Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Just The Facts

The Facts About Lean Finely Textured Beef
by The American Meat Institute

The above link to a five minute video is an excellent, credible source for the "debate" on lean finely textured beef, odiously nicknamed 'Pink Slime' by news media. It is from the American Meat Institute. Everyone should take the time to review it - only five minutes of one's life to get informed.

This week nearly a thousand workers in the BPI plants lost their jobs because of media lies and misinformation. Businesses that support BPI and their workers, (a leader in food safety interventions for meat products), are suffering along with them. And Americans will pay the price for this. Beef prices will climb steeply, and the product replacing this will be less safe.

In major news stories this week in the LA Times and Chicago Tribune, this product was characterized as "filler" made from "scraps ordinarily processed into pet food". Both of these are completely untrue. It is not a filler, it's just ground beef, made from the trimmings of mechanically cut steaks and roasts. Meat that's closer to the fat and thus more difficult to get at. It would take a surgeon's skills to do so, in fact. But years ago BPI figured out how to utilize this good meat by heating it slightly and putting it in a centrifuge. This spins off (literally) the fat and leaves pure lean beef trimmings. It's the same beef trimmings used in ALL ground beef. Not destined for your pet's dish, but your barbecue.

USDA and industry biologists and food safety experts have said this meat is safe for consumption and just as nutritious as any ground meat product. Any. BPI, as a leader in food safety interventions has added a step in the processing of lean beef trim - a puff of ammonium hydroxide gas, that dissipates, leaving only ground beef, virtually free of pathogens like E-coli 0157H7 and salmonella that are present in ANY ground meat product.

Chef Jamie Oliver ran a much discussed segment about school lunches, completely mischaracterizing the processing of this meat by dumping an industrial cleaning agent over a tub of ground meat and saying that is what happens to school lunch ground beef in processing. NOTHING could be further from the truth. That he is cited in some articles as having to do with any food safety debate is laughable. He is just a chef entertainer, looking for viewers with sensationalistic antics that are both irresponsible and complete misrepresentations. Using the incendiary moniker "pink slime" is equally disturbing, presenting an impression that the product is substandard or unsafe. It is neither.

Americans do not understand how their food is processed and what food safety interventions and innovations have been put in place to protect them. If they did, this lean beef trim brouhaha would have never been a story or blown up in the media to begin with. When the average shopper enters their local grocery chain and sees a neatly wrapped pound of ground beef, or chicken breasts, sausages, or any meat protein, they never think about what it took to get that into their hands in that package. If they did, they wouldn't eat most of the things in the grocery store. That food processing is "icky" is true. However, it's necessary. We the growing population must be fed, and there are companies out there such as Beef Products, Inc. that really care about the safety of what they bring to market. In over 300 BILLION servings made of their product, NEVER ONCE has there been an issue with food borne illness. Never. Pretty impressive. That's the kind of meat I want to serve my family.

Get educated. Watch the video attached to this post - an EXCELLENT AND ACCURATE depiction of what lean finely textured meat really is. And don't listen or read all the sensationalistic articles. Get the facts first. Then ask for LFTB at your grocer. It's the safe stuff.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Food Safety Should Be Media Priority

In the last week or two, a story has gained traction in the media and blogosphere about lean finely textured beef. A disgruntled former FDA inspector labeled this product "pink slime", as did whack job "chef" Jaime Oliver - a term that is unfair, irresponsible and completely inaccurate. ABC News picked up this story and ran with it, saying that the public should be aware of "pink slime in our meat". They called it a beef filler. They called it slime, which is a completely derogatory term. It is neither.

This is what it is. Ground beef from meat trimmed from other cuts of meat that are mechanically trimmed like steaks and roasts. Mechanical trimming cannot harvest all of the meat. What is left is still the same steak, roast and other cuts of meat we all ordinarily consume. So a beef company in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, Beef Products, Inc. found a way to separate this good meat from the fat attached to it by heating it slightly and using a centrifuge to spin off (in effect) the fat. The resulting product is extremely lean beef trimmings. Not gristle. Not connective tissue. Not the scrapings "from the floors of slaughterhouses", as some horrible blogs and news reports have characterized it. Just good cuts of beef and beef only. And this company went a step further with the product. Before freezing these trimmings they apply a puff of ammonium hydroxide GAS to it, (that dissipates) which raises the PH of the product and effectively kills harmful bacteria such as E-coli and Salmonella that thrive in acid bases but not in alkali. This makes these lean beef trimmings safer to use and consume. Ammonia is a naturally occurring substance in meat, and in our own bodies too. Applying it as a gas to meat does not alter the nutritional content. It's still the same beef as before when it was trimmed away from those steaks and roasts and other cuts of meat. To say otherwise is a misrepresentation. Period. And it tastes great because all it is, is beef. And this is not the only product that uses it. There is more in your bun, condiments and cheese than that meat. And WHY is this a controversy?

Not resting on merely the innovation of applying the gas that kills pathogens, BPI decided to test every box before shipping them to consumers to be certain they were pathogen free. In fact, not only do they test for 0157H7 (E-Coli), but the other six types identified as potentially dangerous. They are one of the ONLY beef companies to do this. They hold the product in refrigeration and do not release it until there is confirmation of its safety. Now I don't know about you, but this seems like two great steps to insure that the ground beef that I am eating is safe to consume. This innovative company should be lauded and praised for their continuing devotion to food safety. MOST are not this fastidious. Fast food chains, grocery store chains and consumers should not be wringing their hands and running from this. To the contrary...it's making your beef safer.

I have toured that plant. It is pristine. Every detail is attended to, ensuring the safety and security of their product. The owner proudly has given tours to visiting media, explaining how their innovations are making beef safer to eat - particularly for the physically vulnerable - children and the aged. But it appears that some visitors went in and had a different agenda. FoodNet put up a video after touring BPI that was completely misleading, showing (for instance) a window with rushing water, which they depicted as ammonia, which it absolutely was NOT. It was water. Only water - used to sanitize THE AIR in the plant. I've seen it. There were other mischaracterizations too, since picked up by major news agencies and reported as if they were true. Reporting with NO regard for truth, economic impacts, or food safety. All in the name of a sensationalistic "story".

And so the "pink slime" scare became viral. And as a result, major grocers like Safeway, etc have "chosen not to sell beef with pink slime in it." Really? There is NO SUCH THING as pink slime. But they pulled out of BPI's product just the same, just this week. All of them, forcing a great company to scramble to explain to an ignorant public that they themselves had been slimed by the media. Thousands will now lose jobs. Meat will become less safe and fattier to eat. (Mixing LFTB into ground beef not treated lowers the fat content, also a good thing for our hearts and bodies.) Towns supported by the plants will suffer economic hardships of epic proportion. All over incendiary, inaccurate, irresponsible reporting by ABC News, and in turn all the other news organizations. And I cannot for the LIFE of me understand how this happened, and why the public bought the story hook, line and sinker. Is the public really this stupid? How many other things does our media "feed" us as gospel that are also out-and-out lies?

The beef industry has been dealt an unfair blow. BPI has been slaughtered but good by the liberal media and this frenzy, and for NOTHING. Food safety has been set back 20 years or more. And the countless businesses that work with these fine plants are now either going to close or suffer tremendous economic hardship. Unless the grocers and the public are informed that they have been duped and scared into abandoning a very good, safe, inexpensive, nutritious product. Duped by left-wing "foodies" with an agenda.

Wake up America. Don't believe media hype and hysteria. Research the facts. Then decide without causing panic. And don't be afraid to eat ground beef that may or may not contain lean finely textured beef. Because it's the same as ALL ground beef. Cook it to 180 degrees. Never eat med, med rare or rare ground beef (or ground chicken, turkey, etc). Come to think of it, ask your grocer if they carry ground beef that DOES contain LFTB in it. And know that if they do, that's the stuff that is the MOST safe to eat. You WANT that stuff. It may be pink(ish), but it isn't slime and it's an abomination that it's been characterized as such.

These "news" groups and bloggers want to put BPI out of business, and are trying, really really hard to do it. WHY is a mystery. Definitely based on misinformation and lies, for sure. Is it because their owner supports a republican frontrunner? Something to think about, since all the hoohah and lies have come from the left. Don't let this stream of misinformation and lies happen. DEMAND that grocers stock ground beef WITH LFTB, because pulling it off shelves is sending us all down a very slippery slope of higher prices, less safe product and economic distress. Shame on you grocery chains for not defending this product. If it's pulled out of school lunch programs it will be a disaster and will expose our children to much higher food risks - even as bad as death. Read "In Defense of Food Safety Leadership" on http://www.foodsafetynews.com.

Stand up and fight, people. Get informed. For real.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Year/New Life

It is three weeks into the new year now and I am BEGINNING to think about New Year's resolutions and life changes. Having just been through chemotherapy I am now a cancer survivor. I was declared NED the first of this year. (No Evidence of Disease.) So after going through all of that plus the holidays, now I'm left with the big question, "What's next?"

Honestly I have lots of anxiety about how my life will be/look like/transpire going forward. I know I've emerged from the cancer journey a bit less inclined to just accept BS, and definitely more guarded of my own time. I also know that I have to been saved for some reason. The big questions of life (what is my purpose, why are we here, how can I leave my mark) loom large for me now, contemplating how fleeting this life could be. I thought maybe the big answers to match would automatically come to me following my ordeal. Unfortunately, it isn't that easy and I'm not going to get off that lightly.

It seems I have work to do. I have to work to clear the detritus of my life to provide a pathway for new things to enter. And that is spiritually, intellectually, physically, etc. It means carving the time out for both contemplation and execution. I'm really good at the contemplating part - it's the execution that is harder of course. What I have to do first is make the lists. What stays? What goes? What would be ideal? Yes, contemplation must come first. Then when the decisions are made, the next step is getting the family "on board" with the "new program." Another BIG challenge, because NO ONE likes change all that much. Finally is the execution of the plan and working toward the goals.

I am hopeful that the contemplations phase will bring to me the ideas I need to honor my cure, respect my body more and provide a path to self'actualization. Hmm tall order, I know. Still, I have been determined in the past and can be again. The journey on the back side of cancer begins with small steps, like every other journey does too.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday Flurries

It's that crazy time of year again. The holidays. Most years I really love this time of year and the hustle/bustle of it all. Not so much this year. I have been trying to get everything done before I have to go for my final round of chemo on Dec. 14th. I'll probably feel rather crappy afterward and not want to do anything...so better to get done what I can while I can, I suppose.

I am ahead of where I usually am at this point. My house is totally decorated. Almost all gifts are bought AND wrapped. My Christmas cards are written along with the Christmas letter and photos. All that's left there is getting stamps and mailing the darned things, which I have to say has taken me the better part of a week to get to that post office. I have to now because i also have packages to mail (returns.) The only thing I haven't started yet is holiday baking.

The baking is the fun part for me. All the rest of it is a nuisance. I love the cooking part. Not the grocery shopping or the dishes that come along with it.. I really like to bake and create. Oh to be a chef and have someone else in the restaurant/kitchen doing the cleanup for you. Heaven! I need some baking staples in order to start this part of the holiday preparations - like flour, for starters. That's the problem - the grocery stuff that goes along with baking. It's so cold out and I just hate going out with this damned bald head of mine. I never realized how much my hair kept me warm. (And the wigs are a pain in the ass.)

Sometimes I think I am the only one who cares (in my family) about keeping up traditions with Christmas. Today I was wrapping and my husband watched me working for awhile. He went up for about an hour and a half (or more?) nap, and when he came down I was still wrapping. He couldn't believe I was still wrapping. How easy does he think it is to wrap something like 70 or 80 gifts? It takes time! And energy. And every year I am the one doing 90% of it. Or more. Just like everything else.

Same with the shopping. You might think that going through chemotherapy at the holidays might just merit me getting out of having to do all the shopping. Not so in this family. All I get is harped at over spending the money doing it. And this year I have been very good at shopping sales, using coupons, etc. I've probably saved hundreds and hundreds of dollars by being careful this year. No credit for that either. My mother and mother-in-law BOTH asked me to do their shopping for them. Really? Really! You couldn't manage it this year by yourselves? I did it of course, dutiful daughter (and in-law) that I am. But I have to say it made me just a little bit mad to have to have done it this year. I think perhaps I have enough on my plate.

Then there is the holiday parties. Christmas Eve will be at my son's house this year. I have to say I am relieved about this. For years we have gone to my brother's house, or parents (or my house) to celebrate Christmas Eve in Slovak tradition (no meat) with certain foods preparations. I KNOW I couldn't handle having the parties myself this year, so I am happy my son stepped up and that I don't have to spend the holiday with my brother's families. Not that I don't love them all - I do.... I just really wanted a smaller, quieter Christmas eve this year. Happy that is just what I am going to get.

Now about Christmas Day. OK here it is. Almost every year we host the Christmas Day party. Usually we have between 30 and 40 people here. This year though, the two main hostesses, myself or a cousin's wife are both going to be recuperating from major illnesses. Cancer and a big operation. And another cousin from my husband's side too will be recovering from major surgery. So all THREE of us couldn't have hosted the big group. Another cousin's wife /family has come to our house year after year. You might think that jUST ONCE she would offer to have the holiday at their house. No dice. That really burns me up. So I will have Christmas dinner here for my family and my parents. The debate is whether or not to have any cousins. I'll probably end up asking some of them sort of last-minute. I just don't know if I really WANT to this year. I mean, would it kill us all to spend the holiday apart with our own families?

I guess the saying is right...there is no rest for the weary. I can see why some people get depressed during this time of year. It can be overwhelming. The shopping, the wrapping, the cards, the letters, the baking, the groceries, the cleaning.... Apart from wanting my health back (and hair), what I want for Christmas this year isn't really material goods. Frankly, i have everything I want and need. What matters to me most is that my family pitches in and lets me rest and regain my strenth again. That FOR ONCE I would not be just taken for granted. That things would get done without my having to ask for them to BE done. That someone would freaking NOTICE that I'm tired and feel poorly. That someone would volunteer to walk the dog out in that cold that goes right through me. Instead of them asking me, "when are you going to bake?" or "When are you going to wrap gifts?" etc....

Yup - the holiday time is one big flurry of activity. And all I want is to sit quietly and watch the flurries outside, sipping a hot chocolate and listening to some music, perhaps. I want to be invited to someone else's table and for them to say, "just bring yourself." I don't want meaningless gifts. I don't need expensive gifts. I just want peace. The peace of Christmas. Isn't that what it's really about, anyway?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Mirror Cracked

I have been lamenting the loss of my hair all week due to going through chemotherapy. I did a small "class" this week on journaling at the local cancer care center in town and it's really got me thinking about a number of things.

For a long time I think I have been obsessed with my appearance. This is sort of funny, because I've let myself gain a LOT of weight over the years due to what can only be regarded as rampant hedonism - so much so that the thought of going on a sufficient enough diet to lose it is a daunting task. Still, I have always been rather particular about how I look. Rarely will I step out of the house (for instance) without makeup on my face, or my hair fixed nicely. With my hair losses mounting by the day, looking in the mirror is becoming increasingly difficult. All I see is the baldness coming through...and yet...

The loss of hair is in a small measure a little liberating. I can't really fuss over what isn't there, and looking in the mirror is starting to become less about real appearance than perhaps mental and physical health. Perhaps this is way overdue for me as well. I've needed to pay better attention to my overall health for some years. This lack of attention has lead to physical (medical) problems as well as some emotional ones over the weight gains. I think it's changed the nature of some of my relationships. And who knows, perhaps it lead to the lymphoma I am now fighting. Losing hair has allowed me to look closer at my identity and less at the outer shell.

This week I saw an Oprah show that talked about a man called "John of God". He is a Brazillian healer. A man who went to see him as a journalist came back from his visit profoundly changed and he was interviewed by Oprah on the show. He made one comment that has resonated with me this week. Something I've know and believed all my life as a Catholic, but not paid much attention to. He said our bodies are not who we are but are just the shell/casing of our beings. He said alot of other things too - about how we are all connected and that our minds are so much more than we intellectually "know." I really got that.

So this week when the woman presenting the journaling class asked about who my authentic selves were I had to step out of my "body" and think hard about it. I immediately had an image of the multiple personalities person "Sybil" from the book and movie of the same name. So I got to thinking about my selves/what comprises all the "hats" that I wear. And not just the labels like "wife", "mom", "friend", "daughter". Those are roles. I think the authentic self comprises personality traits and the longings/strengths/weaknesses of our souls. I had a hard time defining those at first because just asking the question makes me have to think about myself as a soul and not as the shell I see in the mirror each day. Something I am really unaccustomed to doing.

For the most part I like my soul and I'm comfortable IN my skin/shell. Not so comfortable WITH my shell. There is a difference. And it helps me put into perspective the hair loss thing too, which I have been so focused on. What I am noticing this week is that even without hair, I am still the person underneath. I still am a peacemaker, a creative entitity, a nurturer. I still like to read the same kinds of things. I still like to do the same kinds of things I always did. I have the same thoughts and feelings. My hair, it turns out, has little to do with me. If I focus on that, I think I'll be able to get through the loss fairly easily. Besides, it grows back, right?

The moderator of the journaling class steered my thinking this week. She had me veer away from the familial titles and think about my traits. So here it is....I acknowledge that I am sometimes naive. I have a gift for seeing situations for what they are and cutting to the chase to get solutions, particularly for others. (Not always as good with my own interpersonal relationships. My insecurities get in the way.) I can be morose, but it usually doesn't last a long time as my nature is to be optimistic. I cannot say I really "hate" anyone or anything with particular vehemence. (Brussels Sprouts?) I can be slothful/lazy for only a short period of time before guilt sets in over not getting something done. I seek others' approval, usually by doing things for them so they can see my "value." I love family unreservedly but am really guarded when it comes to romance for fear of being hurt. I have been hurt romantically many times, one of which was profoundly. It's hard for me to trust, so I end up taking on more than I should instead of letting go. I am childlike in my love for holidays, most things Disney, great books like the Harry Potter series, and getting ANYTHING new. My authentic self is giving as a rule, sporadically organized, a pack-rat, and a dreamer. I am a Pisces for sure because I could stare at a lake or ocean all day. I love the water, but am afraid to drown/swim - though I know how. I am fearful of a LOT of things, sometimes to the point of inaction. I encourage others to advocate for themselves but rarely do it on my own behalf. I can be critical of others and acknowledge that I have some biases learned from an early age. I wish for greatness but have not achieved it I don't think. I know I am smart and have a good sense of humor - two things I am also rather proud of.

I can go on and on when I think about what I am, how I react to things, how I was brought up, what I think about myself and the world around me and what comprises my dreams. The truth is we are all complex beings. The mind is vast and not understood by science all that well. I do think I will live forever in some capacity because I have often felt the presence of others around me whose "shells" are in the ground. I believe in God - a creative force/energy. I am fortunate to have many people that I care about and that care for me. THIS is what makes me, ME. Not the shell that I have put too much emphasis on for too long.

Funny how a "little" think like losing your hair can change a point of view so dramatically. There is no choice but to see beyond the hair once it's gone. To look in the mirror and see the soul residing there. I have to think more about that when I meet others, too. So much attention in our society is placed on the shell and not NEARLY enough is placed on our spirits. Chemo may be taking away my hair, but it cannot strip my spirit away - my authentic self.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chemo Brain

It's been a crazy, frustrating, depressing ride the last 16 days. I began what will be three "rounds" of chemotherapy on November 2nd, Election Day. I feel as if the time that has passed has been as in a fog of some kind - or like time just kind of stood still. In this time I have discovered some of my frailties as well as strengths, but the process is not easy. How could it be, really?

I am "battling" stage one Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, found during a routine (and first time) colonoscopy in late August of this year. To say the diagnosis threw me for a loop would be a gross exageration. My mind has been in somewhat of a tailspin since early September. Some would say I am lucky having found it so early and to have not discovered it anywhere else, despite copious testing. Lucky seems to me to be the wrong word altogether. Relieved is a better word. Good that it was caught so early and that I have doctors that are on top of things. But lucky? Not so much.

The plethora of side effects that comes along with chemo is scary, annoying and REALLY difficult to take. It's not like taking antibiotics when you have a sinus infection. To sit in a chair for six hours while toxic chemicals are dripping steadily into your veins is downright unnerving. Thank GOODNESS that the first one they give you pretty much puts you right to sleep for a couple of hours. It doesn't really hurt while the drugs are going in. It's a day or so after that all hell breaks loose.

I went to "patient education", taking my daughter along with so there would be another pair of ears to hear all about side effects and what was going to take place. Too bad I can't remember nearly a single thing said that day. Too nervous I suppose. My daughter remembers everything he said to me and each new side effect that takes a grip on me is met with a shrug and a "oh yeah, they told you about THAT." Like hell. I had no clue the extent and breadth of the upper and lower G.I. tract "issues" I'd have. Now I'm praying this stuff isn't doing permanent damage. In order of severity, here's what hit me: Painful constipation, Heartburn to the point of esophageal spasms/gastritis, headache, fatigue, mouth dryness/soreness, body pains - particularly my ribs and back, nausea, eye dryness/blurriness, forgetfulness, and finally - the capper - hair loss. It would have been nice to have medications to combat some of these before they hit. The nurse taking care of me says that next round at least they will know what to expect. I'll say.

All this is hitting at the holidays. Not that it would be any better another time of year, but it's really hard to think that I will not be able to taste (or have any taste for) Thanksgiving dinner. I may not have a sense of taste for Christmas either. And forget about all the stuff that needs to be done this time of year. I'm the one who does EVERYTHING for this family for the holidays. Let's see who steps up to the plate this year. I'm not going to push myself 10 days post chemo to host the entire family. This year I get to be the one who is waited on. Let's just see if that's what happens. I can't even figure out how I will organize all the stuff to get done when my head is in this fog, particularly the week or so following a round.

I'm blaming any balls I may drop along the way on chemo brain. What the heck. All the bloggers talk about the effect of chemo on cognitive function. May as well use that as a good excuse. Not that chemo itself isn't excuse enough already. It's just weird being the one sitting back and letting others do the work. But I am entitiled, I think, to a rest. And if no one else steps up to take over what needs to be done I'm going to become the worlds most annoying delegator.

That is if I can remember what needs to be delegated.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I have started chemotherapy. So far one round of R-Chop down, two to go. I figured that I'd feel pretty much ok after a few days, being that my body was "healthy" going into that first session. It's demoralizing to now understand how wrong I was. I keep praying that the usual side effects won't hit me, yet one by one they seem to be coming.

I'm not coping well either. Oh I tell people that I'm lucky this was found at stage one and that things are "as good as can be expected," but how in the world could someone know what this feels like unless they'd gone through it themself? A friend (Julie) has been most helpful, sharing her personal journey and warning me of some early symptoms of side effects. If only the doctors could have warned me in advance of the heartburn and GI troubles.

Today I have had chest pains. I don't know if this is related to esophageal spasms such as I experienced over the weekend, or something worse. Tomorrow morning is my visit with the oncologist's office for a blood draw. I can't wait to tell them yet feel wimpy in bringing up every little pain or ill that I feel. But I'm entitled, right? I'm having to go through massive poisoning, essentially. Why shouldn't I complain if I'm not comfortable.

Many nurses around the hospital have said my particular Oncologist is "into comfort" for his patients. I'm not sure I see evidence of this and it has me more than a little ticked off, really. I don't even officially see him until the morning of the next round. That seems rather callous of him. I get the blood drawn and he looks at the results, but I have to wait 10 more days to know where I stand? This is not right.

I learned several years ago when my husband was gravely ill that the best advocate to the medical constituency that one has is one's self. It's just a shame that I haven't the energy to fight or to demand. I have to rely on others to do that for me as my husband relied on me to advocate for him when he was unconscious. Problem here is that I go to the appointments alone. So much for backup.

I'm terribly resentful of this whole process and what is being done to me, regardless of the fact that it's saving my life, potentially. I want to be wholesale taken care of through this. I don't want to still be pickup up my family's dishes and doing their laundry. That seems unfair to me. And as much as they say they are stepping up I see little evidence of it and I am getting madder by the day.

Chemo stinks. Being sick stinks. Relying on others stinks. Every single thing about this stinks except that it was caught early and is curable because of it. I guess I have to hold on to that.