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'Pink slime' is out, but bugs are in?
The unforgiving economic effects of bad public relations in the age of social media have cost 650 middle Americans their jobs and will increase the cost of this summer's beef barbecues for everyone.
Meanwhile, a food far less appetizing than the lean, finely textured beef decried as "pink slime" is being touted as the food of the future.
That food? Bugs.
Beef Products Inc. was forced to bow to reality Monday, announcing the closure of plants in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kansas; and Waterloo, Iowa because of reduced consumer demand resulting from the pink slime hysteria. A plant in South Sioux City, Nebraska, will limp along at a reduced capacity, in hopes that the public will somehow return to its senses.
To create lean, finely textured beef, bits of meat that otherwise would go to waste are heated and treated with a small amount of ammonia to kill bacteria. The filler has been used for years and meets federal food safety standards.
BPI admits taking a "substantial" hit after the product was attacked by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and a Texas blogger started a successful online petition to have it removed from school lunchrooms. Schools now have the option of choosing ground beef that doesn't contain the product.
We have to wonder if "pink slime" opponents have ever seen sausage made on the way to their breakfast burrito.
In an earlier editorial, we suggested some of them might have an ultimate goal of eliminating red meat from the American diet altogether.
With that controversy in mind, it was interesting to see a PBS television program about the advantages of eating insects.
We wonder what Jamey Oliver thinks about that?
The insectivores say bugs are good for you, and they have some good points. After all, is it really that long a leap from dining on crayfish to wolfing down a water bug?
Some 80 percent of the world's population eats insects regularly, and that many people can't be wrong, can they?
Consider the numbers: 100 grams of crickets contains 121 calories -- only 49.5 of them from fat -- as well as 12.9 grams of protein and 75.8 milligrams of iron and 5 grams of carbohydrates.
If you're on a low-carb diet, consider eating silk worm pupae or termites, both lacking carbohydrates but rich in protein and calories, but slackers when compared to caterpillars, which have 28 grams of protein per 100 grams, as well as iron, thiamine and niacin.
Are they safe? Generally, you shouldn't eat anything with a strong odor, or bright colors like red, orange or yellow. Black, green or brown bugs should be safe to eat, but keep a book of edible plants and insects handy.
Insects are far less likely to pass along disease to people, they way cows and pigs can, and in water-parched parts of the country, they take far less water to produce -- about a gallon of water for a pound of mealworms, compared to a thousand gallons for a pound of beef.
And, those crickets have 60 percent less saturated fat and twice as much vitamin B-12 as the same amount of beef.
Meal worms and crickets?
Like so much in life, the key to a healthy diet is balance.