Beef Lips and Other Mysterious Things
Beef lips? My grandparents had a dairy farm so I know a thing or two about bovines. I would sit in awe and watch my grandfather milk his cows the old-fashioned way; by hand. I could never master the pull-n-squeeze technique of extracting milk from the cow’s teat, but I so enjoyed watching the cows while they were being milked.
Grandfather milked and I fed them. Eating gives the cows something to do will being milked and diverts their attention away from having someone pull-n-squeeze a very sensitive part of their anatomy. My face-to-face encounter with the herd was a delight. Dairy cows have very personable faces which reflect a gentle disposition. Just looking at their huge, soft eyes I could discern how a particular cow was feeling. Was she stressed, or excited or tranquil? Her eyes were the indicator to knowing her mood. I spent countless hours watching their facial expressions.
Cows also have a very peculiar habit that is forever ingrained into my memory. All cows have very large nostrils and very long tongues. For no particular reason that I could determine, they would, at random, thrust out their tongue, up and over their big lips and directly into their nostrils. I tried to imitate this odd behavior, but my tongue was not long enough.
As interesting as it may have been to a young boy to see cows flicking their tongues in and out of their nostrils, it was their soft, flabby lips that were the focal point of this childhood memory. Having such pleasant and charming faces maybe I was expecting them to use their lips to communicate verbally.
Fast forward. Back in the 70’s I became quite interested in healthy eating; even going as far as to join a food cooperative. During that time I also began to take careful notice of the labels pasted on food products. Even if I was not going to buy a particular item, the labels still sparked my curiosity. It was on one of those labels I made a shocking discovery and called to mind an old childhood memory.
Food manufacturers are a tricky lot; much like politicians. When faced with negative publicity, they simply become Wordsmiths and change the language. Back in the 70’s and 80’s the makers of Potted Meat Food Products began to take some flack regarding the ingredients being used in their “Food Products. Why is it necessary to remind us that it is a food product? That fact alone should have raised some questions.
As I picked up a can of “Potted Meat” I came face-to-face with one my childhood memories. Yep! Imprinted on the label were the words “Beef Lips”. Oh, the humanity! And they wanted me to eat this stuff? All I could see in my mind was a visual of two pieces of white bread transforming into a pair cow’s lips as I was about to take a bite of a sandwich containing this Potted Meat Food Product. Yikes! I imagined that long, bovine tongue hiding in my sandwich and just waiting for the opportunity to, at random, stick itself into one of my nostrils. And if that were not strange enough it gets worse.
The label continued on with: Mechanically Separated Chicken, Beef Tripe, Partially Defatted Cooked Beef Fatty Tissue, Beef Hearts, and Partially Defatted Cooked Pork Fatty Tissue. Pretty scary stuff!
The official government definition is as follows:
The Code of Federal Regulations of the United States of America
Subpart B – Raw Meat Products § 319.15 Miscellaneous beef parts:
(e) Partially defatted beef fatty tissue. “Partially Defatted Beef Fatty Tissue” is a beef byproduct derived from the low temperature rendering (not exceeding 120 ° F.) of fresh beef fatty tissue. Such product shall have a pinkish color and a fresh odor and appearance.
As far as I can determine, the foregoing government explanation only makes it more of a mystery. I call your attention to the words, “beef byproduct”, more precisely, the word “byproduct”.
Meat byproducts or variety meats mean pork stomachs or snouts; beef, veal, lamb, or goat tripe; beef, veal, lamb, goat, or pork hearts, tongues, fat, lips, weasands, and spleens; and partially defatted pork fatty tissue, or partially defatted beef fatty tissue.
Weasands? Oh, you are going to love this! Weasand meat is defined as throat, esophagus, gullet, trachea or windpipe. You can also toss in cheeks, heads and tails.
After reading the “Official” government gibberish I imagined a conversation between two workers in a meat processing plant:
Jeb: What is that thing?
Billy Bob: Looks like a bull’s pecker (penis) to me.
Jeb: No, I think it is a windpipe.
Billy Bob: Ok, toss it into the grinder.
Happy eating readers!