The Invasion of Fake Food

Check out this print version of a story that was on the ABC Evening News last week. I only saw the very end of the story and heard maybe one sentence, but I knew I needed to learn more and after dinner (thank goodness I waited!) I found it on ABC’s website. The story highlights the use of an “additive” to ground meat in fast-food restaurants, and it will send me and hopefully lots of other people running quickly away from these establishments. But what really caught my attention was the intimation that this stuff is added to ground meat in grocery stores and other eateries that we all may frequent without even questioning that ground meat is just what it says it is and nothing more.

Then the story got worse. The Washington Post announced that even though several fast-food chains are no longer using the “pink slime,” “the US Department of Agriculture, schools and school districts plan to buy the treated meat from Beef Products, Inc. for the national school lunch program in coming months.” The mistake in that sentence is the use of the term “meat,” according to Gerald Zirnstein, a former microbiologist with the Food Safety Inspection Service who first called the stuff “pink slime.”

So what can you do about this? We have the answer: Change.org has a petition that you can sign, and you can email ABC News to comment, too — though they have not mentioned the school-lunch plan in their reporting. But they did do a follow-up to their first story, which you can read here.

The more I learn about what the food industry and our own government have decided to label as food, or in this case meat, the dumber I feel. I am becoming a little paranoid about what we don’t know about our food because everything we learn these days is revealed by reporters, documentary producers or advocacy organizations who must surreptitiously obtain the facts. Think about this: They have to go undercover or wait for a whistleblower to find out what is in our food. At this point, I no longer trust what is presented to me in the store or on the plate.

And yet regulators are spending our money running around the country busting small farmers who sell raw milk — this is real, unadulterated milk just like every one of our ancestors drank until the late 19th century. I know I drank it as a child and when it was just called milk. We ate meat that was just meat and we ate fruits and veggies that were just that. But I grew up in a small town surrounded by farmers, many of whom were my relatives who brought into town just about everything we ate. My grandfather also owned a lot in the middle of Harrisonburg, Va., where he grew enough to feed his children and grandchildren — and, knowing him, lots of other people too. I imagine that many of you reading this — whether you grew up in this country or elsewhere around the world — had a similar relationship with your food as a child.

We should be grateful that some of those same farming families are still tilling the soil, harvesting eggs, and raising cattle, pigs and chickens, doing the real work of bringing us real food. It’s news such as the ABC story that reminds us how far we have come and how far we need to go, back to the future where food was food and meat was meat.

It’s just another reason — and they seem to be bubbling to the surface fast and furiously these days — to step up your own support for your market vendors, spend a little more each week on locally produced food, bring a friend to the market or pass the word through your church, garden club or, even better, community groups organized around children. We need to get to them before the fake-food people do!

See you — and your entourage — at the market!