“Pink Slime” Coming to a School Near You?
Published on: March 17, 2012
show comments
  • WigWag

    Can Professor Mead cite the federal guideline which prevents mothers from sending their kids off to school with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their lunch boxes?

    The federal guidelines that he laments have changed almost nothing of consequence since the days he rode his bike to school. In fact, school lunch programs are largely controlled by local school districts. A few years ago in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg signed a deal to make Snapple beverages the official beverage of the New York schools. He wasn’t forced to do this by the Feds; he did it for sponsorship dollars. He relented when parents objected.

    Other local districts have been courted by Coke and Pepsi.

    Mead’s instincts that local as opposed to federal control is likely to produce better results is just not supported by the facts.

  • WigWag

    “I say nothing about her failure to buy hypoallergenic fair trade jellies from the Whole Paycheck store or the depraved indifference to human life that sent me off to school every morning without so much as a Consumer Reports approved bicycle helmet on my head.” (Walter Russell Mead)

    Parents can decide for themselves whether or not to insist that their children wear bike helmets but if Mead thinks that wearing these helmets is little more than a modern day shibboleth of the nanny state he should say so. Does he really think that because he safely rode his bike to school sans helmet in rural South Carolina half a century ago that the federal and state governments shouldn’t be advocating that kids today should wear helmets?

    Has he been to an emergency room where a young child was being treated for a head injury? It isn’t pretty.

  • Chase

    This is a pretty funny article. I would just caution you to avoid reflexively associating Whole Foods yuppies with liberalism. In the western burbs of Chicago – where I have lived for the better part of 28 years – there are a lot of upper middle class types who shop at whole foods type places and consistently vote Republican.

  • “Great green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts”

    Does this pass the grandmother test? 🙂

  • The kids in my family were raised on peanut and jelly sandwiches for lunch (especially when we were “cooking” for ourselves). I have fond memories of them.

    My daughter and her generation by contrast will have little to do with them. They haven’t developed the taste for peanut butter.

    As for regulatory capture, since when did it not operate at the state level too?

  • Brett

    Regulatory capture is a big reason for this, but just as important are budget constraints and the fact that the federal aid exists in the first place.

    In the case of the former, the unhealthy stuff like this tends to store better, be produced cheaper, and be easier to prepare by lunch-room staff making minimum wage.

    In the case of the latter, it’s because School Lunch became part of a greater welfare program back in the 1960s and 1970s. The idea being that it’s hard for poor kids to learn if they haven’t eaten anything for breakfast or lunch.

  • Soul

    With a number of hungry nephews coming to visit this spring break, I’m sure to once again be surprised at how poorly they eat. I’m likely to witness a rainbow of slime being consumed!

  • Eurydice

    The lyrics in my schoole were a little different – the last two lines being:

    All mixed up with purple porpoise all-purpose pus,
    And I forgot my spoon.

    But then many of the schools I attended were on military bases.

    I suspect The Matriarch would no longer be able to pack those peanut butter sandwiches for fear a stray molecule might trigger anapylactic shock in the lunch room.

  • Eurydice

    I swear, I know how to spell “anaphylactic” – also, that “school” doesn’t have an “e” at the end. (sigh) I wish there were an edit function.

  • Kris

    “my smiling hosts told me that the guts are the best part of the gopher. I smiled back and ate. They wouldn’t lie about a thing like that, would they?”

    Give gopher guts to the “God and Gold” gweilo. Giggle.

  • Pete Dellas

    Wigwag, here’s some reading that may answer your questions:



    A simple internet search using the words “School lunch mandate” would have given you these, and more.

  • Gary

    The turnip greens were certainly overcooked at my beloved elementary school, but our most dreaded culinary item was sauerkraut. When they finished boiling it at my school, you could smell it as soon as you left your classroom. In six years at that place, I never once ate it–and I wasn’t alone. God knows how much overcooked sauerkraut went in the garbage from there. And to this day, I can’t even stand to look at the stuff.

  • John Barker

    When I taught in rural northern California, the cooks (Italian farmers’ wives) made their own pasta and served produce donated by local growers. I learned that such practices are now forbidden and meals “ready to eat” are produced in a central kitchen. What a loss of heritage and fine dining!

  • Toni

    Most amusing! However, I don’t recall school food being that bad. Not until I got to college was I served for supper what we dubbed Gorilla Butt and Hockey Pucks.

    I’m sure others above have it right. The feds get involved through subsidized meals for poor children. But the ABC News piece is not about local schools coerced by Washington to serve pink slime.

    “ABC News has the learned that…schools will be able to CHOOSE whether or not they buy…”pink slime.”” My emphasis. It’s still a local decision.

    Okay, a little brag. I wrote the first story in the national media on Whole Foods (1989) and described its appeal thus: it “makes customers feel virtuous and self-indulgent at the same time.” That still seems to be true when I visit the very crowded store near me.

  • Dr. Steve

    The meta-goal of American Socialism, inherent in everything they do, is to establish that the US Constitution is a meaningless anachronism, and that there are, in fact, no limits on the power or reach of the Government. The Socialists don’t care what your children eat for lunch; they care about establishing the principle that all children belong to the almighty Collective, and parents are just Government-approved caretakers, serving the need of the Collective in accordance with Socialist policies and processes.
    The reason Socialists keep picking fights like this is because it plays perfectly into their paradigm – parents are tricked into an unequal debate about whether the food they pick is “healthy” (one or two parents on one side, Socialist/Media Juggernaut on the other), while the overriding principle that the Government, not the parent, has the right to make that decision simply becomes accepted background to the debate.
    Ultimately the Socialists don’t care what comes out of the food debate – the goal was to establish their power to have and decide that debate.

  • teapartydoc

    Has Wig-Wag ever been in an emergency room with a child with a head injury? I have. I spent two years of residency working at a level one trauma center and never saw a major head injury from riding a bicycle without a helmet. This was BEFORE cities began regulating these things and back when practically every kid in town was on a bike every day. I did see plenty of motorized tricycle and motorcycle injuries that required a lifetime of nursing home care.
    While I’m on the sanctimonious Wig-Wag, I’d like to ask him (it?) where the empirical evidence supporting centralized and consolidated school policy is. Go back, young idiot, to all of the promises and prophecies made by the centralizers about the Eden that would result with school consolidation. Comparing those with the facts on the ground today is enough to make one puke. When I do, I’d [and now Grandmother Mead raps the poster sharply on the knuckles].

  • Mitch_Cali_Sux

    WigWag, are you that delusional? Stupid? Or just another Liberal?

  • AAB

    WigWag just demonstrates that the newer generations are conditioned to regulatory control and accept it without question. The fact that Bloomberg was constrained by the complaints of the parents shows that local control does make the most sense. Heavy handed federal mandates remove the ability of parents to have any influence, which is exactly the point, isn’t it?

    You have to have grown up in other, more relaxed times (age 50+) to be able to have perspective.

  • Maxwell Jump

    I remember it as

    Gobs and gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts
    Marinated monkey meat
    chopped up birdies feet

    Don’t forget the purple, putrid porpoise pus
    And I forgot my spoon!

    That was PA in the early 70’s.

  • Mark B

    Pete – don’t confuse Wigwag with additional data. He has his government-approved facts and he’s going to stick with them whether true or not.

  • Babs

    You brought back memories. My mom would buy a couple of packs of hamburger buns. We would assemble ham & cheese sammies and repack them back into the bun bags. Really, it seemed very logical to me. Just pop into the freezer and get out a sandwhich, throw a piece of fruit and some cookies in along with milk money. We also did bologna or PB&J sometimes.

  • Robert

    My memory of the worst lunches at school — we had a dining room and sat at tables in groups of 8 — was this.

    When the awful stuff arrived, you grabbed a slice of bread (Wonder Bread, no doubt), slathered it with butter, then sprinkled sugar liberally over the butter.

    Fold the bread, eat. Repeat until full.

    This also fueled many an afternoon’s activities at scout camp, too.

  • Mark B

    Wigwag – You spend way too much time spearing a straw-man; Mead isn’t arguing that kids shouldn’t wear helmets. Indeed, you seem to have purposely looked right past the main point of the article and hidden in the weeds. Also, if you don’t think regulatory capture is a much bigger deal at the federal level than I suggest that you take a course in Public Choice theory before continuing to embarrass yourself here.

  • Jocon307

    “Let’s be clear: if school lunches shouldn’t be settled at the local level, democracy is doomed. If we actually need federal bureaucrats to tell us what to feed our children, the republic is finished and it is time to close up shop”

    Amen to that.

    I can’t believe that any parent suffers the insult of being told she can’t be trusted to feed her own children.

    I confess, I still remember one very measly lunch I made for my kid. I still feel guilty about that day. But it was ONE day, ONE lunch out of the thousands I made for her.

    Despite how serious this subject it, this is a very cute column. It reminds me of my own, very busy Mom. My mother’s lunches were pretty monotanous too, and to this day I really can’t stand bread that been in the freezer. But it was certainly better than the slop on offer from the school. Nobody starved, nobody got fat, everybody made it to age 21 with no nutritional issues.

  • koblog

    Obamacare — the Pink Slime of universal federal “health” programs.

  • MaryW

    WMy mother used ham salad for our frozen lunches. They were wrapped in waxed paper and stored in container. No ants.

    I am sure the pink slime will be as disgusting as the mystery meat (soybean) served in the dorms when I was in colleg.

  • John Skookum

    Great green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts,
    Macerated monkey feet,
    Chopped-up baby parakeets,
    French-fried eyeballs floating in a bottle,
    Sold at the Safeway store!

  • hmi

    WigWag is both ill-informed and wrong-headed. In NYC, the Snapple question had nothing to do with the source of subsidized meats going into federally-supported school lunch program, but about what would be stocked in locally-authorized vending machines.

    He also thinks that the supposed dire necessity for bike helmets is well-established. It is not. Instead, we throw vast amounts of money at a tiny problem. The best counter-example is Holland, where cyclists might even outnumber motorists, and where helmets (and helmet-preventable injuries) are barely a statistical blip.

  • SDN

    Wigwag can’t be embarassed; Leftists have no shame.
    Wigwag doesn’t care about facts; Leftists create their own.
    Wigwag isn’t interested in a debate; Leftists are interested in running your life for their benefit… just like any other slavemaster in history.

  • Can anyone think of one daily activity that has not been affected by federal government?

  • Ellen

    About that “pink slime” — I read up on how it was made, and it sounds like the same process (perhaps minus the ammonia) is use to make sausage. Do we eschew the humble hot dog?

    Those who like either law or sausage should not see them being made.

  • Despistado2

    You lucky dog. Instead of a bag lunch, I was given 35c to buy the “plate lunch” at my elementary school. 50 years later, the envy still burns. The attractiveness of the bag lunches of my schoolmates, the evident care with which they were prepared, all the things they had and I didn’t.

  • In my high school cafeteria, nasty tomato soup was served every day, made we were assured by dipping the bright re wig of one of the servers into hot water. A friend of mine, now a Christian Brother in Peru, had a family so poor that his lunch consisted on one slice of bologna, mustard and bread. We used to switch half sandwiches around with him.

  • wGraves

    At my local dim sum restaurant, after the morning serving, the staff chow down on the same food they prepare for us. That’s because they know it’s of the best quality, and quite delicious. Funny, but I have never noticed a table in the school cafeteria where teachers and culinary workers join the students for their lovely lunches. That would be because they wouldn’t be caught dead eating the stuff they serve the students. The same was true in my college cafeteria.

    My daughter won’t eat the stuff in the school cafeteria, and also won’t eat knock-off sandwiches…ham and cheese every day. So the current solution is to prepare at least one dish at dinner which can be used as lunch the next day. This seems to work out rather well.

  • Freddie Sykes

    Hey, I am all for a balance diet but I have trouble accepting the concept that each and every meal MUST be balanced.

    And one thing parents have going for them is that they know what their children will eat. Food thrown in the trash has very little nutritional value.

    I seldom get to a Whole Paycheck store but, when I do, there are certain items I stock up on regardless of the price because I like to eat good food. Their San-J Soy Sauce is cheaper than Amazon while their Muir Glen Ketchup is not. It pays to shop around and stock up on your staples when they go on sale.

  • Suzanne

    Our grade school “lunch ladies” were Mrs. Nichols and Mrs. Gothrey. Mrs. Nichols made chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies for our lunch. On every Wednesday we had two cinnamon rolls (big ones) that she made from scratch at home and brought in. Most of the lunches were made from scratch. And there were no fat kids.

  • frozenglass

    Mike, My Mom lived in the depression so she made “depression sandwiches”. Two white bread slices and one slice of either cheese or bologna made with margarine. I still hate sandwiches today, even the fancy one so tend to skip lunches a lot.

  • As I learned it …

    Don’t you just love those
    Greasy, grimy gopher guts
    Saturated snake snot
    Mutilated monkey meat
    French fried eyeballs
    Swimming in a bowl of blood
    And I forgot my spoon …

    AS for you, Wigwag, what part of this, from Dr. Mead’s post, don’t you understand?

    Local control is not going to give the “best” answer 100 percent of the time — but neither is any other system of administration and control. At least when these things are controlled at the local level, mistakes only affect a small number of people — and the people affected can make changes more easily than if a national bureaucracy is responsible for the dumb move.

    It’s about having the perception to properly exercise such control, and the flexibility to correct mistakes in a timely manner … as opposed to having the whims and phobias of a few “cool kids” jammed down everyone’s throat.

  • a

    Really, this is simple, I’m surprised you don’t understand it: For every kid who brings his own lunches to school, there are that many fewer subsidy dollars–fewer subsidy dollars, fewer kickbacks, fewer “campaign contributions.”

  • WigWag

    Pete Dellas (March 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm), thanks for the links. Now I see what everybody is so upset about. I have to admit that I’m just shocked to discover that the Department of Agriculture has been infiltrated by communists. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; after all the Tea Party types have a reputation for veracity; I think I might just have to take another look at their suggestion that President Obama is a closet Muslim. If they’re right about the commies in the Agriculture Department maybe their right about that too.

    What amazes me is just how bold those pinkos regulating the school lunch program are. Can you believe that they think that just because federal dollars underwrite a significant part of the school lunch program that federal regulations should be implemented?

    Even worse, can you believe what they’re trying to do? Fewer French fries and more green vegetables; less pizza and more lean meats; two percent milk instead of whole milk. What’s next; the Congress being replaced by the Polit Bureau? Pravda replacing the New York Times ( or is the New York Times already worse than Pravda?

    And that Michelle Obama, she’s the worst of all; she must be a Muslim Communist; they’re the worst. Who made her the nation’s food cop? What gives her the right to have a cause; it’s not like any other First Lady has ever worked on a pet project.

    I think you’re right, Pete, the Red Menace is back. Those commies sure are nefarious; can you believe they’re trying to convince us there’s an obesity epidemic in the United Srates? Can you believe that they’re pretending that even teenagers are getting Type II diabetes; a disease that used to show up mostly in older fat people. Those commie doctors have even given a name to the new syndrome; it’s called “Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young (or Mody for short). Thank goodness there are still a few patriotic physicians out there like TeaParty Doc; I’m sure he’s never heard of it or seen a case of it which must mean its all propaganda.

    It’s time to circle the wagons, Pete, we are about to be bombarded by incoming fruit and vegetable projectiles. But I’m willing to stand up for good old American food like pizza and French fries. If we don’t make a stand here what will they try to take away from our kids next? My guess is that the bastards are after our apple pie.

    Ps; Yes TeaParty Doc I have been in emergency rooms where both teenagers and adults have been treated for head injuries caused by bike accidents and motor scooter accidents and I am personally familiar with the case of a teenager who died from a head injury caused by a motor scooter; she was not wearing a helmet.

  • T.J.

    I learned it:

    Great green gobs of greasy, grimy, gopher guts
    Mutilated monkey meat
    Saturated snake snot
    French fried eye balls floating in a pool of blood
    And me without my spoon
    But I brought my straw [slurp, slurp]
    Yum, Yum!

  • T.J.

    And, yes, WigWag, that’s a problem. What’s with this skim milk and lean meat business? Fat is good for you! Brains need fat! Also, they want to force-feed our kids so-called “healthy” whole grains. What was it they were serving up in the LAUSD–brown rice cutlets? We limit grain consumption in our house, both because they contribute to Type II diabetes, but also because they are particularly efficient in taking up certain toxins (naturally-occuring or not) from the soil, like arsenic. There are political motivations for many of the regulations they want to make rather than having a basis in good science.

  • Instructor

    Whole Paycheck food store–LOL!

    Wig Wag, check your facts. The “obesity epidemic” started in 1998 when the CDC lowered the BMI indices for “obesity.” Literally overnight, the US suddenly had some 29 million more “obese” people.

  • WigWag, ever consider that the Department of Agriculture might be making decisions about those school lunches with the interests of some in its primary area of concern … like, say, Archer Daniels Midland … in mind?

    Not saying that it is happening now, but that is always a possibility when we outsource our decision-making authority to government “experts”, like you advocate, in return for paying some of the freight.

    And that’s not the only problem with programs such as these … they inhibit the timely application of new and perhaps better approaches, because of the reluctance of bureaucrats and those they regulate to challenge what is already “government approved”, because of the hassle associated with mounting such challenges.

    Like the Biblical Esau, we are trading our birthright (of liberty) for a lunch.

    Problem is, many are already so conditioned to subordinating their decisions to “experts”, they see no reason to question the conventional wisdom, and instead choose to chow down as their liberty disappears.

  • WigWag

    “Wigwag can’t be embarrassed; Leftists have no shame. Wigwag doesn’t care about facts; Leftists create their own. Wigwag isn’t interested in a debate; Leftists are interested in running your life for their benefit… just like any other slave master in history.” (SDN @ March 18, 2012 at 1:07 pm)

    Wow, SDN, you’ve sure got me pegged; it’s your life that I want to control for my benefit; that’s why I think fewer mashed potatoes and more spinach is a good idea in the public schools. You know, SDN, good leftist that I am, as I was reading Professor Mead’s post I just couldn’t get Martin Niemöller’s famous maxim out of my head. Didn’t it go something like,

    “First they came for the hotdogs but I didn’t speak out because I preferred hamburgers,

    Then they came for the French fries but I didn’t speak out because I preferred tater tots,

    Then they came for the pizza but I didn’t speak out because I preferred tacos.

    Then they came for my Twinkies and there was nothing left for me to have for dessert.”

    “And, yes, WigWag, that’s a problem. What’s with this skim milk and lean meat business? Fat is good for you! Brains need fat! Also, they want to force-feed our kids so-called “healthy” whole grains…” (T.J. @ March 18, 2012 at 6:08 pm)

    I actually agree with you, T.J. I think Gary Taubes makes a very good case that carbohydrates are a bigger culprit in heart disease and possibly other diseases including cancer than fat is. I am skeptical of the lipid hypothesis that suggests dietary fats increase LDL levels. But in case you haven’t noticed, chocolate milk isn’t exactly low in carbs and it certainly doesn’t have fewer carbs than skim milk. Pizza, French fries and ice cream aren’t low in carbohydrates either and they all have a particularly high glycemic index. If you don’t like the new school lunch regulations send your kids to school with a lunch box; nothing in the regulations prevents you from doing that. But if you want your kids protected from carbohydrates instead of fat you will be happier with the new regulations than you were with the old.

    “Wig Wag, check your facts. The “obesity epidemic” started in 1998 when the CDC lowered the BMI indices for “obesity.” Literally overnight, the US suddenly had some 29 million more “obese” people.” (Instructor @ March 18, 2012 at 6:10 pm)

    Got it, Instructor, the obesity epidemic in the United States is nothing more than a statistical artifact. I suppose that the epidemic of Type II diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome is a statistical artifact too. I suppose the fact that, for what may be the first time in human history, children are developing Type II diabetes is an artifact also.

    Those commie leftists at the Department of Agriculture under the cynical leadership of that Muslim-Communist Michelle Obama have really gone too far this time; they’re trying to poison our kids with healthy foods.

    What will those monsters think of next?

  • teapartydoc

    I’d just like to note for the record that Wig-Wag has yet to respond to my request fof empirical evidence supporting school centralization. Also note the rather sheepish way he states that he has “been in emergency rooms” where kids have been treated for injuries, not that he has evidence showing that the nanny state has justification for the billions spent on kiddy bike helmets for tots going five miles an hour, but admits indirectly in his reply that it takes a motorized conveyance to even half-way justify any such mandates.
    Also, I didn’t think I was all that hard on him, Professor Mead, I was just trying to make the punishment fit the crime.

  • Koblog

    Not having wikipedia in the late 50’s, we made it up as we went along:

    Great big gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts,
    Petrified porcupines,
    Sanctified* skunks divine,
    …and you with out a spoon.

    *not being wordsmiths in those days, this word was flexible.

  • victoria wilson

    One can only start with the premiss that a government program creates eddies in the general flow of things. School lunches contribute to several public goods: feeding lesser advantaged children so they can partake in public education and hopefully contributing favorably to public health. These seem pragmatic enough. But providing both breakfast and lunch as they do at our school might cause care-givers to fall out of the habit of having food on hand and preparing it for their charges. Furthermore these children never learn to line-up slices of Sarah Lee Whole Grain White and slap on a tablespoon or two of Jiffy. So when they are hungry and alone at home, they can feed themselves and perhaps a sibling or two. Knowing how to furnish a balanced meal could improve another public health issue: childhood obesity. Why can’t the same social influence that gets all the affluent kids to wear helmets on Razors, Big Wheels or Schwinns coddle and cajole folks back to basic church basement meal preparation (oh-wait, church basement meals are considered a public health hazard and are now prohibited.)

  • Jim.

    How is it that we got through almost fifty comments on this page without anyone pointing out one important historical detail?…

    The School Lunch programs in this country were started at the behest of Department of Defense after one of the World Wars (I forget which) because too many draftees were declared 4F (not fit for duty) because of poor nutrition during childhood.

    If you want to get technical about it, these programs should have been discontinued with the draft; on the other hand, poor early nutrition is (aside from illegitimacy) one of the only reliable predictors of juvenile delinquency.

    As far as it goes, though, the idea that a government employee has the right (much less the duty) to throw away a home-prepared lunch is just simply obnoxious.

    WigWag, do you seriously not see that?

  • hanmeng

    Even a six-year-old can learn how to make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. Shouldn’t a true individualist make his own?

  • EvilBuzzard

    The government cares far less about what is in the lunches than whether they have the power to control what goes into the lunches. Classic statism.

  • ConservaDad

    “A Government large enough to tell your children what to eat is large enough to bankrupt the country paying elementary school brown bag inspectors”. Get outta my [darn] lunch!!!

  • ConservaDad

    No really, outta my lunchbag! Out! Out! Out! Outta my yard, outta my lawn mower, outta my scissors, outta my paper plates, outta my brazilian rosewood (guitars) and quit interfering with all other areas of my life! In the words of “The Donald” You’re FIRED! Go find somebody else to nanny, we are all over it! You control freaks will see how far over it we really are come November.

  • richard40

    In a lot of schools today you cant have any peanut butter at all, because one kid in the school has a peanut allergy, and because of fed disability rules, the entire school has to conform to the needs of that one kid. If you are in one of those unfortunate schools, and give your kid a PB&J, you may as well have filled a bag with toxic waste, the school will call in a hazmat team to dispose of it, and any kid that touched the dreaded peanut butter has to get it scrubbed off.

  • srp

    This thread may be dead, but on the malign impact of mandatory bike helmet laws, see


    It turns out that they deter kids from riding bikes, For every life saved by the helmet laws, about 80,000 kids stop riding. Only about eight kids a year are saved in the affected age groups. That’s a very bad cost-benefit tradeoff.

  • Pat

    I like peanut butter. Crunchy. Grandma fed us cashew butter. Much betta!

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.