One would think a hamburger patty is a pretty self-explanatory food (i.e. a patty made out of hamburger meat) but a recent NPR report proves just how wrong that assumption would be.
Hamburgers make regular appearances on school lunch menus across the country, but as an episode of “Tiny Desk Kitchen” discovered, there are 25 ingredients in those patties that aren’t meat. So what exactly are your kids eating? Perhaps a better question to ask would be “what color”?
Breaking down each of the ingredients on the label school-bound hamburger meat, NPR’s Allison Aubrey discovered blue copper gluconate, red cyanocobalamin, thiamine mononitrate, and pyridoxine hydrochloride. If you’re wondering what the heck those chemical-sounding ingredients are doing in a cheeseburger, you’re not alone.
Here’s Aubrey with more on why those mystery ingredients are included in meat fed to students:
Ultimately, it seems that many of these powered substances are vitamins and minerals. They’re combined with hamburger meat in an attempt to compensate for the fact that most kids aren’t getting enough nutrients from the foods they eat at home. But not even food scientists think that they’re a worthy substitute for whole fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins.
And then, as Grist points out, there’s the stuff that tries to cover up the burger’s artificiality. “Caramel color, for instance, makes the burger look like it’s been grilled when it really hasn’t. Yeast makes the meat taste more meaty, and the spices, flavorings, and sweeteners (!?) aren’t just there to enhance the flavor of the meat. They’re there to mask the bitterness of the added “enrichment” chemicals.”
While lots of these additives show up in processed food adults eat as well, there’s a big difference between choosing to eat them, and being fed these substances unknowingly. Thankfully, the report notes that parents and school cafeteria workers are growing uncomfortable with the high level of processed foods being served in school cafeterias, and many school boards are moving to phase them out. Very slowly.