Category Archives: meat

Who’s defining sustainable beef for McDonald’s?

Or better yet, exactly what is “sustainable beef” anyway? It appears that this question has been discussed quite a bit in the last few years. And even back in January, when McDonald’s announced that it will begin the transition to sustainable beef in 2016, the answers weren’t very clear. That might explain why their plan was met with skepticism.

That plan didn’t provide any answers either. In the weeks that followed, McDonald’s continued working with a group called the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) to come up with a working definition of the term, and on Monday, GRSB released a draft of its definition for public comment. In addition to McDonald’s, GRSB’s new set of sustainability guidelines will also be implemented by the group’s other members, which include Walmart, Darden Restaurants (the parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster), Cargill, Tyson Foods, and the pharmaceutical company Merck.

Despite its name, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef is not so much an environmental organization as a meat industry group. Its executive committee includes representatives from McDonald’s, Elanco, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Just two environmental groups—the World Wildlife Fund and Netherlands-based Solidaridad—are part of its executive board. Cameron Bruett, president of GRSB and chief sustainability officer for JBS USA, a beef-processing company, said that McDonald’s, along with other members, helped come up with the organization’s “sustainability” definition and guidelines.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the group’s leadership, the GRSB’s guidelines are short on specifics. Instead, the group provides a definition for sustainability that is open to members’ interpretation. The plan says, for example, that sustainable companies must provide “stable, safe employment for at least the minimum wage where applicable” and institute “where applicable, third-party validation of practices by all members of the value chain.” But it doesn’t doesn’t specify which third-party groups should conduct audits, and doesn’t explain how workplaces should be monitored to prevent labor violations. In its section on climate change, it says that GRSB members should ensure that “emissions from beef systems, including those from land use conversion, are minimized and carbon sequestration is optimized.” But it does not include any specific examples of target emissions standards or grazing policies.

Also absent from the plan is any mention of the beef industry’s use of antibiotics. In the United States, four-fifths of all antibiotics go to livestock operations. McDonald’s uses antibiotics to “treat, prevent, and control disease” in its food-producing animals, according to a McDonald’s spokesman.

Using antibiotics to prevent disease—rather than only to treat infections—has been criticized by some food-safety experts. But the new plan doesn’t recommend that members ditch the practice. “I don’t know if there’s any justification for banning antibiotics in feed, I know that’s popular in some media circles, I haven’t seen the scientific evidence,” said Bruett. Yet studies have shown that antibiotic-resistant bugs can jump from animals to humans.

GRSB says that the lack of details in the plan is intentional; it “deliberately avoids” metrics that could be used to measure progress in sustainability, instead leaving it up to local roundtables to tailor the recommendations to specific regions. Bruett noted that “You could come out with a global standard, but it would simply be ignored, and it wouldn’t lead to improvements among members.” He adds, “There’s all the discussion about sustainability, but it’s by people who have very little knowledge or participation in the livestock industry…you’ll never achieve [improvement] unless you have producer participation or support.​”

Hmmm. When we look closely at these statements, FoodFacts.com still doesn’t come away with a usable definition of sustainable beef. O.k., there seem to be some guidelines taking shape, but they seem to be fairly loose. The use of the term “where applicable” more than once might lead us to believe that members of the industry get to define the term sustainable for themselves, rather than having it defined for them.

Not that we’re suspicious about the intentions, but we could easily see this as a way for a variety of companies (McDonald’s included) to change the public’s perception of the food they serve, without actually changing the food. While the issue is certainly not finalized (as the definition is still open for public comment), we’d like to call the public’s attention to the other concerns regarding the majority of items on McDonald’s menu. If the company is looking to change perceptions, it would behoove them to begin with much-needed changes to the ingredients used in the foods they serve. And that could easily change public perception without any arguments about definition.

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/03/mcdonalds-sustainable-beef
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-03-20/fleshing-out-the-incredibly-vague-concept-of-sustainable-beef

Meat labels get a make-over

While FoodFacts.com has been waiting patiently to announce a different kind of labeling news (for GMOs … which hasn’t quite happened yet), we’re excited to see that at least our meats here in the U.S. will soon carry more significant information for consumers.

Up until now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requirement for meat labels has been the statement of the animal’s country of origin. New rules set by the USDA will now require steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat to list where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. So where previously, a product would read “Product of the U.S. and Canada”, it will not read “Born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States.” These rules will apply to cuts of meat like steaks and roasts, not ground meats.

The USDA has required country of origin labels on seafood since 2005 and on meat and other products since 2009. The new rules for meat are meant to bring the U.S. in line with World Trade Organization standards after the organization determined the old labels discriminated against livestock imported from Canada and Mexico.

President Barack Obama’s administration had asked the meat industry in 2009 to voluntarily provide the additional information on labels. The new requirements come after the WTO’s appeals body in June upheld the organization’s earlier decision.

The meat industry and grocery stores have protested the changes. In addition to the new labeling being difficult and complicated to accomplish, it can also lead to higher prices. It is estimated that this change will cost the meat industry between $53 million and $192 million to complete. The National Grocers Association expects the change to cost grocery stores at least $100 million dollars in new signs, labels and machinery.

The rules have had support from other farmers’ organizations, along with consumer and environmental groups. Nearly 230 signed an April letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, including the National Farmers Union, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and Center for Food Safety.

The National Farmers Union issued a statement Thursday praising the Obama administration for “providing more information on the origins of our food, instead of simply watering down the process.”

“Consumers want and have the right to know where their food comes from,” it added.

FoodFacts.com agrees that consumers have the right to know where their food comes from. Any changes we can make in our food supply that create transparency for the population brings us closer to educated consumption. We can think of a few important next steps for regulation from the government … they would include labeling GMO ingredients in our food supply, as well as requiring a real ingredient list to replace the terms “artificial and natural flavors.” We hope the trend continues.

http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_268743/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=ipM6oD4P

Meat Glue: The Meat Industry’s Dirty Secret

fusionofmeat-300x225Did you know your meats contain this meat glue? Just one more way food producers can sell more, while lowering the quality of what you consume. If it’s so harmless and miraculous, why didn’t we know before? It’s not on labels because technically it not part of formulation of the product. That’s a giant stretch. It is not harmless…and yes, you are actually ingesting it all the time!

It creates a type of franken-meat in that it allows butchers to use the undetectable glue to piece together scraps of meat into a seamless full meat cut. England banned use of Thrombin coagulant last year. They found it mislead consumers to think they are getting a prime cut for their money, and also the original glue was made from cow and pig blood, something they didn’t think was wise in restaurant meats.

When multiple pieces are globbed together, bacteria has a better chance of growth. “If there is a bacteria outbreak, it’s much harder to figure out the source when chunks of meat from multiple cows were combined,” said Keith Warriner who teaches food science at University of Guelph.

The EU recently brought back the use of the new glue, Thrombian, or Transglutaminase, right along with Australia, Canada and the US. The FDA, of course, deems it GRAS (generally recognized as safe).

It’s hush-hush because meat preparers are afraid to lose their suppliers and customers. The next time you buy natural and organic meat, it wouldn’t hurt to ask about its use.

Meat Glue: It sounds utterly repellent; like some pre-industrial, rustic adhesive, but it’s actually a fine, tasteless powder that looks like icing sugar and is it makes meat and other proteins stick together like super glue. If your eating meat, chances are you’re eating or have eaten the glue at some point.

meatglue

This sort of thing has been a boon to the food industry, which can now treat all sorts of proteins like meat or fish as just another material to be processed, but in the hands of molecular gastronomists it’s become a way to manipulate food in a way that would have been previously impossible. It’s possible, for example, to make tenderloin rolls wrapped in bacon that hold together perfectly without the need for twine or toothpicks. So what kind of glue is it exactly?

Produced as Activa by Japan’s Ajinomoto Company, it’s scientific name is “transglutaminase” and it belongs to the family of clotting enzymes which are eight in number.

Thrombin is a coagulation protein which together with the fibrous protein fibrin can be used to develop a “meat glue” enzyme that can be used for sticking together different pieces of meat. It can be made from blood taken from either cows or pigs.

Less than a year ago, the European Parliament had voted to ban bovine and porcine thrombin. The House said the meat glue has no proven benefit for consumers and might mislead them instead.

The Parliament estimated that there is “a clear risk that meat containing thrombin would find its way into meat products served in restaurants or other public establishments serving food, given the higher prices that can be obtained for pieces of meat served as a single meat product”.

But two weeks ago, all but one of the European Union nations voted in favor of using Thrombian, or Transglutaminase (TG). They now join other developed nations such as the U.S., Canada, and Australia who approved the product.

The Swedish government’s recent approval of the use of Thrombian prompted the Swedish Consumers’ Association and politicians to join together to criticize this approval. “We do not want this at all–it is meat make-up,” Jan Bertoft of the Association told IceNews, a daily Icelandic newspaper.

“The problem is that Thrombian-enhanced products look like real meat. It is the dishonesty in it that makes us think that it is not okay,” said Bertoft. For example, pork tenderloin can have numerous small parts fused together to produce what will appear to be a full fillet.

According to blog, Cooking Issues, Meat Glue is commonly used all the time, primarily to:

• Make uniform portions that cook evenly, look good, and reduce waste

• Bind meat mixtures like sausages without casings

• Make novel meat combinations like lamb and scallops

According to the Food and Drug Administration’s website, Transglutaminase is classified as a GRAS product (generally recognized as safe).

Health Canada approved the product. However, the glue also raises food-safety issues, says Keith Warriner, an associate professor of food science at the University of Guelph, in a phone interview from his office. If there is a bacteria outbreak, it’s much harder to figure out the source when chunks of meat from multiple cows were combined.

Yet another innovation is “modified atmosphere packaging”, the widespread practice of filling meat packaging with adjusted levels of oxygen and other gases. The gases can keep meat from losing its fresh-looking red hue. Shiv Chopra, an Ottawa food-safety expert and retired Health Canada scientist, said in an e-mail that the technique is “dangerous” because it may prevent shoppers from seeing when meat has gone bad. UBC’s Allen agreed: “This can be misleading to consumers.”

Invariably, industry justifies use of these so called meat glues because they are used only during processing and resist declaring it in the label obviously maintaining that it is not a part of the formulation of the product. While technically they are correct, the fact still remains that the so called processing aid stays right there in the final product.which certainly requires declaration for the information of the consumer.

If the idea of fish slurry or chicken puree glued together with an enzyme isn’t appealing to you, use it as motivation to learn more about where your food comes from. Try shopping from farmer’s markets more, so that you know who has grown your vegetables, or raised your meat if you eat it. Although between the chemicals, pollutants, cruelty and maybe reconsider what it means to eat meat at all.

Article provided by: Lois Rain