Pink Slime Is Just the Beginning

A ProPublica roundup of the best investigative reporting on food processing and safety.

What happens between the slaugther and meat arriving on your plate? You should know, even if you don’t want to.

Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images

The recent brouhaha over pink slime (and other lovely meat production processes) is only the beginning. Here’s our roundup of some standout reporting about the food on your plate.

This is a multifaceted, perennial topic. If you think we missed any, we’re happy to hear suggestions. Please e-mail a link to or tweet it with the hashtag #muckreads.

Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned, New York Times, December 2009
A look at the development of Beef Product Inc.’s “novel” method of meat production that later became known as the infamous “pink slime.” Reporter Michael Moss won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigations into contaminated beef.

Our Dwindling Food Variety, National Geographic, July 2011
Our dwindling food variety, in a helpful infographic from National Geographic.
Contributed by @kleinmatic

What the USDA Doesn’t Want You To Know About Antibiotics and Factory Farms, Mother Jones, July 2011
The USDA appears to have repeatedly removed from its National Agricultural Library website a report by a USDA-contracted researcher that summarized recent academic work, from “reputed, scientific, peer-reviewed, and scholarly journals,” on possible links between antibiotic-resistant infections and factory farm animals. Mother Jones got a PDF of the researcher’s report, dubbing the “document the USDA doesn’t want you to see.”
Contributed by @foodinteg

Asian Honey, Banned in Europe, Is Flooding U.S. Grocery Shelves, Food Safety News, August 2011
Some of the biggest U.S. honey packers knowingly bought honey of questionable quality so they could sell it on the cheap. Much of it was likely smuggled from China (the EU has banned Chinese honey), and it may have been laced with lead and illegal animal antibiotics —if it was really honey at all.

America’s Dangerous Food-Safety System, Daily Beast/Newsweek, September 2011
The lack of inspectors in U.S. food-safety system exposes Americans to risk of illness and death.
Contributed by @StepShep

Nation’s Food Anti-Terror Plans Costly, Unwieldy, Associated Press, September 2011
An Associated Press investigation into the U.S.’s $3.4 billion food counterterrorism program found that progress had been bogged down in a complex web of bureaucracy.
Contributed by @joannalin

On the Menu, But Not on Your Plate, Boston Globe, October 2011
A Globe-organized DNA test revealed scores of mislabeled fish in Massachusetts restaurants, grocery stores, and seafood markets. Often, “local” fish was actually hauled in from thousands of miles away, and while some chefs and store owners seemed to have no clue, others admitted to knowingly selling mislabeled food to boost profits. Experts said it reflects a nationwide trend that not only means diners unwittingly overpay, but may also make people sick and result in overfishing.
Contributed by @JoeYerardi

Dispute over Drug in Feed Limitiing U.S., Meat Exports, MSNBC, January 2012
The controversial drug ractopamine has sickened or killed more pigs than any other livestock drug on the market, leading the EU and China—which together produce and consume about 70 percent of the world’s pork—to refuse meat imports raised on the additive. The U.S. pork industry wants to change their minds.
Contributed by @NaomiStarkman

How Washington Went Soft on Child Obesity, Reuters, April 2012
The food and beverage industries have more than doubled their lobbying spending in Washington in the last three years. And now Congress has declared pizza a vegetable. Contributed by @mariancw

A History of FDA Inaction on Animal Antibiotics, ProPublica, April 2012
Everything you ever wanted to know about the FDA’s actions, or lack thereof, to keep antibiotics out of your food.

As Beef Cattle Become Behemoths, Who Are Animal Scientists Serving?, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2012
A growing number of animal scientists employed by public universities are accepting payouts from pharmaceutical companies. They’re often hired to persuade farmers to use antibiotics that fatten up cattle but haven’t necessarily been proved safe. Some have been banned in the EU and China.
Contributed by @MelodyPetersen

Bonus points: In 1968, Nathan Kotz of the Des Moines Register and Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on unsanitary conditions in meat packing plants, which, according to the Pulitzer site, helped “ensure the passage” of the Federal Wholesome Meat Act of 1967. Anybody have an online copy?