Fear Laden And Romanticized Food Messages: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Posted on 06 Nov 2015 19:54

On a blog called "Fooducate" which I have been aware of for some time, and which is chock-full of unreasonable fear messages about food, I came across an article by a dietitian speaking out against food fear-mongering.

This is sure to confuse the regular blog readers. Linked on the very same page was a short non-fact-filled article about mechanically separated meat or so-called pink slime. You can read more of my opinions, as well as some actual fact, in Pink Slime Defamation Lawsuit.

The article from Fooducate I mentioned seems to exist for no other reason than to induce fear. The comments, perhaps, are even more revealing than the lack of a consistent message in this blog.

Most readers, I am fairly certain, will be confused by finding these two quite different messages appearing in such close proximity. It really does not matter that the second article is 4 years older.

First, what is mechanically separated meat? As per FSIS, mechanically separated meat is a paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing bones with attached edible meat under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. In 1982, FISIS established a standard of identity for mechanically separated meat and declared it to be safe.

However, in 2004, due to fears about Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or "Mad Cow disease"), regulations were enacted that declared mechanically separated beef inedible and prohibited for use in human food. This is because of the nerve tissue that may find its way into the product.

The article on Fooducate mentioned this as if it is the same thing as saying that mechanically separated beef is evil when, in fact, it is perfectly edible and the regulation is to protect the public against the threat of BSE, a threat which may or may not actually exist in our beef supply today. Although no such restrictions or fears exist for mechanically separated pork or poultry, the article implied you should try to both of these as well. There is no connection, but only the vague planting of a fear seed.

If there was no threat of BSE, there would be no reason to have a regulation prohibiting mechanically separated beef. It would be held the same as pork or poultry. It is intellectually dishonest to imply that there is anything dangerous, inedible, or unethical about mechanically separated meat or poultry products based on the prohibition against beef on the basis of BSE. Yet this is just what the article did, and this is typical of such fear messages.

field dressing a dear

Hunters in Michigan field dress a dear for transport. One hunter holds the heart in his hand.
The hear and liver will be eaten. The brain and the bone marrow are also edible, as well as
other parts of the dear that not everyone eats.

Image by MJCdetroit via wikimediaImage Credit

Scare-mongering about food is a huge problem. But a complete lack of consistency is another. We must be careful of turning the term fear-mongering into an easy label for the fearful messages that we don't like, while not applying it to the fearful messages we approve of. This is called "fair-mindedness." What does fair-mindedness say about us? It says that we are intellectually honest, and hold as a value intellectual humility. The latter seems to be all but absent in our culture.

Why do we, as a society, find it so necessary to talk out our derrieres? The comments on this article inevitably brought up "hunting and foraging" as if this is more 'enlightened' than the meat industry's practice of trying to get all the meat they can off a bone.

As usual, it is obvious that none of the commenters had ever "foraged or hunted" for the purpose of feeding themselves. If they had, they would recognize that a hunter needing to eat will try not to waste anything. And, if they could get ALL the meat off a bone, and use all the organs and other parts, they would. Throughout history, most cultures have found ways of using every part of an animal.

When the meat industry does the same thing, it is "for profit" but when a hunter does it, it is for survival and to avoid wasting a precious resource. That we are capable of being so privileged that we can label an attempt to use more of a resource as "unethical" while holding up some romanticized version of the "hunter gatherer" as an idealized way to live, and where you would never have to resort to eating "yucky" things…well, to me, that says a lot about us.

Surviving off the land is not neat, tidy, and romantic. It is messy, bloody, and yes, sometimes gross. To say that there is something wrong with trying to get the most out of a resource is to say that there is something wrong with trying to survive on limited resources. Only those who happily exist in a world of plenty could hold such an attitude. We are, as a people, full of fear about food, but we also continually speak with authority about things we know nothing about. I grew up in a family that actually did "hunt" to eat. Hunting is only a romantic concept to people who never actually needed to hunt.

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