|Might need to order one of these Hamburger Beds. Pink slime extra?|
Messing with our food products, in order to make them go farther or look prettier, has a long history. Last week I was reading Christopher Kimball's Fannie's Last Supper: Re-creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 Cookbook and was fascinated to learn what turn-of-the-century shenanigans went on in the nascent food industry, from dying meat to make it look fresher, to tinting jams and jellies to make them look "fruitier," to coloring everything from pickles to pudding to coffee beans with poisonous (!) colors made from copper sulfate, lead chromate, or arsenic! We worry about artificial colors making our kids hyper; late Victorians wondered if those vivid food dyes would kill them!
Poisonous food adulterates continue to rear their ugly heads in places like China and India--remember the melamine found in milk and my own post on Chinese honey? But nowadays in America, our food adulteration tends toward the fillers, not the killers. This interesting TLC article defines fillers as "additives that help bulk up the weight of a food with less expensive ingredients, which helps keep the price down." As another friend put it, after having her first vegan "hot dog," "Oh--I guess it's all the fillers that give hot dogs their taste." Meaning, she couldn't tell the difference between the tofu + additives hot dog and the meat + by-products + fillers + additives version.
Besides lovely pink slime and other processed animal by-products, most meat fillers are starchy or fibrous in nature. Yum, cottonseed. Mm, mm good, maltodextrine.
Still, if you're a purist, stick to the organic stuff. By law, organic meat has got to be...meat. No fillers, no extenders, no "plumping," no dyes. Our grass-fed options at the Market are the real McCoy. I figure, if my family eats pastured meat from farmers I know 80% of the time, that Costco burger at the summer swim meet and that mystery meal in the school cafeteria matter much, much less.