Roughly 2, maybe 3 times a year, I get the following near-dizzy-with-lust call from My Bestest Friend in the Whole Wide World:
"Dude. Friday night. Steak. Beer. MLB 2010. I'm coming over."
I swear I hear the saliva seeping from the corners of his mouth over the phone.
What's transpiring is this: His strict-vegetarian wife is going out of town for X days and he's about to free himself from his Vegetarian Concentration Camp world, if ever so briefly.
I laugh every time!
Now I think the world of my Bestest Friend's wife. She's a fantastic, well-read and gregarious woman who has raised two beautiful and intelligent and really awesome kids. We got along quite well, too. She's just a little, well, nuts when it comes to meat.
I've had time to let this braise in my brain, and it's come down to this: She's been sucked into the rhetorical vortex by the Chicken Little Food Fear Monger.
The Chicken Little Food Fear Monger is easier spot than an expiration date. Fast Food Nation? Read it. Multiple times. Super Size Me? Better than Citizen Kane. Jamie Oliver? The Second Coming of Christ. Facebook posts? "(Blank) just had the most wonderful Hummus Pot Pie" or links to articles and declaring that The Smiths' "Meat is Murder!" is at the top of their Desert Island Discs.
But I got to thinking, what is it about this fear of meats like ground beef and chicken and pseudo-meats like McNuggets that bothers me? Luckily, I was able to figure it out.
Chicken Little Food Fear Mongers are hijacking the minds of intelligent and thoughtful people who are being duped and scared into believing this "science" based on the misrepresentation and distortion of facts and specious, unscientific connections to elements that appear in our foods (ex: “That McNugget has the same element in it as Silly Putty!”). Logic and common sense are also put on the back burner.
Now it’s one thing to object to the eating of animals—some people, like my Bestest Friend's wife, really don’t dig the idea and I get that, and that’s perfectly fine. (Hey, more juicy T-bones for me!) But it’s quite another to base one’s culinary aversions based on misrepresentations, misinformation (or is it disinformation?), distortions and fear mongering. And to complete Chicken Little's Recipe 'O Fear, we might as well add a dash of anti-corporate propaganda and rhetoric in there, too.
Now if I were Penn Gillette, right now I would be saying into the camera, "And it's all bullshit!" So pardon me if I get a little Penn from here on out with the language.
Here's an example: “Oh my god! Have you seen the way they make and what goes into ground beef? I’ll never eat it!”
True, store-bought ground beef is generally made from many parts of the cow—skeletal tissue (not bones), blood vessels, nerve tissue, etc., none of which sounds terribly appetizing. So the fuck what? Why is this bad? Are we not supposed to use the whole animal as to not waste it? Yes. It would make Sitting Bull and other Native Americans very fucking happy. Again, it’s a little gross to think about, and I would certainly rather eat ground chuck (aka: steak meat), but that shit is expensive and Joe Average Income likes to feed his family, so let's provide him with some food that he can afford too. How fucking careless and thoughtless of us. Again, is there any thing wrong in eating those things? No, there's not.
Then there’s “mad cow” disease and other animal-related illnesses like e.coli, salmonella, etc.—really awful stuff if you were to catch any of it. And I do mean fucking if (from US News *& World Reports):
“According to the Centers for Disease Control , in 2006 there were 27,634 people who fell victim to food borne disease outbreaks, and 11 deaths from those outbreaks. Only a fraction of those outbreaks were caused by beef—in fact, it's not even in the top three causes, surpassed by poultry, leafy vegetables, and fruits and nuts.”
Of the millions pounds of ground beef and chicken consumed by the ground-beef and chicken-eatin’ public, those who got sick is less than one half of one percent, if that. And of that figure, those who died is practically immeasurable. Fuck.
“Well, I don’t want to take that chance. Do you want to take that chance with your child!?”
Sure, why the fuck not. God forbid, he has a better chance of being hit walking out to my car. Or crossing the street. Or, hopefully, winning the lottery. Fuck it, I should just lock the little guy in the basement and hope he doesn't get hit by a meteor while am I am it. Nonsense.
And over what? Over one or two elements like tertiary butylhydroquinone and dimethylpolysilicone that appear in trace—trace!—levels in Chicken McNugets and that have been deemed safe by the FDA and European Health Administration, and that have tested and deemed safe by the World Health Organization and that, well, do not pose one iota of a health threat to humans. But let's be scared about it anyway. After all, long words are scary!
Using logic and reason, let's ask a simple and honest question: Of what benefit would it be to the raisers and sellers of beef to knowingly poisoning their target market? Ah, it’s for profit and to meet (pun!) demand, so the rhetorical argument goes. I see. Poisoning your target market is good for business. I bet they don't teach that at Harvard. So why pump (supposedly bad) hormones into chickens and cattle just to make a profit? To feed an increasingly hungry world faster? Oh the humanity. Are the levels of those hormones harmful? Potentially, yes. If they were put in by the fucking vat, which doesn't fucking happen.
Look, it’s good to raise question about what goes into our food supply. The problem is too many uneducated (aka: NOT experts) are chiming in and spreading misinformation faster than a rotting McDonald’s Happy Meal cheeseburger** about how bad ground beef, chicken, etc. are. They provide little context based in science and make too many assumptive and, ultimately wrong, conclusions. Truth is, they’re the epitome of what happens a lot in this Golden Age of the Internet: “a little knowledge in the wrong hands can be a dangerous thing”. Thus, they end up needlessly scaring the living McNugget shit out of a lot of people.
And if you see or hear Chicken Little Food Fear Monger bemoaning that the sky is falling because X ingredient appears in your KFC Double Down and might cause you to grow a golden retriever head off your neck, break out the meat tenderizer, flatten him between two sheets of wax paper with common sense then deep-fry 'em at 350º for 30 minutes.
Me? I'm going home and having a steak.
*With apologies to PEMCO's great ad campaign.
**The latest bullshit internet "experiment."