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Pink Slime: Now Just An Option For Schools

Much ado has been about the recent hoopla over the foodstuff dubbed “pink slime” which is really something called “lean finely textured beef” by the USDA. This is a highly processed form of meat trimmings (not cuts) made up largely of the detritus that comes from breaking down a whole animal into its component parts (sinew, ligaments, and bits of gristle). These bits are then mixed with an ammonia-based gas (to preserve and rid of any pathogens or bacteria) and extruded into a fluffy pink form, which vaguely looks like something akin to the strawberry frozen yogurt one might find at a shopping mall food court. However, while similar in appearance, these two highly processed items should not be confused, and are certainly not interchangeable. The aforementioned “pink slime” is a truly versatile product, which can be turned into anything from hamburgers to taco filling, and is available everywhere from supermarkets to public schools, unbeknownst to consumers and hungry children.

Understandably people are pretty grossed-out by the new revelations about “pink slime” and are aghast that anything so revolting could find its way into their hamburgers (because this product is lean and inexpensive, producers often mix it into fattier meat to produce an overall leaner product), or their children’s school lunches. Even though Jamie Oliver made a very public condemnation of the product two years back with his reality TV show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” people are just now feeling the call to action and demanding to know more about the apparent ubiquity of this “pink slime.”

Numerous petitions have been signed and pressure is being put on individual school districts, as well as the USDA to put a stop to using “pink slime” as meat filler. The USDA claims that this product is utterly safe (well, it has been washed in ammonia) and allows up to 15 percent of a finished food item, like a hamburger or taco, to be made with the Lean Fine Textured Beef (AKA “pink slime”). But presumably under pressure from parents and disgusted consumers, the USDA announced that as of fall 2012 the National School Lunch Program would allow districts to electively choose ground beef that does not contain the product. As it stands, the USDA doesn’t currently require meat companies to state on the label whether ground beef (sold in stores or otherwise) includes trimmings and/or “pink slime”, and it was virtually impossible for schools to know whether the beef they purchased was chock full of “pink slime” or not.

So now the task to insure school lunches are slime-free rests in the hands of concerned parents and responsive school districts. This means that parents better start bending the ears of school administrators and school boards to clean up their local school lunches and bring some accountability back into the cafeteria. Parents, start making those phone calls.

As for the rest of us: if you routinely buy packaged and processed ground meat products, you are likely getting a generous serving of “pink slime” to go along with your meal (at least 15 percent by USDA estimates) and, at this point, there is no way of knowing whether what you purchase at the store is slime-filled or not (In January McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell said they would stop using Lean Finely Textured Beef in their ground beef dishes). For now, it will only be, at least potentially, the fast food loyalists and school children that will know for certain. But as the song says, “I believe children are the future…” but hopefully that future will be relatively devoid of pink slime, for all.

Related:
Vote No on Ag-Gag Bills to Protect Consumers
What’s In a Fast Food Burger?
‘Pink Slime’ Meat Will Still Be Served in Schools

Read more: Blogs, Children, Diet & Nutrition, Family, Food, Healthy Schools, Parenting at the Crossroads, , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

47 comments

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8:42PM PST on Feb 7, 2014

Yuck.

10:07AM PST on Dec 10, 2013

Wow... Nasty stuff...

4:06AM PDT on Apr 17, 2013

This is gross just gross, unnatural and it's going to make us really sick

11:54AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

What we have all been exposed to here is a classic example of media sensationalism aimed at ratings rather than facts. Let's all be good consumers and educate ourselves before we jump on the ban wagon. There are a plenty of credible sources out there we can use to make our own decisions. "A well informed consumer has the tools to, and will, make good decisions".

10:52AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

On more thing. The Jamie Oliver's video on this article is so far off base it is ridiculous. We need to keep in mind Jamie Oliver is an "Entertainer" not a "Food Scientist"!

Facts about Jamie:
1. Jamie Oliver produced one of the worst cook books in 2011.
2. Jamie Oliver is currently under fire over "Food Poising" at his restaurant chains.

Jamie Oliver can't even feed the people he so called cares about healthy food. Do you really think he cares what your children are eating. No, he cares about TV ratings!

I encourage all of you to do some research.

10:37AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

I understand you are all worried about the pink slime, but we need to get you accurate facts.

Lets first start be getting an accurate picture of Lean Finely Textured Beef. The picture above is mechanically separated chicken.

Lets then, do our research on ammonia. The word itself sounds scary, but in all reality it is safe if used in moderation. Ammonia is part of our human body. We produce it ourselves. The ammonia that everyone is so worried about in the burger, is really not that scary at all! I mean look at the bun, ketchup, and cheese you put on the burger. The beef has less ammonia than all of them.

Please look a littler further into this topic and I think you may realize you all are making a big, big mistake by not supporting LFTB. I personally choose to live a healthy lifestyle and I also want to purchase a leaner beef, but because all of the uneducated people it will be very hard to find.

We already have an obesity issue, lets not let it get any worse!

10:26AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

If you only take into consideration what you have seen in the media, it is totally understandable why people feel the way they do. What we have been exposed to is a classic example of media sensationalism, nothing more than a scare tactic that is ratings driven. Use a demonizing picture, which by the way is mechanically separated chicken, a catchy phrase, what do you get? RATINGS...

Here's the real idea. When a butcher finishes cutting what can reasonably be separated from bone, what is left is beef trimmings. It is too costly to recover the bits of muscle from the trimmings by hand. So, much of it could go to waste.

Some food processors then use mechanized means of recovering some of the meat from the trimmings. It used to be that what was recovered had too much connective tissue in it to be consumed by people. But Fido doesn't mind gristle the way we coddled humans do. That's why it used to be considered "only suitable for pets." Around 20 years ago, some manufacturers improved the process, separating the connective tissue, resulting in a product picky humans actually like. It is nutritionally the same as lean ground beef because it is lean ground beef.

This sounds like a good idea to me because it means less waste in the food system. In fact, it can be reasonably referred to as a "sustainable practice." By some accounts it reduces the number of cows that must be killed by over 10,000 per year.(1)

Reduce the cost of food by removing a source of

6:37AM PDT on Mar 28, 2012

YUCK!!!!!!!

4:15AM PDT on Mar 28, 2012

In light of all the negative press as of late on the Lean, Finely-Textured Beef (LFTB) produced by Beef Products, Inc (BPI) I find this latest article about ground beef recall alarming at the very least! The LFTB produced by BPI has had a spotless record of food safety; NEVER a recall in over 20+yr of production. I speculate that most of the objections to LFTB are due to MISinformation. Is it in objection to the ammonium hydroxide used in making sure the beef is safe? If so, have any of the objectors bothered to check the facts and see what this really entails?? It is a naturally occurring product AND it is used in many, many food products including breads, cheese, chocolates, meats, & more. It is naturally occurring in our body. The ammonium hydroxide used to keep many foods safe IS NOT the same compound as used in cleaning your house. Considering what some foods contain that we & our children consume... the incredible amount of preservatives, sugars, energy drinks, etc. LFTB is in the safer and healthier category. This shameful, hyperbolic witch hunt on a safe food product will only cause MORE problems with unsafe food & recalls as well as raise food prices for everyone! If you want to check out a site with nothing to sell and no bias - check this one for info on ammonium hydroxide: http://www.foodinsight.org/Resources/Detail.aspx?topic=Questions_and_Answers_about_Ammonium_Hydroxide_Use_in_Food_Production PLEASE - educate yourself and don't reply on the uned

5:42PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

I'm a vegetarian, so I don't have to worry about this personally, but I think it's dreadful that it doesn't have to at least be labeled and I certainly don't think it should be in school lunches (and have signed petitions about it), where concerned parents might not know that it's being fed to their children.

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people are talking

Good to know, though I'd have preferred to also learn why they are less effective.

I hate seeing these cats exploited for profit.

it´s true - music is a way of reaching out and sharing our hearts.

They forgot Simon's cat, and of course Garfield. Even the Friskys' cat was famous.

"Furry bags of sand" LOL Yep, that pretty much describes how a cat can relax & get comfortable j…

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