Jamie Oliver, TV’s “Naked Chef,” (yeah, not sanitary) is a food snob. He has turned his notoriety into a nice side career in advertising.
In England, he is sort of the man. He is a prolific pitchman … advertising everything from food preparation products to utensils to wine. And for 11 years, he was the face of all advertising for Sainsburys, the Safeway of England.
But he fell out of favor with the chain when he admitted he never shops at Sainsburys or any other supermarket. They are factories, he said. Guys like him, who truly know and love and care about food, do not buy their ingredients in factories. According to Oliver, they use only “specialist growers, organic suppliers and local farmers.”
As I said, Jamie Oliver is a food snob. That’s OK. He truly does have nothing better to do all day than track down specialist growers, organic suppliers and local farmers. But when food snobbery crosses the line into food scaremongering, we have a problem.
And that is what has happened with the pink slime controversy. By now, you probably know Oliver went on his show and laid into pink slime – or, as they call it in the meat industry, lean finely textured beef. It’s an additive found in ground beef. He “demonstrated” how beef producers take parts of the cow that otherwise would be discarded, then centrifuges separate beef from fat in ways that were previously not economically possible. This beef is roughly 95% lean and is often added to cheaper, high-fat ground beef to raise its protein content – which I would take as a good thing – then treat it with anti-bacteria substances, including minute amounts of ammonia hydroxide, then use it to fill out ground beef.
I put “demonstrated” in quotation marks because Oliver, ever the showman, ignored the fact that ammonia hydroxide gas is used to make the meat and has been approved for use by the FDA since 1973 yet he poured ammonia from a gallon jug with a skull and crossbones on it over beef, which could only be further from the truth if it were gasoline and he’d set it on fire. But it makes for good TV, and that’s Jamie’s real concern.
He fancies himself a modern-day Upton Sinclair – horrifying us into action by holding up for us to see the ingredients we actually eat. Only, he’s more like Rachel Carson, raising a big stink, costing us all millions and millions of dollars, turning us against each other and against well-meaning, law-abiding, job-providing, community-supporting companies over absolutely nothing.