Can the United States Army claim credit for the McRib?
That bizarre fast-food creation has long been the subject of cultish adoration and surprisingly credible conspiracy theories (like the one that speculates its mysterious appearances are timed to low pork prices).
But the best speculation about the McRib may be a new theory about its origins: that it’s part of our lives thanks to the United States Army’s quietly revolutionary food lab, located in Natick, Massachusetts…
“What the Army develops is the backbone,” Anastacia Marx de Salcedo says. “The private companies make it more palatable for the consumer.”
She’s the author of Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat, a new book that tracks Army food research’s wide influence on the culture at large. It’s a rollicking, yet encyclopedic, look at the Army’s role in everything from industrialized meats to energy bars. And that includes the restructured-meat masterpiece known as the McRib.
…Marx de Salcedo identifies Dr. Roger Mandigo as one contender, who told Marx de Salcedo that in 1970, “the project was funded by the National Pork Council with the pork producers check-off fund … our original restructured pork was shaped like chops; McDonald’s adapted them for their McRibs.” Marx de Salcedo also notes the work of Dr. Dale Huffman, a professor who developed a restructured pork chop in 1969 that he originally tried to sell to Burger King.
But the most interesting contender might be…John Secrist, a food scientist at the Natick Soldier Center for Research and Development. That’s the place where the US Army develops its groundbreaking food for the troops as part of its Combat Feeding Program…Secrist told Marx de Salcedo that in the ’60s, Natick asked him and his team to develop a cheaper version of steaks and chops.
The Army then partnered with a meat flaking company in Ohio in order to break down meat and reassemble it into the meatlike blobs that are familiar today in the form of the McRib. Natick enlisted many meatpackers to do trial runs to see if the technology was viable, and as a result, it made its way to the private sector. “Denny’s used our restructured beefsteak in their restaurant,” Secrist said, “and McDonald’s McRib is as close to our product as you can get.”
The Army didn’t sit in McDonald’s kitchen and tell the chefs how to season their gloriously weird ribs. But Marx de Salcedo argues that they did provide the driving force to make restructured meat a commercial reality. Even Mandigo, the food scientist often credited with the McRib’s technology, told Salcedo that “the military allowed us to use the processes they developed.”
At least we can forget any stories about the McRib being developed at Area 51 from extraterrestrial technology, alien animals.
Or is that what we’re supposed to do?
Here’s what’s next
Swedish furniture giant IKEA says it pulled nearly 18,000 prepackaged elk meat lasagnas from its European stores because they were contaminated with pork meat.
Belgian officials discovered in late March that elk meat produced by Swedish food manufacturer Familjen Dafgard contained just over 1 percent pork, The Local.se reported Saturday. Familjen Dafgard supplies IKEA with elk meat for its lasagnas.
At that time, IKEA held more than 11,000 tons of lasagna at its central warehouse. The company pulled 17,600 packages of lasagna from its stores throughout Europe without telling customers why, the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported…
Familjen Dafgard said the contamination was due to its facilities not being properly cleaned between the handling of different kinds of meats, the BBC said.
I guess that’s supposed to be a “good” reason.
“Together with our supplier, we have implemented improvements to ensure that our products should not contain any other ingredients than those declared on the packages,” said the IKEA statement. “IKEA is committed to serving and selling high-quality food that is safe, healthy and produced with care for the environment and the people who produce it.”
Corporations keep telling everyone about the standards they want to live up to – without living up to those standards. The separation between business and politics is still diminishing.
I’m not even going to post the meatball problem they may have in the Netherlands.
In Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers, horse meat accounted for approximately 29 per cent of the meat. The supermarket announced last night that it was removing all frozen burgers from sale immediately regardless if they had been found to contain horse meat.
Tim Smith, the group technical director of Tesco, said: “The presence of illegal meat in our products is extremely serious. Our customers have the right to expect that food they buy is produced to the highest standards.”
An investigation was carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. The Food Standards Agency, working with the Irish authorities, established that mainland Britain was part of the area affected.
More than a third (37 per cent) of the products tested in Ireland contained horse DNA, while the vast majority (85 per cent) also contained pig DNA…Horse meat and pig DNA was found in 27 beef burger products. Another 31 foods, including cottage pies, beef curry pies and lasagnes, were analysed, with 21 testing positive for pig DNA.
Traces of horse DNA were also detected in batches of raw ingredients…
The beef burgers containing horse DNA were produced by two processing plants in Ireland, Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods, and one plant in the UK, Dalepak Hambleton in North Yorkshire. They were on sale in Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland.
Prof Alan Reilly, the chief executive of the FSAI, said: “While there is a plausible explanation for the presence of pig DNA in these products, due to the fact that meat from different animals is processed in the same plants, there is no clear explanation for the presence of horse DNA in products emanating from meat plants that do not use horse meat…”
“We are aware that investigations are ongoing to ascertain how or why horse meat was used in the products.”
Har. We know all the rationales, excuses. They will be trotted out at various press conferences. Press releases by corporate hacks will be widely quoted by TV talking heads.
They will be sufficient and acceptable. After all, this didn’t originate anywhere East of London. It must be accidental.
U.S. pork and beef exports to Russia could come to a halt on Saturday following Moscow’s requirement that the meat be tested and certified free of the feed additive ractopamine…
The move could jeopardize the more than $500 million a year in exports of U.S. beef and pork to Russia…
The United States asked Russia, the sixth-largest market for U.S. beef and pork, to suspend the requirement even as it warned domestic meat companies that Moscow might reject their pork shipments that contained ractopamine and stop buying pork from processing plants that produced pork with the drug.
Ractopamine is used as a feed additive to make meat leaner, but countries such as China have banned its use despite scientific evidence that it is safe…
The U.S. Meat Export Federation told its members by email that since the U.S. Department of Agriculture had no testing and certification program in place for ractopamine, the Russian requirement could effectively halt U.S. pork and beef exports to the country by Saturday…
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, in a note posted on its website on Friday afternoon, said: “Exporters are cautioned that Russia may reject U.S. pork shipments and delist producing establishments if ractopamine residues are detected in exported product.”
FSIS also said at the moment it was not requiring meat companies for documentation attesting their pork was free of ractopamine before issuing its export certification.
Are there requirements for measuring ractopamine sold for consumption to Americans, eh?
Analysts said the Russian move was linked to the Senate’s passage of the trade bill and blah, blah, blah…
Tyson Foods…a leading U.S. meat company, and agriculture powerhouse Cargill…declined to comment on how a halt in exports would impact them, but both noted the U.S. and Russian governments were in discussions.
Yes, there are 100 countries including the European Union rejecting pork with ractopamine residues. Mother Jones wrote a delightful article in February when Taiwan rejected US shipments – entitled “US Pushes the World to Import Our Dodgy Meat” – and if you’d like some delightful midnight snack reading matter, try this report from the USDA describing the symptoms of some pigs tested with the stuff.
The numbers released quietly by the federal government this year were alarming. A ferocious germ resistant to many types of antibiotics had increased tenfold on chicken breasts, the most commonly eaten meat on the nation’s dinner tables.
But instead of a learning from a broad national inquiry into a troubling trend, scientists said they were stymied by a lack of the most basic element of research: solid data.
Eighty percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States goes to chicken, pigs, cows and other animals that people eat, yet producers of meat and poultry are not required to report how they use the drugs — which ones, on what types of animal, and in what quantities…
Advocates contend that there is already overwhelming epidemiological evidence linking the two, something that even the Food and Drug Administration has acknowledged, and that further study, while useful for science, is not essential for decision making. “At some point the available science can be used in making policy decisions,” said Gail Hansen, an epidemiologist who works for Pew Charitable Trusts…
But scientists say the blank spots in data collection are a serious handicap in taking on powerful producers of poultry and meat who claim the link does not exist.
The Food and Drug Administration has tried in fits and starts to regulate the use of antibiotics in animals sold for food. Most recently it restricted the use of cephalosporins in animals — the most common antibiotics prescribed to treat pneumonia, strep throat and urinary tract infections in people.
But advocates say the agency is afraid to use its authority. In 1977, the F.D.A. announced that it would begin banning some agricultural uses of antibiotics. The House and Senate appropriations committees — dominated by agricultural interests — passed resolutions against any such bans, and the agency retreated…
Regulators say it is difficult even to check for compliance with existing rules. They have to look for the residue of misused or banned drugs in samples of meat from slaughterhouses and grocery stores, rather than directly monitoring use of antibiotics on farms. “We have all these producers saying, ‘Yes, of course we are following the law,’ but we have no way to verify that,” said Dr. Hansen…
All the “heroes” of both parties have walked away from any responsibility to get this sorted.
RTFA. More details – leading to the conclusions you must expect. Congress represents moneyed interests, corporate producers, before they ever consider the American families that voted them into office. Corruption has always been endemic. Nothing has been done or is being done to press the regulatory agencies into doing their job – or mandating cooperation from the corporations making their profits from protein that walks around.
One more of those issues we may see dealt with if and when we have sufficient leverage in Congress and the White House to get it done. If you believe. If you live long enough.
A delegation of British pig farmers is in China this week to further increase sales of live breeding pigs, pork and farm technology.
Jim Paice, the Food Minister, flew out to join the group yesterday and will spend much of the next week drumming up trade for British food exports.
China’s rapidly growing urban middle-class has developed a taste for pork and demand for the meat is soaring.
However Chinese pork is low quality and there is not enough to go around the estimated 230 million middle-class Chinese. Although China produces 46 million metric tones of pork a year, demand far outstrips supply. British farmers are therefore sending high-yielding and healthy pigs for breeding in China in order to increase pig numbers over there.
The pigs, which are mainly from the Large White, Landrace and Duroc breeds, sell for around £1,000 each. Farmers estimate that there is enough demand from China to export up to £20 million worth of breeding pigs a year. Farmers are also increasing meat exports to China…
Mr Paice said that there is “massive scope” to increase exports of breeding pigs, pork and farm technology to China, which will not be self-sufficient in pig meat “for the foreseeable future”…
“China has massive numbers of pigs but their genetics are very poor and their productivity in terms of pigs per sow is less than half of ours. So there is huge scope for selling breeding stock to China,” the minister said…
Chris Jackson, the British Pig Association executive who is leading the sales push in China, said that pork is the “meat of choice” for Chinese people. “They are consuming around 12 kilograms per head of population each year. That is about the same as in Britain…
Certainly, it’s useful to see British farmers realize the same gains through commerce with China as do our own agriculturists here in the United States.
We watched an interesting discussion the other night – watching Bernie Lo’s show from Hong Kong – with a leading investment analyst who specializes in Asia. When Bernie asked him which of the several market areas they had been discussing would produce the most consistent gains over the next decade of trade with China his answer was appropriately scientific – and somewhat surprising in its breadth. He said, “the protein stream”.
What he meant was everything that qualified as non-vegetable protein, e.g. poultry, pigs, cows. If it’s walking-around protein the growing middle class population in China was becoming interested in eating it. No so surprising, the interest in how people in many other cultures around the world prepare that protein is just as fascinating. Everyone wants new recipes, new cuisine.
John Weber on his farm in Dysart, Iowa
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission
China is half a world away from the 2,300-acre family farm in east-central Iowa where John Weber and his son plant corn and soybeans. But 62-year-old Weber is among a number of Iowa farmers who are benefiting as rising incomes in China lead to demand for billions of dollars of American farm goods.
“There are huge opportunities,” said Weber, who in addition to his corn and soybean business, markets more than 14,000 hogs a year with a partner. “Absolutely huge.”
This week, a visit by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping to the farm state will underscore the possibilities of the deepening agricultural trade relationship between China and the United States.
Xi, who is expected to replace Hu Jintao as Communist Party chief late this year and then become China’s new president in early 2013, will spend two days in Iowa after meeting President Barack Obama in Washington.
China last year bought $20 billion, or 14 percent, of record U.S. agricultural exports and it is now the largest buyer of U.S. soybeans, while becoming an increasingly important importer of U.S. corn and pork. The farm exports, up from $18.6 billion in 2010, now represent about one fifth of American sales of goods to China and U.S. officials are hoping for a lot more.
Beijing is not only buying food that will go directly to feed its 1.3 billion people but also for feedstuff that is going to the animals raised to meet increasing demand for meat and dairy produce that more Chinese can now afford…
RTFA if you feel you need to be reminded of all the crap reasons raised by xenophobes who would rather choose war over competitive commerce any year.
Chinese authorities have arrested 989 people accused of making and selling clenbuterol, blamed in a recent tainted-pork scandal, an official said Monday.
Xu Hu, a senior official in the Ministry of Public Security, said the arrests came after police busted a criminal ring involved in the manufacture and sale of clenbuterol in 63 cities nationwide, Xinhua reported. The illegal drug is used as an additive in pig feed to help burn fat and make pork meat leaner but is poisonous to people consuming the tainted meat…
The clenbuterol-tainted pork scandal, which came to light in March, has heightened consumer concern across the country, forcing authorities to come down hard on violators. The scandal is one of the latest in a string of cases that have raised serious questions about the safety and reliability of Chinese food and other products, and have hurt China’s image overseas.
Xu said in the latest crackdown police seized 2.75 tons of clenbuterol and closed six illegal laboratories, 12 production lines, 19 processing and storage sites and 32 “underground” factories, Xinhua said.
The Chinese government should stop sitting around waiting for a reincarnation of Upton Sinclair to visit a manifestation of national and global anger over adulterated food.
Sending a couple thousand coppers in to bag sleazy operators is what you have to do when you haven’t a useful, productive level of regulatory bureaucrats – in the best meaning of the word. That’s more than overdue.
Thanks to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), taxpayers are footing a $500 million bill for a NASA rocket that the agency has no plans or desire to continue developing. The Orlando Sentinel reports that pork legislation inserted into a spending bill by Shelby earlier this year  is requiring NASA to spend millions on the canceled Ares I rocket program through March, even while the agency can’t find funds to begin a much-needed modernization of the famed Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida:
At the root of the problem is a 70-word sentence inserted into the 2010 budget — by lawmakers seeking to protect Ares I jobs in their home states — that bars NASA from shutting down the program until Congress passed a new budget a year later. […]
But Congress never passed a 2011 budget and instead voted this month to extend the 2010 budget until March — so NASA still must abide by the 2010 language.[…]
The language that keeps Constellation going was inserted into the 2010 budget last year by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican who sought to protect the program and Ares jobs at Marshall Space Flight Center in his home state.
His office confirmed that the language was still in effect but did not respond to e-mails seeking details.
Nearly all of the money for the program will go to two defense contractors building the Ares rocket, Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and Lockheed Martin, with ATK receiving the bulk. Defense contractors have been a consistent source of financial support for Shelby’s campaigns, contributing to him at higher rates than to other politicians in his state. In particular, Shelby’s 2010 reelection campaign was the top recipient of funds from ATK’s PAC, receiving the maximum $10,000. And the company’s employees appear to have given more to Shelby than to any other politician in the 2010 election cycle.
Shelby certainly has a flair for the dramatic when it comes to extracting pork money for defense contractors in his state. In a “nearly unprecedented” move in February, Shelby placed a blanket hold on every single presidential nominees being considered by the Senate — more than 70 in total, including “top Intelligence officers at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security as well as the number three civilian at the Pentagon” — in order to pressure to Obama administration to do the bidding of Northrop Grumman on a $40 billion contract for which they were being considered.
One of the hilarious aspects of KoolAid Party derring-do will be butting head-to-head with the Republican establishment over serious money. That is, after all, what it’s about for Republicans and most Democrats.
First-timers who stood up and rejected the first Republican call for obedience – and voted against extensions to the Patriot Act, presumably from libertarian sentiments – were smacked down for the re-vote. The same has already begun with silly attempts to stop pork – while old hands like Shelby simply re-route their tactics.
True Believers will continue to funnel their dollars and beliefs to cynical politicians who will take every penny, add it to the larger pile coming from corporate treasuries and carry on as they feel they are so ordained from on high. The seat of political power ain’t moving from Wall Street to Main Street. Not yet.
For the first time since the dioxin scandal broke out in Germany, the toxin has been found in pigs. EU officials have confirmed that the animal feed was also exported to France and Denmark.
German authorities have detected high levels of the toxic chemical dioxin in pork from a farm banned from selling since last week’s scare, the Consumer Protection Ministry in the state of Lower Saxony said Tuesday.
“A test on the meat has shown high levels of dioxin content,” a ministry spokesman told the news agency AFP.
One animal had been slaughtered for testing purposes and found to be over the limit. Hundreds of pigs on the farm were then culled…
The northern German farm was one of those supplied with animal feed containing ingredients made by a firm suspected of knowingly selling some 3,000 tons of fatty acids meant only for industrial use. Samples of the fat contained more than 70 times the approved amount of dioxin.
The scandal broke last week when German investigators found excessive levels of dioxin in eggs and then some chickens. Authorities then froze sales of poultry, pork and eggs from thousands of farms…
The government has said so far that there is no immediate risk to public health. German officials say the dioxin levels pose no risk to humans if they only eat small amounts of the tainted food, but add that the contamination must be stamped out to avert serious long-term risks…
“The damage that has been caused is immense, not only financially but also when it comes to consumer trust … This is a scandal, as consumers who expect safe food were duped,” German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said on Monday.
Minister Aigner said, “This incident must and will have consequences” – and I certainly hope so. Traditions of food purity are older and most would think more deeply ingrained in the commerce and culture of Europe than in much of the rest of the world.
Maybe much less so than we assumed.