Assorted links

by on April 4, 2012 at 3:22 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. In defense of pink slime.

2. John Cochrane on the mandate, again.

3. Peter Marber’s critique of economic statistics.

4. A jobless recovery means the routine jobs never come back.

5. China markets in everything.

6. The Minerva Project, on-line higher ed., Summers chairs the advisory board.

The King’s Gambit story turns out to be false.

KLO April 4, 2012 at 4:00 pm

On top of being laughable, the defense of pink slime contains inaccurate information. Beef Products, Inc., the company that brought us pink slime, does not use ammonium hydroxide to clean the meat. No, instead, the company uses ammonia gas, which becomes ammonium hydroxide when it interacts with water in the meat. The final consumed product does contain ammonium hydroxide, but only as a byproduct of the processing. Note that even though the meat contains ammonium hydroxide from processing, the FDA does not require pink slime to list ammonium hydroxide as an ingredient.

There is also little mention of the fact that the gaseous ammonia must be used, because the “meat” is infested with e coli and salmonella prior to treatment. Indeed, Beef Products, Inc. has had to experiment with the levels of ammonia gas to achieve the proper balance between bacterial contamination and taste. Too little ammonia, and people get sick. Too much ammonia and the resulting product tastes like ammonia. Do you want to eat something that is so infested with bacteria that its processor must add just the right amount of a cleaning agent so as to kill the bacteria but not so much so that the product tastes like the cleaning agent? Yeah, I have no idea why the food elitists have given pink slime such a bad rap.

KLO April 4, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Another problem is that Beef Products, Inc. continues to insist that its product not be separately labelled, because pink slime is “100% ground beef.” This claim is completely false. The “ground beef” that Beef Products. Inc. has shipped contains processing agents that were never in the cow and are not beef. Pink slime also contains fecal matter and other non-meat tissue, that, although part of the cow, is not beef. Its product is no where near 100% ground beef.

This story is as much about regulatory capture as it is overreaction to disgusting processed food product. The FDA has permitted Beef Products, Inc. to make numerous false claims about the contents of its product to the detriment of the public. Whatever the health effects of consuming pink slime may be, it is a low quality beef filler masquerading as real beef. The public has essentially been defrauded with the full complicity of the FDA.

Jeff April 4, 2012 at 4:39 pm

>>No, instead, the company uses ammonia gas

And this supposed difference matters precisely why?

>>Do you want to eat something that is so infested with bacteria that its processor must add just the right amount of a cleaning agent so as to kill the bacteria but not so much so that the product tastes like the cleaning agent?

I see no reason why not. We sanitize stuff all the time to “just the right amount”.

John Thacker April 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Do you want to eat something that is so infested with bacteria that its processor must add just the right amount of a cleaning agent so as to kill the bacteria but not so much so that the product tastes like the cleaning agent?

If you’re concerned about bacteria, don’t eat ground beef at all. Eat steak– of course that’s a bit expensive.

Personally I’d prefer irradiated, but we got scare stories about that as well.

The “pink slime” is essentially the same basic process as “pre-consumer” recycled paper. It sounds disgusting, but not particularly worse than what goes in sausages or hot dogs.

Urso April 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm

“The “pink slime” is essentially the same basic process as “pre-consumer” recycled paper. ”

Well now I certainly want to eat it!

KLO April 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm

I am concerned about honesty. Ground beef with LFTB filler is not 100% ground beef, and it is fraud to sell it as such. I am not against it being sold or consumed, because I, like the FDA, believe that it is safe. But if it is sold, it should be properly labelled as something other than ground beef.

maguro April 4, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Wait. It’s beef, right? And it’s ground up. So how is that not ground beef?

Dan in Euroland April 4, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Well we are all glad that you think its safe.

Craig April 5, 2012 at 7:31 pm

In point of fact, it’s safer than the stuff that _isn’t_ treated with ammonia gas. If you’re worried about safety in ground beef, you will insist on buying large cuts and grinding them yourself just before cooking. Or irradiation–you could also insist on irradiation.

Jeff April 4, 2012 at 9:21 pm

>>If you’re concerned about bacteria, don’t eat ground beef at all.

Actually, if you’re concerned about bacteria you shouldn’t eat or drink anything at all besides distilled water. And Heaven help you if you have to drink tap water in Latin America.

Come to think of it, every human being has bazillions of bacteria within the body (E. coli even!). I guess suicide is the only solution to exposure.

So Much For Subtlety April 4, 2012 at 7:45 pm

If you add ammonia and it forms ammonia hydroxide, you’re using ammonia hydroxide. I have not knowingly eaten any pink slime, but I expect that the consumer issues have nothing to do with taste but with smell. Ammonia is likely to boil off in any cooking process you use (and only the French eat their pink slime raw by and large) and so leave no taste . Ammonia is about as harmless a disinfectant as you can get. It is entirely natural. It breaks down with ease in the environment. It is produced naturally. But it may smell a little when you buy the raw product. We do notice it at very low concentrations.

As for fecal matter, every meat product contains some fecal matter. Cows don’t wipe their backsides all that often. It comes with the territory. For that matter, virtually any grain product you care to name contains rat feces. So it is not as if you can escape the problem. Most of us eat bread anyway. This product is mainly taken from bones and then treated with heat. It is not as if it is high risk for E coli infection.

I am highly suspicious of pink slime. I prefer my meat in the form of steaks and other objects I can recognize. But there is no need to go overboard here. After all, what is a traditional European sausage – the sort of thing food snobs and the locavore community loves – but this sort of meat stored in a pig’s lower intestine? Delicious too. I would not want to test these sorts of products (which may not even be cooked) for E coli. They may listen to the Greenies and not use any preservative after all.

Finch April 5, 2012 at 9:32 am

Simple way to assure protein quality and taste: eat big pieces not ground or chopped, little sauce, little spice. Think steak not taco.

agm April 4, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Hooves come from cows too, want to eat those?

KLO April 4, 2012 at 4:28 pm

So does fecal matter, which is present in pink slime. But, hey, CEI would argue that fecal matter treated with ammonia is probably healthier than real beef, given its low fat content.

John Thacker April 4, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Fecal matter is present in small amounts in large intestine, which I happily eat, even though it’s hard to get rid of that smell.

Your objections seem based not in science, but in pure revulsion. I understand that you’d like to be picky, though, regardless of how bad it may be for the environment. (Though other people may eat the stuff you won’t touch.)

Urso April 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm

The CEI professes love for the open market. So much so that the blog is titled “Open Market.”

Yet the CEI flips out because, essentially, people are all of a sudden finding out what it is they’re buying (an essential feature of the open market) and are choosing not to buy it in droves (perhaps *the* essential feature of the open market). The CEI then rants about how anyone who makes market choices it doesn’t like are “elitists” and “snobs” who are just “whining.” He then goes on with some overblown rhetoric about prying his ground beef out of his cold dead hands, which would be fine (albeit hyperdramatic) if anyone were trying to outlaw the stuff. But they aren’t. I’m sure there’s a tolerable defense to be made of pink slime, but that collection of hyperbole, ad homs, and juvenelia isn’t it.

NAME REDACTED April 4, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Actually, there are people trying to outlaw the stuff.

dan1111 April 5, 2012 at 3:07 am

The CEI “flips out” because they perceive the campaign against pink slime to be ill-founded scaremongering. That is what the article is about, not complaining about consumers’ free choices.

There is a long history of people making unfounded claims about perfectly safe products. This is often born of a knee-jerk “corporations are evil” mindset and nearly always goes hand-in-hand with calls for regulation or banning. I think they are right to see this as an anti-free-market campaign.

Hoover April 5, 2012 at 11:18 am

“l’andouille, ça doit sentir la merde mais pas trop”

Which translates as ‘a sausage should smell of shit, but not to excess’

Slocum April 4, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Ever had Jello? (Actually, apparently, they don’t use hooves to make gelatin — just bones, hides & connective tissue).

The Original D April 4, 2012 at 10:59 pm

And you can get beef tendon off menu at any decent Chinese restaurant.

An interesting thing about Mandarin is that they don’t use euphemisms for food. Want beef? The Mandarin version translates literally to “cow meat.” Same for pork, which translates to “pig meat.”

Perhaps if we called it “ground cow” people wouldn’t be so concerned.

Sbard April 5, 2012 at 11:21 am

Beef isn’t a euphemism. It’s the Anglicization of the French word “boeuf”. It’s a product of the aftermath of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 where the animals would be raised by English speaking Anglo-Saxon peasants, but the meat would largely be consumed by the Norman nobility who spoke French. It’s the same reason for the pork/pig and sheep/mutton distinction. Beef is still called “Rindfleisch” (cattle flesh) in German.

The Original D April 5, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Tomato, tomahto. I suspect the average person does not think of a cow when they hear the word.

Rahul April 5, 2012 at 12:54 am
spencer April 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm

On economic statistics, I remember back in the early 1980′s when Reagan was trying to reduce government spending one of the items on the chopping block was the various statistical agencies budgets. The top officials at these organizations came to economists trying to get the various
economic groups to defend the need for these organizations. But the National Association for Business Economics and other economics organization refused to support them and the budgets were cut and cut again anD cut again. Now economist see that this was false savings and we are now paying the price.

dan1111 April 5, 2012 at 3:14 am

Would better data have been produced in the absence of these cuts? Or a higher quantity of bad data? Or the same amount of bad data less efficiently? More information is needed to make your case.

Note that the article complains about the statistics the whole world uses, not just the U.S.A. Reagan didn’t cut the statistics budgets of France and Japan. It also posits political pressures as the reason for problems, rather than lack of manpower.

Tyler_A April 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm

It seems to me that the author is upset at the GDP figure just because it doesn’t tell us everything we might like to know about the economy. Of course, when people report that “all is well” just because GDP grew, that is obviously incorrect.

Other variables should be considered, probably far more than they currently are in some circles, but that doesn’t mean that our current set of tools is bad, only that it needs to be expanded.

gasb April 4, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I sawTerry Branstad, Iowa governor on Bloomberg TV defending pink slime in a very loud and aggressive manner. It was hilarious. I was thinking, governor, that ship has sailed. Move on to defending corn subsidies…

revver April 4, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Meat has had fillers since the first enterprising butcher put up shop, no need for crusading organophiles to remind Americans what they obviously know already (but don’t seem to care).
Behind all the sound and fury about pink slime, the article’s premise is essentially incorrect: market forces are not simply acting as they should, exerting pressure on regualtory agencies to the extent they are able. The food/agriculture sector is the proverbial twilight zone in regards to market forces.
For what its worth, the United States today consumes far more meat than is either healthy, or environmentally or economically feasible in the long run. Meat that is “naturally priced” would be a better wake up call than another food panic.

NAME REDACTED April 4, 2012 at 7:05 pm

“For what its worth, the United States today consumes far more meat than is either healthy,”
Incorrect. Some of the healthiest countries in the world have a much higher percent of their diet as meat (Iceland is notable as its over 90%).

So Much For Subtlety April 4, 2012 at 7:51 pm

There is an issue with food producers being allowed to get away with labeling that is blatantly false – and largely arbitrary. Why shouldn’t the label say what it is and no more? But of course the bureaucrats have been captured by the producers and so are relatively indifferent to the consumers.

However, the rest of your points are not true. There is no reason to think Americans eat too much meat. There may – and I stress may – be some issue with some kinds of meat. Preserved meats in particular. But the evidence is weak and there may be nothing to it. The more meat we eat, the longer we live so it is not obvious that we have a problem. What is more there is emerging evidence that it is carbohydrates that are the problem, not the meat. Even if it is so, there is no environmental reason not to eat meat. Meat is produced on often marginal farm land or using crops that would not otherwise be grown. The more we reduce our CO2 emissions, the more we will have to rely on animal manure as a fertilizer so we will probably be eating more in the future. The Greens have had to use dishonest evidence to claim otherwise. The amount of water used per kilo of meat being a good example.

If anyone wants to have a sensible conversation about meat production, they should ignore the Greens and google Martin Van Creveld’s article on producing beef in Bolivia as compared to Massachusetts. But the Greens don’t want to talk about that sort of thing.

gasb April 5, 2012 at 6:55 pm

“The more meat we eat, the longer we live …”

Directly contradicted by a study by the National Cancer Institute/

“Diets high in red meat and in processed meat shorten life span not just from cancer and heart disease but from Alzheimer’s, stomach ulcers and an array of other conditions as well, a U.S. National Cancer Institute study has found.”

So Much For Subtlety April 5, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Yes but notice the dishonesty of that claim – they put red meat into the same category as processed meats. As I said, there may be some evidence that processed meats are bad for you. That does not mean that red meat or meat in general is bad for you. What is more the evidence is weak. There are all sorts of other things that go with being a big red meat eater that may cause health problems. Upper Middle Class lifestyles for instance. See that little thing about ulcers? Alzheimer’s is what you get when you don’t die from other things like cancer and heart attacks. So that is a little confusing.

However my point remains – whatever happens to individuals, as a country, the more meat we eat, the longer we live. We live much longer than in 1945. We also eat a lot more red meat. So if it is bad for us, it is not a large effect.

dan1111 April 5, 2012 at 3:17 am

Please explain what “naturally priced” meat means.

chuck martel April 4, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Every modern-day American carnivore should spend a week or so working in a beef or hog processing plant. The number of vegetarians would skyrocket.

NAME REDACTED April 4, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I worked for the meat science department at Texas A&M, and it made me like meat even more.

NAME REDACTED April 4, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Veggies on the other hand, are /very/ filthy.

MD April 4, 2012 at 8:10 pm

That’s why I stay away from learning anything about how meat gets to my plate. When I taste veal, I want more. When I think about what veal is, I don’t want it anymore.

DM April 4, 2012 at 8:21 pm

I’ve work in hog slaughter and beef processing plants for the past 10 years and eating meat doesn’t bother me a bit. I’ve know firsthand the amount of effort most food companies put into making a safe product. Fruits/vegetables on the other hand have little to no food safety requirements.

NAME REDACTED April 5, 2012 at 12:09 am

Its not just the requirements for veggies that are lower, veggies are particularly filthy, often still having bits of dirt in/on them (hello leeks) when you buy them.

dead serious April 5, 2012 at 1:22 am

Dirt < shit.

Ken April 5, 2012 at 1:55 am

You sure? Dirt and soil are filled with nasty little organisms that will happily destroy your insides for you.

Sbard April 5, 2012 at 11:23 am

In a nontrivial number of organic farms, the distinction isn’t that clear (organic spinach fertilized with manure has caused several e. coli outbreaks.).

Ken April 5, 2012 at 1:56 am

I doubt that. The most carnivorous people I know are active hunters and fisherman, meaning they are well acquainted with the process of gutting and cleaning and butchering.

Tom April 4, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I’m curious how many of these industry lobbyist/front men writing these defenses of pink slime and sneering at “food elitists ie., people who just wnat to encourage people to eat healthy, simple food, on the web and in the media eat this stuff when there out at their fancy restaurants on their corporate accounts? I’m sure when they go out to the fancy Washington D. C. restaurants their ordering cheap, processed ground meat and not filet mignon. Food corporatations care about profits; if they can find a way to make food in a more profitable manner and market it (ie., fool people that it’s better than what they currently consume) and buy off the politicians, they will do it.

dan1111 April 5, 2012 at 4:19 am

Never mind that Jamie Oliver branded products, TV shows, and restaurants are a massive corporate enterprise. Never mind that consumer protection groups get media coverage and funding in direct proportion to how alarmist they are. Only the conservatives have an agenda or are beholden to corporations.

As for your speculation that the conservative side of this argument doesn’t eat hamburgers, I find that about as likely as the NRA not owning guns.

MD April 5, 2012 at 11:57 am

Tom wasn’t talking about “conservatives,” he was talking about “industry lobbyist/front men writing … defenses of pink slime.”

So Much For Subtlety April 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

I wonder if the Western media’s objection to the Chinese practice of, basically, selling favorable coverage, is about them, not us? After all, advertising boycotts do take place in the West. We have just seen one with Rush Limbaugh. It is a type of hands-off control of content when it works. Who in their right mind believes that, for instance, travel shows are not heavily influenced by the advertisers? What is more, what is better for the viewer – to be lulled into a false sense of security by thinking their hands are clean or to be a critical and discerning consumer of media bullsh!t? We may want people to think the newspapers are bought off to encourage better citizenship.

The Chinese are just more open and honest about about business which boils down to selling words.

But of course it strikes at the self-esteem of journalists to think they are paid hacks. They will prefer, no doubt, to think of themselves as fearless crusaders (oops, sorry, probably not, probably not jihadists quite yet either) for the Truth. Commerce is common and they don’t dirty their hands with that. But in the end, they are about commerce – as the New York Times’ long and slow death is showing – and they are just paid hacks. Why not be open about it?

dan1111 April 5, 2012 at 4:21 am

So much for subtlety, indeed.

So Much For Subtlety April 5, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Yeah but am I wrong?

kevin April 4, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Who likes that song ‘Goodbye horses” ? And does it make you want to do the buffalo bill dance?

DK April 5, 2012 at 1:03 am

Horse meat (and fat) is incredibly tasty! It sucks to kill all these cute animals but there is no rational reason to have a taboo on horse consumption while eating pork and beef in record numbers.

James Davies April 4, 2012 at 8:41 pm

People ought to read the original investigative report from the NYTimes back in 2009 if they want to get a full picture of Beef Products, Inc.

The AEI “defense” doesn’t address any of the real issues surrounding the company. As said above, the real issue is of regulatory capture of the USDA. Microbial-infected beef due to the manner in which cows are raised and slaughtered in the US is a problem for the whole industry. Beef Products, Inc just happens to be a microcosm of the larger problem.

mofo April 5, 2012 at 10:30 am

On the subject of the Kings Gambit story, fuck april fools day.

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