Penicillin and its derivatives haven't actually been around for that long in the scheme of things, but antibiotics have enabled an incredible age of prosperity without people having to worry about common infections killing us off. Unfortunately, nature has a way of evolving and adapting to our not-so-clever use of antibiotics, and we've been breeding superbugs in our hospitals and in our industrialized food chain. Sketchy meats have been around for a long time, but hopefully, it won't take a public health nightmare to get folks to take a closer look at food safety.
Some folks want to suck out all the marrow of life, but apparently when it comes to fast food, it's much more expedient to just suck all the meat off the bones, grind it up with some other stuff, and fry it until it's a delicious golden brown. Chicken nuggets are popular with kids meals, and there are apparently various patented processes for cutting up chicken meat into innovative products. Here are just a few good nuggets on some fast food chicken items.
What is a chicken nugget made of? An anecdotal analysis finds that some chicken nuggets (not McNuggets) are mostly fat (~56-58%), about 40-50% muscle meat, along with some bone fragments and breading and other bits. (And don't forget the BBQ sauce.) [url]
Some foods are considered delicacies, but some edible stuff can be just strange or disgusting. It's actually a bit puzzling how some ingredients and dishes are created. Sure, some weird food items are simply the result of people eating something to avoid starvation, but not always. Here are a few more kinds of protein you might want to try to eat someday.
Recently, it seems like there are an increasing number of studies supporting the idea that eating too much red meat is bad for our health. Consumption of red meat has been linked to cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cognitive decline, and the list goes on. Here are just a few more studies that will have cows dancing in the pasture.
Food fads are fascinating, especially when they turn previously disgusting biological curiosities into expensive delicacies. Lobsters were once only served to prisoners and lowly servants, but now these crustaceans are highly-priced entrees. Casu marzu is a traditional Italian cheese that contains live insect larvae (with an aftertaste that can reportedly last several hours). The maggots can jump about 6 inches, so diners should be careful to block these bugs from jumping into their mouths if they don't want to eat them. Casu marzu has a questionable legal status (for health and safety reasons), but it's sometimes available on the black market for a hefty markup in price. Here are just a few other menu items that might (or might not) be appetizing to you.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been trying to get the meat industry to reduce its use of antibiotics, even proposing a set of voluntary guidelines in 2012, but it hasn't done much with it since. In the meantime, antibiotic (ab)use on livestock farms continues to grow. According to data from the FDA, the livestock industry now uses almost 80% of all the antibiotics used in the U.S. The main concern is that the practice of dosing healthy farm animals daily with antibiotics will create drug-resistant bacteria. About three-quarters of Salmonella found on ground turkey and chicken breast are now resistant to at least one antibiotic, and almost half of the Campylobacter found on chicken products are resistant to tetracyclines. Here are some other examples of antibiotic abuse in the food industry.
The food industry has a growing number of problems, ranging from food labeling to determining what ingredients are actually considered safe to eat. One of the oldest issues people have brought up about food is whether or not to eat meat. It's a serious question, but the answers aren't so easy for the multi-billion dollar meat industry. Someday, meat producers may need to change their ways, and here are just a few dramatic suggestions.
Just when you thought the horse meat scandal in Europe was winding down, it's once again getting media attention as more cases continue to pop up. But is horse meat really that bad? According to people who have (willingly) eaten it, horse meat has been described as being lean, tender, sweet, juicy, like a mix between beef and venison, and better than a really good beef steak. Perhaps beef products in Europe should just come with a label that says: "May contain traces of horse meat." Here are a few more links about horse meat.
Here are some fun facts about eating horse meat: During World War II, Americans ate lots of horse meat when beef was scarce; In 723 A.D., Pope Gregory III declared that eating horse meat was a "filthy and abominable" pagan custom; In 2011, President Obama made horse slaughter for human consumption legal again; Until 1985, the Harvard Faculty Club reportedly served horse steaks, prepared "chicken fried" with a mushroom sauce; and apparently, horse meat is a healthier option than beef, since it's high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, low in fat and cholesterol, and has twice as much iron and Vitamin B. [url]
If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post.
Cupcakes were really trendy for a while, but they've probably jumped the shark by now. Still, who doesn't enjoy a good cupcake every now and then? Here are just a few examples of some interesting twists on the traditional cupcake -- that include a few more animal parts than you might expect (or want).
Back in May, we were one of the first to write about some people claiming to have figured out a new cut of steak, and trying to patent that cut. The story got a lot of attention in a lot of places, as many people (reasonably) think that patenting a cut of meat seems particularly crazy. The good folks over at Planet Money just recently decided to explore the question of meat cut patents. They talk to Tony Mata, the "inventor" of that new meat cut, dubbed the Las Vegas steak, but the... er... "meat" of the conversation actually involves talking to his mentor, Gene Gagliardi, the "inventor" of the Steak-Umm, KFC's popcorn chicken and, according to this video, Popeyes' "Rip'n Chick'n", which Gagliardi calls "Fing'r Pick'n Chick'n" and for which he holds US Patent 5,346,711 on a "Method of making an animal muscle strip product."
In the Planet Money podcast, he also demonstrates some other cuts, which he won't let them videotape. I'm guessing he's okay with showing off the method in the '711 patent because, if I read it right, that patent expires in a month. In the video, he actually appears to admit that the "invention" itself wasn't original. He was "inspired" by the famed "Bloomin' Onion" at Outback Steakhouse, and a challenge from his wife to make a chicken version of the Bloomin' Onion.
Gagliardi appears to hold somewhere around 40 patents on various cuts of meat, all starting from back in the day when he tried to make the meat in Philly Cheesesteaks easier to chew, and supposedly came up with the product that eventually went on to be marketed as "Steak-umms," which were popular when I was a kid. As for "popcorn chicken," well that's US Patent 5,266,064, for a "Method of making a food product from the thigh of a bird and food product made in accordance with the method." And, if I'm reading it correctly, that patent should have expired earlier this year. Assuming that's the case, you may now be able to make your own popcorn chicken without infringing. How exciting.
Of course, for some of us, this still seems ridiculous. Is the progress of the "useful arts" really being promoted by giving a monopoly to someone figuring out new and different ways for fast food joints to chop up their chickens?