Nutrition News: Pink Slime

by in Food News, Food Safety, April 12, 2012
ground beef
Is there pink slime in this beef?

A microbiologist who worked for the USDA let the cat out of the bag about something the food industry has been doing for years. What’s your take on the food issue everyone’s talking about: pink slime?

What is Pink Slime?
Tiny traces of meat left on beef carcasses are heated, picked, then bathed in ammonia to kill off any bacteria. These meat scraps dubbed “lean finely textured beef” (aka pink slime) are then mixed with ground beef prior to packaging to bulk up portions. Until recently, pink slimed beef was gobbled down by anyone who consumed ground beef from a fast food joint, grocery store or school cafeteria.

The meat industry defends that pink slime is in fact meat. The government says these ammonia-sprayed foods are safe to eat, but that doesn’t make the chemical-treated meat any more appetizing to many consumers.

In the wake of this negative publicity, many supermarkets and others in the food industry have publicly outcast pink slime. Meanwhile the company responsible for producing it filed chapter 11 on April 2nd.

Is pink slime as dangerous and disgusting as it sounds? Should it be in our food? There are things to consider on both sides of the issue:

•    Use of pink slime helps keep the cost of beef down.
•    The downfall of pink slime has cost some Americans their jobs.
•    Pink slime-filled meats are currently in school lunches.
•    Until now consumers had no way of knowing if it was in their food or not.

Some of these issues are already being resolved. For example, going forward schools will get to choose whether or not they want to use it.

On the other side of things, maybe we can save money and avoid pink slime at the same time. The USDA’s MyPlate guidelines suggest eating a more plant-based diet; Americans eat currently eat too much red meat. Eating less (pink slime free) ground beef might be a win-win.

Bottom Line: Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food. And even if chemically treated meat is dubbed safe by the government, do you want to eat it?

Tell Us: How do you feel about pink slime?

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Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (1,018)

  1. RonP says:

    The fact that it needs to be treated with ammonia in order to make it 'safe for human consumption', is a tip-off to me that the animal carcasses, bones and trimmings are trucked-in to BPI from elsewhere, unrefrigerated and teeming with insects and bacteria. I can only imagine.

    • George from UC says:

      Although I'm no fan of ammoniated beef, at least one BPI plant shares a wall with a huge slaughterhouse and the meat trimmings come in by conveyor belt only a few minutes after they've been scraped off the beef carcasses.

  2. Don says:

    Talk all you want it still comes down to the fact that Jamie Oliver's Campaign cost over 700 people their jobs and by the end of the month it will cost another 800 people their jobs plus the closing of plants ,all because of the media blitz that was started by Oliver and Siegel the Blogger ( a unsuccessful lawyer turned blogger) and the 24 hr news …..send him back to the UK and cancel his show, the Brits have problems of their own when it comes to food, and remember it is all about the ratings ,if it cost people their jobs well to bad… Keep one thing in mind…..karma is bitch.

    • Rose P says:

      I don't think job loss should be a factor in food safety and the right of the consumer to know what is in their food.

  3. David says:

    This is what I hate about media these days. You take a legitimate story, and then twist the facts to make it seem much worse than it is. This is how I was told, by someone that has the company that makes this as a client, the 'pink slime' is made: The meat is taken from left over meat when specific cuts are made, do that the bones can go to be stripped and made into gelatin. Once the meat is taken off, it is ground to the consistency of ground beef. After it's ground, it goes through a spray of ammonia to kill bacteria. The next part is the most mistold part: rather than the sprayed beef being formed into blocks and frozen like bricks, it is flash frozen and it freezes in little flakes about the size of your thumbnail.

  4. Heather says:

    I find it repulsive, personally. It is our decision as consumers if we want to eat toxic chemicals. What angers me about this is that we were intentionally misled. In fact there was a case in CA where a company wanted to list the ingredients of the slime on their label and a judge ruled against it stating it would "confuse the general public as to the wholeness of the meat". Since this has come to light I have been hesitant to drink tap water of any kind. Who knows what kind of "processing agents" are used.
    Further research supports that the company lessened the amount of amonia used after several people complained of the smell. I assume this is what led to the e coli breakout that recalled hamburger meat from Krogers last summer that left a three year old little boy on life support with a strange strand of E Coli that almost killed him after eating a hamburger at a dude ranch.
    It is a shame that other countries dont want to touch food from the US any longer because they dont trust it.

  5. Sarah Putnam says:

    "Lean finely textured beef"? Does the company just sees this as a P.R.(Public Relations) issue?

  6. Rose P says:

    We grind our own burger with our Kitchen Aid mixer from chuck and it is delicious. Thumbs down to the FDA and the producers of pink slime for not being honest about this addidtiive. As in the case of GMO's, the FDA protects food producing corporations, not the public. They are to blame for the loss of these jobs.

  7. […] In the News: Pink Slime […]

  8. kingsparta says:

    Use it in dog food, but not in my burger, thank you very much.

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