It's not enough for Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer that the city schools are jumping on the latest elite food fad by dropping "pink slime": He wants them on the bandwagon now.
Let's be clear: The meat product known as "lean finely textured beef" does look gross. But so does just about every meat product — ever seen how they make pastrami? And this stuff is perfectly safe, and almost certainly healthier than its likely replacement.
The US Department of Agriculture goes to great lengths to ensure that the national school-lunch program serves appropriate food to America's kids. And its scientists have been unambiguous: This meat product is perfectly fine.
But activist celebrity chef Jamie Oliver decided to make a stink about it, and "right-thinking" people have rushed to go along.
City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott acknowledges the feds say the meat is safe, but he lobbied them into letting him ban it anyway. It's off the menu by September.
That's not fast enough for Stringer, who's grandstanding for an immediate ban. He calls it "garbage," as if there's actually something wrong with it, other than the gross "pink slime" moniker.
Funny, it wasn't so long ago that food activists claimed they wanted our food to be more "sustainable." Yet this stuff is an innovative model of sustainable agriculture: It's made with a process that safely uses parts of the animal that previously had been either discarded, or used for lower-value uses, such as animal food. And since the fat is melted out of the meat before it's mixed into other ground beef, "pink slime" actually yields lower-fat meals.
It's also safe: It's treated to make it inhospitable to dangerous E. Coli bacteria. And the main company that makes it, Beef Products International, tests the meat more than USDA's already strict regulations require. That's more than can be said about the different ground-up cow that's likely to replace it.
It's been used for years by schools, leading fast-food outlets and major supermarket chains. And if it didn't taste good, kids would have voted with their stomachs long ago.
Why waste scare dollars to switch to more expensive, higher-fat alternatives?
The real (and ridiculous) agenda here is to make us all go organic. According to food activist MicheleSimon, "Pink slime is just one of many problems with industrialized meat. So let's hope this week's groundswell of interest in pink slime inspires Americans to demand labeling, buy organic or stop eating ground beef all together."
And Mark Bittman in The New York Times calls the "pink menace" a symptom of a larger disease — "the industrial production of livestock on a scale that's far too large to sustain without significant collateral damage."
These people only want us eating grass-fed free-range cattle, if we eat any meat at all. Scott Stringer may be able to afford that diet, but it's pathetic for politicians to kowtow to dishonest elitists.
Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.