Pink Slime Isn’t the Most Disgusting Thing You’ve Inhaled

Spare us your outrage.

If you’re willing to eat a hamburger that costs a dollar, should it perturb you to find out that you’re getting more of the cow than you think you are? You can trust the government this time, though. They swear. The USDA says that once the butchered cow carcass debris is scraped off slaughterhouse floors and pressed into itty-bitty pink slime meatballs, the meatballs are fumigated with ammonia, so you won’t get E. coli, making the product that plumps up your ground beef “safe and nutritious.” They prefer to call it LFTB, lean finely textured beef. It almost sounds healthy. Makes you want to supersize your dollar burger, and then start panting until someone finally gives you a belly rub because this is also the recipe for dog food.

Then again, if you’re my prissy, decrepit dog, your food is 50 bucks a bag. How bad can it be? Bad enough to need an ammonia bath to sanitize it—but in the grand scheme of what we consider consumable. How legitimately appalled can we be about pink slime? Jamie, one of my nerdy science teacher friends who spends summers researching things like swan poop, said, “Pink slime is no big deal. What about all the other stuff we eat, and we don’t even know it? Dust is mostly dead skin cells. Fecal particles are floating in the air. Don’t even get me started on scrapple and hot dogs.”

My best friend, Kim, who’s a nurse, seconds that, “You don’t even want to know what’s on a doorknob.” No. I don’t, but I can always count on these two to tell me something gross, like the factoid about fecal particles in the air. However, I did have the same exact thought about hot dogs.

Most of us are loosely aware of what’s in hot dogs, but we eat them anyway. Maybe you don’t, at least you say you don’t, but it’s more likely that you’re one of those people who, as you’re about to bite into that glorious schweaty wiener, makes a showy announcement that you’re indulging in your one and only hot dog of the year. Yeah, okay. I’m sure you won’t have another one at a Phillies game, or at the Mummers parade, or just because the smell of a hot dog cart is intoxicating enough to erase your memory of what’s in them.

Beef is a billion-dollar industry that didn’t think twice about taking on Oprah for dissing red meat on TV, so don’t count on the USDA slapping conspicuous labels on meat. We do have a right to know what’s in our food, but how much of a deterrent will pink slime be anyway? It’s not like we don’t know that a steady diet of dollar burgers, tacos and hot dogs is a disease waiting to happen.

A White Castle just opened near me, and cars were in the drive-thru line that snaked out into major traffic for more than hour. This went on for over a month. No one’s lining up in the middle of the street for tofu dogs and fruit. Fast food is a pox because of the massive demand for it. We willingly ingest this stuff, and it’s why the human race is one big hormonal nightmare. It’s a miracle that our waste makes it to the sewage treatment plants without melting the plumbing in our houses, or that we haven’t started to involuntarily moo.

The fact is that we have as many good food choices as bad ones, including packing our kids a simple and cheap peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. Instead, we’d rather whine about how our fatness is not our fault. It’s McDonald’s, pink slime, school lunch, preservatives, the government, farmers, anything but our own chewing and swallowing.

In this very city, we mindlessly ate soft pretzels that had been stashed under some guy’s armpit all day, until we saw the video. Another claim to fame of ours is scrapple. It should be because it has scrap as a root word that I can’t bring myself to taste it, but it was the steamy, smelly cauldron of it over a fire at a folk festival that conjured up dog food more than actual dog food. If scrapple smelled like bacon or onion rings, I’d probably be in—only for one bite a year though. I swear.