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I nudged my wife. "Hey Claudia look at this," as I pointed to a big sign on our local IGA grocery.
The sign read "No Pink Slime here. We grind our own hamburger."
My wife snorted.
Most people have read about pink slime. They call it "Lean Finely textured beef." It consists of beef scraps and other leavings that are ground up and then treated with sodium hydroxide (bleach) to kill pathogens and then congealed into filler for ground beef.
I commented to my wife: "the USDA says that it's safe to eat, and some people say that it even improves the hamburger's flavor.
"I don't care," said Claudia. "I don't plan to eat any hamburger soon."
I shrugged. "It doesn't matter. I doubt if you would get pink slime even if you ate hamburger. Four of the five processing plants that make it have closed down, and most of the big market chains have now refused to carry it."
My wife looked sternly at me. "Pink slime isn't just in beef, it's also in chicken nuggets and other poultry products."
"When's the last time that you've bought chicken nuggets or ground turkey? I asked
"That isn't the point, I really don't like the idea of dirty ground meat scraps being doused with bleach and fed to children."
"I'll ask our grand kids if they would like some burgers with chicken nuggets or if they'd prefer to have lima beans with broccoli and brussels sprouts."
My wife looked daggers at me and snorted, "Get serious."
I parked our car and helped my wife out. We walked into the grocery store and headed over to the meat counter.
Sometimes I just can't help myself. "You know that some scientists in Holland have discovered a way to produce beef from stem cells? They plan to have a stem cell hamburger ready to sell to the public by October."
"Where did you read that?"
"I think it was in Discover Magazine."
My wife brightened. "I think that would be wonderful. We wouldn't have to kill any animals for food. We could solve the world hunger problem."
"Yeah," I responded, "we could plant our own test tube garden. I could raise pork chops, bacon bushes and prime rib."
My wife giggled (which was the response that I was looking for).
I continued: "While we're at it, why can't we genetically engineer some pizza trees?"
My wife shook her head "I don't think that the starlings would let us do that. They would eat the Pizzas before they were ready to pick."
"Good point." I acknowledged.
Later that evening I started to hunt for the stem cell article.
According to a story in the UK's Daily Telegraph, Mark Post a Professor at Maastrich University in the Netherlands grew small strips of muscle tissue from pigs stem cells, using a serum taken from a horse fetus. Post is now transforming stem cells from a herd of cattle into inch long strips of muscle tissue. The meat strips can be mashed together to create a hamburger patty. The meat color wavers between whitish pink to an appetizing pinkish yellow.
PETA (People for Ethical treatment of Animals) seem to agree with my wife. It would appear that they love the idea of artificial meat. They have even offered a million-dollar prize to the first person or group that create stem cell chicken.
This year when Dr. Post spoke at the Annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, Canada, he stated that he plans to be able to produce hamburgers ready for consumption by October.
On reading some Internet stories, it would appear that there may still be some flavor and texture problems; although Professor Post seems to think that they can be overcome.
According to the telegraph media group, the only outside person to have tried Post's lab grown meat, was a Russian journalist who snatched a sample of pork during a visit to Prof Post's lab last year. When asked, The Russian said that he was "not impressed."
My wife still seems to like the thought of producing meat without slaughtering animals.
I told her: "I like this thought too, but I'm not sure if we can afford it. The first hamburgers will run around $330,000. Not exactly McDonalds Big Mack Prices,
I believe that prices will decline over time. In the meantime, my suggestion would be to avoid pink slime and take care of what you eat.
I still don't expect to see my wife eating hamburgers in the near future.