Pink Slime is Coming Back to a School Cafeteria Near You

Pink slime” is making a comeback: after a huge outcry last year over the U.S. Department of Agriculture buying 7 million pounds of this meat “product” made from processed beef trimmings treated with ammonia,†all but three states said they would stop serving it to students. Thanks in no small part to the efforts of Care2 members, the U.S.D.A. announced that†schools who get their ground beef from the federal government could have the option of buying it with “pink slime,” or without.

This year, a total of seven states are purchasing “pink slime,” possibly (and certainly ironically) because of the new nutrition standards for school lunches.†Under new U.S. guidelines, school cafeterias must limit sodium, follow minimums and maximums on calories and†increase the amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in students’ lunches. These cost more and public schools, many of whom have seen their budgets slashed due to sequestration, have been purchasing “pink slime” again.

Last Year’s Controversy Over “Pink Slime”

Last spring, school districts across the United States rushed to remove what the beef industry calls “lean finely textured beef” (LFTB) from the lunches that are served to some 31 million school children every day.

School districts, and parents, had not been aware that some 7 million pounds of meat served up in school cafeterias was coming from remnant scraps of cattle carcasses that had been heated, centrifuged to restore bits of muscle and then treated with†ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. Once they found out, they didn’t want their children eating it.

Higher Costs of New School Lunch Standards

Due to higher costs per meal under the new school lunch standards, schools can get six cents more per lunch. As Margo Wootan, head of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), tells†Politico, that’s not necessarily enough to cover the changes.

Using a highly processed product like LFTB can lower the price of ground beef by about 3 percent. Accordingly, school districts in†Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas have now put in orders to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for LFTB; last year at this time, only†Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota had done so.

Under current U.S.D.A. guidelines, beef products can contain up to 15 percent LFTB before having to note such on the label. Last year, the agency said that manufacturers could voluntarily label products. Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine has actually introduced a bill that would require that products containing LFTB to indicate such on their labels because, as she says,

ďAs a parent, I wouldnít want pink slime in my kidís school lunches, but ultimately that decision is up to parents and school systems. But for anyone to make an informed decision they need accurate information, so Iím glad the USDA has agreed to make sure school systems know when they are ordering meat that has this product in it.Ē

Students who rely on school lunches for their meals are disproportionately from lower-income families and are therefore the most likely to end up with LFTB on their cafeteria trays.

Is School Lunch Food Safety Being Sacrificed?

Not surprisingly, Beef Products Inc., the largest manufacturer of the product (who has sued ABC News and former USDA officials for defamation after they were openly critical of LFTB)†assures us that “pink slime” is “safe, wholesome, and nutritious 100% lean beef.” But CSPIís Wootan also expresses no issue with the safety or nutrition of LFTB, commenting that “mostly itís just that parents thought it was gross.”

In Texas, one of the states that is again planning to serve lunches containing LFTB, Bryan Black, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Agriculture, contends that the choice of using this meat product or not in school lunches is a “local decision.”

Plenty of questions remain about the safety of LFTB. After all, major U.S. grocery retailers have been opting not to sell beef products containing “pink slime” and most major fast food chains stopped selling it as of last year.

School districts have to balance their budgets. But it’s regrettable that they should be doing so by offering kids meals with LFTB and all the more at the same time as they are (supposedly) increasing the nutritional content of school lunches. School districts that are planning to serve meals containing “pink slime” are betraying the purpose of the new school lunch standards. Yes, fresh fruits and vegetables and whole wheat items cost more. School districts need to keep the reason behind those new standards in mind — providing students with healthy food — and not try to shortchange children with food of questionable quality.



Photo from Thinkstock

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Erik Roth
Ernest R.2 years ago

@ BJ. "But wait, let's keep raising $$ to send overseas to help countries that hate the US". Interesting idea. I have an even better idea. Let's stop raising $$ to fund overthrow of other people's governments or bombing them until they learn to hate the US.

Angela Roquemore
Angela Roquemore2 years ago

"Is School Lunch Food Safety Being Sacrificed?" YES!

Catrina T.: Mass. was not included in the list of three states that DIDN'T ban it last year, so they probably DON'T serve "pink slime."

Jackie Oh
Jackie Oh2 years ago

I've seen that video. It does not give an accurate description of the product. Here is the company responding to Oliver

Two sides to every story, sadly for jamie, almost every academic food expert in the world is on the other side.

He takes household ammonia, and pours it all over the meet! Never tells you that there is more ammonia in the bun or the cheese or the condiments! Many times more when you add up all the ingredients on a burger! It's madness...

Renate Martienssen
Jackie O.
Why don´t you just watch this video? Perhaps it will make you change your mind??

Sharing is caring!
with autumn greetings from Spain....RENATE

Renate Martienssen

To Donna F.
You meam: "they should!!!", don´t you?!?!

Past Member
Past Member 2 years ago

I would like to know who in congress would be happy to eat that muck and enjoy it. That to me is disgusting and is the dregs of the earth. This is animal swill at it's best and is not what people should eat, human's deserve more.

Donna Ferguson
Donna F.2 years ago

Children are "so important" that our society gives them the very best!

L Gatton
L Gatton2 years ago

Maybe if some of those Texas millionaires would donate some of their "chump change" to the schools LFTB wouldn't have to be served.

Debbie Wood
Debbie Wood2 years ago

So this is where mystery meat comes from!

Catrina Therrien
Catrina Therrien2 years ago

Thanks! I didnt even know about this stuff until now. I do not think Mass. is having this in there schools but now I will be asking about it.