Why one meat producer says a burger should be as expensive as lobster

Interview with Rod Morrison of Rocky Mountain Organic Meats

Rod Morrison is president of Rocky Mountain Organic Meats, a Wyoming company that produces 100% Certified Organic, pasture raised and finished meats. As a sustainable farmer who understands the realities of meat production, he has an opinion or two about the recent uproar over pink slime. 

MS: What do you make of the whole pink slime debacle?

RM: There is just so much going on in meat production that disgusts me. The consumer has no idea what is taking place. So we’ve seen no real change and that’s the way the industrial food complex wants it. The entire system of meat production has us all between a rock and a hard place. CAFOs [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations] have no simple solution. It’s all about efficiency and it should be about sustainability.

MS: How can industry claim that pink slime is 100% beef?

RM: Because USDA allows any part of the animal to be considered “beef,” including the moo. In contrast, “meat” must be muscle. That’s why hot dogs can claim to contain beef but not meat. Pink slime is not 100% meat. It’s mostly connective tissue. When they say “beef is beef” that just means it can be anything that comes from cattle.

MS: What about the quality; is this product nutritious, as industry claims?

RM: Pink slime is naturally more gray than pink, because it’s full of connective tissue, which is a lower quality protein; it’s not really meat. So while they are kicking up the protein content when they separate the fat, it’s not coming from muscle, it’s coming from connective tissue.

Protein is protein, it’s just where it comes from and lack of communicating that to the consumer. It’s like conventional processed beef products; hot dogs, luncheon meats, frozen dinners, etc. They are all made with beef parts and if they were placed in a clear wrapper at the grocery store, they would not sell. But they grind it, spin it and wash it with ammonia and mold it into a shape we buy and eat it.

MS: Is this the best way to make lean beef?

RM: Yes, if cost and efficiency is your only concern; this is the best capitalist, free market way.

MS: Meatingplace.com reports a sharp increase in imported lean beef from Australia. Why don’t we just make lean beef here?

RM: Because we don’t use our agricultural land mass for raising livestock. We use our land for raising grains, which we then feed to drug-addicted animals inside CAFOs. We are using every imaginable chemical and petroleum- based fertilizers available, depleting our soils of all organic material.

MS: Why do you think the meat industry is fighting back so hard?

RM: The main reason is money and efficiency. Without the ability to market pink slime the whole processing line becomes inefficient, costing even more time and money. They want the consumer to live inside a fantasy, like the Wizard of Oz. “Don’t pay attention to man behind the curtain,” the wizard said. Food in America is marketed like it comes from a real farm, but it’s a fantasy farm. This is why the industry is promoting “Ag gag” laws; they don’t want you to know what’s really going on.

MS: Will prices go up on ground beef without pink slime?

RM: Yes. Sounds to me like the price increase will be rather small but industry’s profits will be hit hard. People should understand that it will not be long before a hamburger is the price of a lobster tail. What America is doing to put meat in everybody’s pot is not sustainable, healthy, or environmentally sound.

MS: As a meat producer, is it OK with you if people at less meat?

RM: Yes. If we believe in free market capitalism, some will be able to afford it and some won’t. Demand for cheap food is not sustainable. Efficiency is not sustainability.

MS: What is the solution to the current system?

RM: We need to put animals back on sustainable farms. We need a regional organic food supply [not just local]; sustainability needs to be the priority, not efficiency. Consumers need to be the change agents by voting with their forks. If this current food system continues, America is headed for the edge of the abyss. We’ve exceeded the planet’s capacity. We are fighting with Mother Nature, and she has never loses.

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