No more bizarre than eating hot dogs.

29 11 2008

Yesterday, when I should have been watching football or talking to my wife’s relatives, I got caught up in the “Bizarre Foods” Marathon on the Travel Channel. Andrew Zimmern is my new hero. It’s not because I like being disgusted. It’s much more the travel and culture stuff that I liked. Besides, there was very little on the show (and I saw at least six of them) that I found truly gross. Take this clip for example:

This one in particular grossed out my brother-in-law, to which my response was, “Have you ever eaten a cheap hot dog?” I knew that historically, hot dogs were the perfect food for meat packers to use to get rid of excess organ meat. Guess what? Still happening today. From the USDA’s Food and Safety Inspection Service:

“Frankfurter, Hot Dog, Wiener, or Bologna With Byproducts” or “With Variety Meats” are made according to the specifications for cooked and/or smoked sausages (see above), except they consist of not less than 15% of one or more kinds of raw skeletal muscle meat with raw meat byproducts. The byproducts (heart, kidney, or liver, for example) must be named with the derived species and be individually named in the ingredients statement.

Get it at the ball park and you won’t see the label. I also thought this (from the same page) was very interesting:

The definition of “meat” was amended in December 1994 to include any “meat” product that is produced by advanced meat/bone separation machinery. This meat is comparable in appearance, texture, and composition to meat trimmings and similar meat products derived by hand. This machinery separates meat from bone by scraping, shaving, or pressing the meat from the bone without breaking or grinding the bone. Product produced by advanced meat recovery (AMR) machinery can be labeled using terms associated with hand-deboned product (e.g., “pork trimmings” and “ground pork”).

How exactly is this different from eating a baby pig cooked in goose fat? If anything, eating the baby pig sounds safer.

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2 responses

29 11 2008
robertdfeinman

I know you have gone vegetarian, but Offal is generally quite high in food value and was commonly eaten in the US until fairly recently.

Right now about the only organ meat one can find in most supermarkets is liver, which generally sells for $1 per lb or less. Three oz of beef liver has 150 calories, 4g of fat and 22g of protein. It is also high in various vitamins.

Similar high food value is found in other organs which now mostly end up in dog food. People are carnivores so one should acknowledge this, while not condoning the excesses of factory agriculture. On the other hand without a major restructuring of the food production system it would be impossible to provide enough food grown under more sane conditions and feed the entire country.

Even the slowly growing “organic” food movement is coming under pressure as incomes fall and the cost of growing food increases. The government made a decision after the depression to subsidize agriculture so that there wouldn’t be food shortages. They didn’t also decide that the food would be healthful or that a balanced diet would be affordable.

Thank Earl Butz.

29 11 2008
Jonathan Rees

Robert,

You misunderstand me. I have no trouble with anyone eating organ meat (assuming they meat at all). My trouble is with people who think that eating the whole animal is disgusting or “bizarre.” It’s not if you go anywhere outside the US, and Andrew Zimmern, God love him, does that a lot. My point here is that it’s also a lot more common in the US than most people think.

“In for a penny, in for a pound,” I always say.

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