and prepackaged from the meat packing plants.
The butchers in supermarkets are not even called "butchers" anymore, but instead, are called "meat cutters." In general terms, the meat cutters in supermarkets are not usually as skilled as butchers who actually worked in meat shops. Supermarket corporations are not interested in training meat cutters to the same level of proficiency as a butcher.
Nevertheless, you might occassionally meet a semi-retired butcher working in a supermarket meat department. I had worked with a meat cutter who had previously owned his own meat shop and decided to sell it and take it easy and work part time. I was always amazed to watch a skilled butcher at work.
Unfortunately, the culinary, baking, pastry, confectionary arts, etc., are dying trades. The butchery school in Minnesota became defunct a few years ago due to lack of interest.
Perhaps North Americans should consider the Slow Food Movement? Any thoughts?

By Chenejaunechef (Chenejaunechef) on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - 05:04 pm: Edit

why dont they just ship out less meat, avoiding it going bad? take averages of how much they have to throw out, then ship that percentage sure someones thought of that already though.

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Thursday, March 02, 2006 - 10:22 am: Edit

One word, Volume.

Take a good look at your local grocery store, you'll see people working there who aren't employees of the store. Who are they? They're the dairy guy, who unloads dairy from his truck, stocks the coolers, and takes back the products with due expiry dates, then he tallys up, and gives the manager the bill. Same with the potato chip guy, the bread guy, and maybe the bulk candy guy. It works well because it's a volume based system.

This is the system that the meat packers want to introduce to the grocery stores. If you have volume it works great, but you also need a longer shelf life too.

By Cookingfresh (Cookingfresh) on Thursday, March 02, 2006 - 03:42 pm: Edit

chenejaunechef, it relates to the basic idea you had of being the Executive Chef/ General Manager at your several restaurants, to save money. one butcher cutting for multiple stores is more cost effective that each store hiring a butcher. And as most restaurants over portion and charge for it to increase their profits so will the meat packers. Offering a wider varitiy of goods helps sell more. Shipping a full truck once a week save on shipping 1/2 a load twice a week. Less labor, gas etc.. everybody is trying to maximize their profits.
BTW this is not something new it's been going on for quite a while. In the 80's I worked for a chain that bought preportined steaks gasses in cryovac packs and we had to air them out for several hours before cooking.

By Chefgibz0 (Chefgibz0) on Saturday, March 04, 2006 - 12:00 am: Edit

another thing not know to the masses is that Wal-mart supposedly iradiates their meat. this is to kill any trace bacteria and viruses on the meat there by stopping any possible lawsuits due to sickness. My butcher at the resort has been in the industry for 40+ years. One day we were talking about different prices of meat and where to buy. In my area the local butcher is a lost trade left to the main stream box store, Wal-mart being the cheapest and largest. Upon our conversation he divuldged the lil known trade use of iradiation.

The people that are in control of the food are also in bed witht he people in control of the money. Monsanto is a very evil corp. Cargill is now an ever increasing player in the food market. My resort has an avendra contract so we have to pushcase from them. Cargill negotiated a contract with guess whos oil I have to use. BTW, it is ••••. Fry oil, although it is $16 a jug, I need to change out the fryers almost 3 times as much. After about 4 days of use, minimal, the frys look like crap. Corporate negotiated slavery.

I for one think all chefs should join the Chefs Collabrative (sp). Start to inform people about sustainable cooking and living.

FYI: Consumer was bad word up until the mid 1900's. To consume was to not live responsibly and not with ones means.

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Tuesday, March 07, 2006 - 05:03 pm: Edit

Read this article about Genetically Engineered Foods. :(

By Cookingfresh (Cookingfresh) on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 02:29 pm: Edit

In four years, God willing and the creek don't rise, I'm retiring to the farm and hope to have some nice gardens with heirloom seeds to grow real food in certified organic soil. Ah, to dream.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 - 12:24 pm: Edit

Pretty soon we'll all be consuming "Soilent Green" and walking down the long coridor at age 55!!!!!!!!

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 - 01:39 pm: Edit

Do you mean?:
"Soon they'll be breeding us like cattle! You've got to warn everyone and tell them!
Soylent Green is made of people! You've got to tell them! Soylent Green is people!"
- Police Detective Thorn :(

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 - 04:42 pm: Edit

Monsanto Moves to Control Water Resources & Fish Farming
in India & the Third World

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 - 08:12 pm: Edit

More Monsanto news:
Monsanto's GE Alfalfa Sows Resistance from Critics
Monsanto Plans to Go Forward with Controversial Terminator Gene Technology
Monsanto & Biotech Monopolies Sued for Forcing Frankencrops Seeds on Farmers
A Decade Later: Are GE Crops Winning Hearts and Minds?
Corporate Food Giants & Congress Threaten States' Rights to Label Food
GE Frankencrops Continue to Spread Worldwide
Monsanto Moves to Force-Feed Europe Genetically Engineered Corn
Monsanto's Man at the U.S. Trade Office
GM foods verdict unlikely to alter EU rules
Genetically Engineered Seed Labeling Law in Vermont Not Being Enforced
Slow Food "David" Slays "Goliath," the McDonald's Fast Food Giant, in Southern Italy
Even McDonald's Says U.S. Safeguards Against Mad Cow Disease Are Inadequate
The Food Industry Versus Mother Nature

'You see, young man? Whether it'$ about food companie$, culinary schools, or even the internet:
Looming Corporate Takeover: The End of the Internet?
Bottom line: It'$ all about GREED!

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 - 09:15 pm: Edit

Funny(click Big Box Mart!:)) that you mentioned Wal-Mart:
"The Clintons depended on Wal-Mart's largesse not only for Hillary's regular payments as a board member but for travel expenses on Wal-Mart planes and for heavy campaign contributions to Bill's campaigns there and nationally. . ."
Irradiated Meat Fails in Florida and Wisconsin; Major Chain and Producer Drop Controversial Beef Patties
Wal-Mart, Publix Also Shun Products; California Irradiation Company's Stock Price Tumbles

FYI: Chefs Collaborative

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, March 28, 2006 - 10:21 pm: Edit

I just heard Alpo is moving in on Spam!!!

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