Friday, January 20, 2012

Mechanically Separated Meat--Yum

We were discussing the relative merits of the food at McDonald's yesterday in my Philosophy and Public Issues class. One student remarked that the food there tastes much better than that of our cafeteria at UPB. One of the topics that we'll address in my class is the moral implications of the food we eat, and we'll consider ways of eating more sustainably/morally. As an introduction to this topic, I thought I'd post an image of, well, I'm not sure what to call it-- chicken custard. It's what composes the bulk of various chicken products in fast-food restaurants.

A blog called Fooducate has a nice caption for this pic: "Someone figured out in the 1960s that meat processors can eek out a few more percent of profit from chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows by scraping the bones 100% clean of meat. This is done by machines, not humans, by passing bones leftover after the initial cutting through a high pressure sieve. The paste you see in the picture above is the result."

Here's another description of the process:
"Basically, the chicken is smashed and pressed through a sieve—bones, eyes, guts, and all. There’s more: because it’s crawling with bacteria, it will be washed with ammonia, soaked in it, actually. Then, because it tastes gross, it will be reflavored artificially. Then, because it is weirdly pink, it will be dyed with artificial color."

Jamie Oliver is a famous chef that was recently in a television show/documentary aptly titled Food Revolution. Here's a great clip. And here is an apparent industry-produced clip of a chicken nugget production line (with fantastic music for your viewing-pleasure). It's worth checking out the comments below these clips. The vast majority of folks see nothing wrong with the process. What do you think about it?

I think a good question to ask is whether taste is all that we should be worried about when it comes to deciding what to eat. You'll likely suggest that other things like our health, cost, the effect that food production has on our environment, and the quality of the life of the organism being eaten are things that also matter. But how much do these other considerations matter? How heavily do you weigh these other factors? Do these things even cross your mind when you're thinking about what to have for dinner? Should they cross your mind?

UPDATE 2/1/12: You might be interested in this piece from Michael Pollan (author of many books including The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Botany of Desire). If you don't know what the "food movement" is, you really should check this out.


Rolo Polo said...

Roland Cross

Truthfully, I would love to eat healthier foods. Since I am in college I don't really have any options, but the options they give us. Eating a healthier diet contributes to having a happier life, therefor we should focus more on what we eat.

In a perfect world I think we would all eat healthier. We really should pay attention more to what we are consuming.

Heather Costello said...

To Roland: What you say makes me think of a Eastern type of philosophy like Buddhism. They believe that our lives are full of suffering caused by desire and to eliminate that desire you will reach enlightenment. If we could eliminate the desire to eat poorly or live poorly and surround ourselves with positive people, places and things we would all live better lives. Here's the deal, stop eating at Mac Donald's and I will stop associating with idiots. ;)

Audrey Wenger said...

After reading this blog, I have to admit that I never really considered how things were made, or why I choose to eat something. When I was deciding what to eat I only considered what I was hungry for and how healthy it was for me. I would have to say that when an individual is considering what to eat, you should really consider who is raising/butchering the meat. I do not support animal cruelaity but I also think that it is okay to eat meat. When an animal is butchered, I do not feel that the animal should suffer until they die, but after they die, they do not feel anything. Therefore, how the meat is processed or removed from the bone is up to the company, but when an animal is butchered it should be quick. As individuals, we must figure out what we want to eat based on what is healthy for us, cost, and religion(if it applies to you). There is no reason to raise animals in an inhumane way. Those companies that do this should be shut down, but I still support the idea of raising animals for meat. Therefore, we should consider the company that is raising/butchering the meat and that should controll what is available for people to choose from.
Audrey Wenger

Desiree` Lamer said...

I think that everyone considers how something tastes before they decide to eat it. If it didn't taste good why would someone want to eat it? I understand that we can choose what we eat, how much we eat, and how healthy the food is for us. To me I think that cost plays a huge factor in what we eat. For example fruits and vegetables are more expensive than other foods and they don't keep as long so that may be one reason why everyone doesn't eat so healthy. I think that fast food causes many problems and if people would just cook their own food they would be healthier. I think that we should all consider the foods we eat but in reality I think that most people eat what tastes good to them and it doesn't really matter where it came from, or who raised it, and the conditions it was raised in. I know myself personally when I go to the grocery store I don't know where my food came from or how it was raised. I just buy it and cook it because I like the way it tastes.

Kelcey Schaum said...

I am a vegetarian and I have been one since I was thirteen years old. I do think it is wrong for animal cruelty and the ways companies go about killing the animals. It is not as hard as people think and it is a lot healthier. There are other means of getting your nutrients that meats give you, like vitamins. I do feel a lot healthier without meats and the fast food junk, like the picture above. We know nothing about how things are made. I saw the video Food Inc. in my environmental politics class last semester and it helped me stay strong with my vegetarianism. After college though I plan on going vegan and with all organic foods because the way things are made today are not healthy whatsoever. It is more expensive to eat healthier, but your body deserves better foods than fast food, like McDonalds, even if it is cheap.

Nicki Kellogg said...

what people eat is a huge deal in America. America is a food nation and also a very obese nation. i try to eat healthy in order to feel good and because I exercise frequently I have to back that up with healthy eating habits. However most healthy food is expensive so therefore i am not the healthiest eater. Where the food comes from is not generally something I think aabout but this post makes me not want to eat fast food. Taste is definitely the key factor I believe for most people, then the cost. I think if everyone thought about where there food came from, the world would be much different. Maybe fast food places would go out of business. As far as an issue of morality you should't eat something that was killed cruely but then again how do you know the truth? this is a very complex topic that probably will never be solved but i think all people should at least have an increased awareness and education about where there food comes from

Zoe Allen said...

I think that most people, after viewing these clips, would be completely flabbergasted and disgusted, but in the back of their minds, they know they'll probably stop at Mickey Dee's sometimes this week. This is a repulsive contradiction. Most people in this nation never think about where their food comes from, quality of life of the organism being eaten, effects on the environment, or even health. If one did consider the quality of life of the animal, most people would not eat meat and the industry would face a collapse because people would piece together the fact that an unhealthy animal must lead to unhealthy food. Pigs and cows are confined to space that is too small for them to even turn around; living in these spaces and being fed outrageous chemicals and hormones often causes them to gain too much weight for their legs to sustain, formation of tumors, and other harsh, nauseating realities. Another aspect that should be an eye opener is the drastic effects that the meat industry has on the environment and biodiversity. Meat production accounts for most of the world's deforestation due to the incineration of forests to create pastures. But, despite knowing these facts, people still continue to eat fast food. I think if one doesn't care about the animal's or the environment's suffering, they should at least care about what they are ingesting, and a lot of it happens to be this mystery meat, strawberry ice cream-looking stuff. But, even so, people still refuse to give it up. This is the result of a lazy, industrialized nation, that is essentially just too busy to care. As sickened as I am by the thought of it, I fall into this category. As a previous employee of McDonald's, as well as someone who knows a little about the autrocities of the meat production industry, I still found myself ordering from their menu after work to get half price and convenience. I found it interesting that Jamie Oliver said he got the exact opposite reaction out of kids in his own country, and that the American kids were "brainwashed" into eating the delighfully shaped nuggets even though they were aware of their contents. This couldn't be more true of Americans. If we don't change how much we weigh these factors when deciding what to eat, we will lead ourselves to destruction, and the evidence is already here. Our nation is fat and diseased. I don't think this is the future that Upton Sinclair had hoped for when he published The Jungle.

Michael Spong said...

I find it very disgusting how meat is processed. But how many of us really stop and think about what we're eating before we stop somewhere and have a meal. Before coming to this class I have heard about and seen videos about the way food is processed. I think its cruel and inhumane first of all and second its pretty sad that everything ends up being artificially flavored and colored instead of leaving it natural.
It has influenced me to eat healthier now.

Shannell Wise said...

I agree with Zoe that even though the video may discust alot of people, most of them know they will be eating these foods within the next few days, including me. It is hard, especially as a broke college kid who stays up until 3:00 in the morning, to eat healthy all the time. First of all, like Nicki said, healthy food is expensive. For a college student trying to save money it is financially easier to stop at Mcdonalds and grab a Mcdouble for 1.00.
Not only that, but Mcdonalds is the only place open to get food after 1:00 am besides walmart. If you're up late studying and need some food, where else can you go? And again, its hard to stock up on healthy food because it is so much more expensive to buy oranges and strawberries and apples.
Even though the way these foods are made is repulsive, it is not going to change the way I eat. Even after watching "Supersize Me" it did not change my diet. Even though it would be smarter to consider where my food is coming from, I really do not care enough to change the way I eat.

Joe Burns said...

This seems to be the best place to start a discussion on what we talked about today in class, February 16th. I would have to say that factory farming does in fact push the limits of morality. But that single fact can't justify taking all of the meat out of our diets due to morality. I am sure there are many cases and situations that it is completely ok to eat meat. What comes to my mind is biology and anatomy. The human digestive system functions to digest meat and plants such as fruits and vegetables. Our teeth are also designed in a way that allows us to break down meat before it reaches our stomach. This does not seem immoral. What it seems like to me is that, that is the way it is supposed to be. What seems to be the moral question is not if we should eat meat or not, but how we obtain the meat we eat, and why we are eating it. Like I said previously, factory farming seems that it would be immoral because these creatures are tortured their entire lives. I feel that wild game is moral to kill depending on the motives for taking that action. To do it for fun would be immoral but to feed people, to put food on the table for a family, that’s moral. That’s called survival. Take for example Native Americans, wouldn't it be difficult to accuse them as being immoral. They hunted for survival and they had no problem doing it because our bodies function in a way that makes eating meat possible. Animals such as deer do not have that ability. I also feel that livestock, pigs, and chickens can also be morally eaten. And that goes back to what I said before, it depends on the circumstances of the situation, which is how the meat was obtained and why it was obtained.
Joe Burns

Casey Hoffman said...

It basically comes down to money, just like everything else in this country. I'm sure everyone here would rather pull in a drive thru and get a nice steak for a dollar but it's not gonna happen. McDonalds has figured out how to make disgusting animal parts taste good and sell them for next to nothing. It's just good business for them. For us, it's pretty much killing us slowly every time we eat it, but like Shannell said, it's one of the few places that's open late at night when you only have a few bucks. Ideally, when we all get out of school and make enough money to afford good food we should all start eating healthier. But there's not a good chance of that happening either as long as McDonalds is around

Torrey Johnson said...

I strongly believe that there are many ways around becoming vegetarian or limiting meat. Don't get me wrong, if you want to become vegetarian I see nothing wrong with this. I know I could not do it myself though. With the practices performed in the modern world there are huge problems with factory farming and animal abuse. I believe that this is wrong and there are alternatives. First animal abuse should never happen and if a person does this they are sick and immoral. I am a hunter. I hunt most of the game animals in the area and have no problem with killing the animals but I don't torture the animal I kill it as ethically as possible. Second factory farming is very economical for agriculture but morally wrong and bad for peoples health. I believe if meat would not be factory farmed it would be healthier and better tasting which is what I would be most considered with. To do this its as simple as finding areas of land not farmed that cattle or other animals can graze on. My next point is about McDonald's, many people in comments before have talked about this fast-food restaurant. Many people were talking about how bad the food is. I agree the food is terrible for me and I try to only eat there every once in a while. I also believe that there should be more laws making this restaurant specify exactly what is in the food such as chemicals. But when people only look at places like McDonald's they get a bad view of meat and this is wrong. Although this meat might be bad that does not mean it is everywhere else. The nice thing is people don't have to buy McDonald's and if they really don't like it they don't have to go there. It may be morally wrong in the overall sense but I am definitely going to keep eating meat.
Torrey Johnson

Kristy Fithian said...

When choosing the food we eat I absolutely feel as though considerations such as cost, nutritional value, and quality of life of livestock as mentioned in the blog post should be taken into account. I think in today’s society the majority of American’s, myself included, have done an awful job prioritizing these categories. In many cases I think cost is put before the nutritional value a food holds. If we were to line these up and put them on a more even playing field, I think we would find the long-term benefits healthier foods hold would not only dramatically save in health care costs, as the Pollan article discussed, but will also lead to overall more fulfilled lives throughout the life course. The issue of ethical treatment of animals should simultaneously come into play. I do think the nutritional value meat holds is an important and natural component to a balanced diet. I agree with Nicki’s idea that more awareness of where our food is coming from, what goes in to it, and the treatment of these animals should be brought into light. I think part of the problem is consumers are unaware of the truths of the appalling living conditions and treatment the animals endure before they’re killed. I believe that the more people who are exposed to these realities, the more people would try to cut back or turn to more humane options when it comes to buying meat and poultry.

Desiree` Lamer said...

I recently read an article online about how McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Burger King have decided to eliminate this "pink slime" from its food but it is still being sent to high schools all across America to feed our students. So for all you parents who read this blog or know someone who lets their kids eat the school burger you might want to take a look at this link I'm attaching from USA today.

Sherry T said...

After looking at that, I will never eat another chicken sandwhich at Mc'donald's again.
I will not order chicken in my salads. I will just get the veggies, and find ways to live without the processed chicken.

I was going to get a chicken sand
next time I was out--but now after thinking hard about it. I'm highly against it.

This has moved me health wise and empathy wise. Specieism will not
happen ever again at Mc Donald's as long as I'm there. =)

Sherry T