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5 Fun Facts About ‘Pink Slime’ in Your Food

This pink slime stuff has been everywhere – the news, the interwebs, and your ground beef.

If you hadn’t already heard (yes, there are some people who haven’t) there’s a substance called “pink slime” rumored to be found in 70 percent of the ground beef found in grocery stores, fast food burgers and your kids’ school lunches. You can thank ABC News for coining the term “pink slime” during a 2012 investigation in which they dug into a [now] controversial process for refining beef mince and making it “healthier” for human consumption.

Um, okay.

Let’s take a closer look at pink slime.

Here are 5 fun facts about pink slime:

1) Pink slime is manufactured by a company called BPI. Eldon Roth founded Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until the E. coli scares of the 1990s that Roth perfected his process of manufacturing beef trimmings/mince using a puff of ammonia to raise the pH and kill any pathogens that it might be harboring. Beef trimmings are notorious for carrying things like E. coli.

2) It’s actually called “Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings” or “Lean Finely Textured Beef.” If you’ve never noticed the words “pink slime” on your package of ground beef, it’s probably because they’re not there. Instead, the USDA allowed packaging to go unlabeled because a few of its scientists objected (imagine!) to the use of the term “boneless lean beef trimmings,” let alone pink slime.

3) Many “Food Safety Experts” believe the product is safe, but aren’t necessarily advocating its use. It’s true. If you take the time to do your due diligence, you will find that the problem food experts have with pink slime isn’t the “puff of ammonia” that’s part of the manufacturing process, rather it’s the fact that it shouldn’t be marketed as ground beef at all. It’s not the same product, nor should it be served as such. Like in schools.

4) Some of the big gun fast food chains stopped using pink slime months ago. McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell announced that they would stop using BPI products in their food back in December 2011. Surprised? You can thank Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution.

5) It’s not household ammonia that’s used to treat the beef trimmings. As much as we love to hate pink slime, and we want to think it’s the nastiest thing ever, it could be worse. As in, they could really be using ammonia (as we know it). But they’re not. The reality is, BPI uses ammonia gas in a process that exposes pencil-sized tubes of beef trimmings for a fraction of a second. The USDA is okay with this process because they don’t view the ammonia puff as an ingredient.

I’m not by any means trying to persuade you or anyone else that pink slime is okay. I simply wanted to offer up a few pieces of information you might have missed during the social media frenzy that has surrounded this, um, yuckiness.

My kids’ school system announced last week that they have never used Lean Fine-Textured Beef in any of their menu items. School lunch may not be perfect yet, but I was certainly happy to see this message.

Down-to-earth approach to food with an ounce or two of snark. Not just restaurants, not just recipes! Mom, wife, friend, co-worker…not always in that order!

1 Comment

  1. Prime Parents Club

    March 29, 2012 at 9:08 am

    You know, I’m glad that you wrote this. Although I really don’t want any of this in my food, it certainly isn’t all “THE SKY IS FALLING” awful like I thought from some of the news reports.

    Good angle. Thanks.

    /jackie