Jamie Oliver’s public exposure of ‘pink slime’, a waste meat product processed with ammonium hydroxide to eke out hamburger meat and make it more profitable, eventually led to MacDonalds and other fast food chains to stop adding filler we wouldn’t even feed our dogs to their hamburgers. Ironically, you’re better off eating a MacDonald’s hamburger than buying ground beef at your local supermarket to make your own, as 70 percent of it still contains pink slime, something you won’t find on the label.
In Australia, there’s been a recent hullabaloo over ‘permeated’ milk, or milk that has diluted with anywhere from 15% to 35% of a lactose by-product of cheesemaking, something milk producers don’t mention on the label. Permeate diluted milk is nutritionally no different than undiluted milk, although it tastes blander and spoils more quickly. On the other hand, all milk contains permeate; it’s a natural component of milk that comes out of the cow, not a chemistry lab. And this newest scare about our food safety has seen ‘permeate-free’ milk shoot up in price, the milk industry reaping unwarrantable profits off consumer fears. Permeate isn’t harmful, nor technically is pink slime – it’s just distasteful, pun intended.
On a more positive note, not all slime is repugnant, despite our initial misconceptions. Pink slime may be bad for you, but green slime quite definitely has the potential to be our best friend, maybe even the salvation of our planet. Long regarded as more nuisance than blessing, this fast-growing green slime in our swimming pools, our ponds and rivers, our aquariums, researchers have only recently started to realize the enormous potential of this tiny organism.
A PNNL study shows that biofuel made from algae grown in huge outdoor ponds could replace 17 percent of the State’s imported oil for transportation. Some algae species are naturally capable of producing 50% or more of their own weight in lipids, and current bioengineered strains can produce up to a whopping 80%, as well as double their mass in less than 24 hours. Some strains can double their growth in eight hours. Compared to soy beans, which are typically 20% lipid content and yield 4,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel per acre annually, algae grow in open ponds can produce 50,000 gallons per acre annually, and developers are working toward closed photo bio reactor systems that would increase this production up to over 100,000 gallons per acre per year. Algae biofuel can be produced up to 500 times the production rate per acre of any other source of vegetable oil, and Unlike soy beans, camelina, rape seed and palm oil, algae doesn’t diminish feedstock production or devastate fragile ecosystems.