Heads up: This post is not for the weak stomached. My tummy has been in turmoil for days since I first started researching pink slime and since I am still queasy, this post is largely based on what I have found around the internet.
What exactly is “pink slime”?
In the process of trimming beef into the cuts of meat which are purchased by grocery stores, restaurants, and food processors, the remnants are reserved. Previously, these pieces have been considered not suitable for human consumption because of their proximity to the fatter places on the animal. (From my understanding, the hormones and harmful pathogens are retained in the fat.)
These leftover bits are heated to about 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) and spun to remove a majority of the fat. [Source*] Some companies then expose the meat to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella*. Then, the remains are pressed into blocks and can be ground into pellets.
The highly-processed product is called “lean finely textured beef (LFTB),” “boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT),” “finely textured beef (FTB),” or “pink slime.” I will let you decide which name you prefer.
“Not only is this product a potential source of killer pathogens if the ammonia levels are not controlled properly, but that the overall protein quality of the beef hamburger is compromised by the inclusion of LFTB,” former US Department of Agriculture microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein said. [Source]
Because the pink slime is essentially leftovers that would previously be made into dog food or disposed of as waste, the compressed meat is very inexpensive. Since the process leaves the meat so lean and the cost is lower than typical beef, butchers will mix it into fattier ground meat to make a leaner product, stretching the stock of their meat.
That means two packages labeled “ground beef 80 percent lean” may look and sound the same but be composed of different meats. One *could be unadulterated ground beef made from cuts of meat containing 20 percent fat. The other could be made from poorer quality – much fattier – meat but cut with and made leaner by pink slime, a term coined by a federal microbiologist grossed out by it and now widely used by critics and food activists.
Beef Product Inc., which started a website to give them a platform to refute criticism, and the National Meat Association are now in a battle to validate the use of pink slime and the process by which it is manufactured. They affirm that ammonium hydroxide is used in other processed foods such as baked goods, puddings and more. (Thanks for blowing the whistle on that!)
BPI has even gone so far as to insinuate that eating the processed meat is healthy by saying, “Including LFTB in the national school lunch program’s beef products accomplishes three important goals on behalf of 32 million kids… It 1) improves the nutritional profile, 2) increases the safety of the products and 3) meets the budget parameters that allow the school lunch program to feed kids nationwide every day.” [Source]
What this means to me…
Whether or not pink slime is just a monster made by the media or a legitimate concern, this debate gives me all the more reason to avoid processed foods. The meat which goes into your frozen lasagna can contain as much pink slime as the industry allows. You will never know. The precooked burgers… beef hot dogs… frozen entrees… pink slime? Considering that a company can use the cheap, processed meat as a filler and save a lot of money, I think they would go that route. Sure, they do it with the intention of keeping the cost down because paying the price for conventional ground beef would be passed on to the consumer in the checkout lane, but ultimately, it reminds me that I can only control what I make myself.
Which brings me a step further…
I have long been a supporter of buying ground meat in chubs, the pre-wrapped, oblong packages of beef where you cannot see what is inside. However, I will no longer do that.
Honestly, the last time I purchased ground beef that way (at Walmart), I noticed the texture was different from the beef I had been purchasing (ground in the store at Winn Dixie). The Washington Post* decided to support a taste test with hopes to determine if you could tell the difference between ground beef with and without pink slime and the findings are what I expected. The meat which includes pink slime has a chewier texture. I personally believe that ground beef sold in chubs contains pink slime. I have no proof of it other than my personal experience with the difference in taste/texture.
How you can avoid pink slime
If you are wondering if your store carries meat containing pink slime, this website has a very good list but the best way to avoid pink slime, if you so choose, is:
- to ask the butcher to grind a roast for you.
- purchase a grinder and grind a roast yourself.
That way, the ground beef you pay for will be lean but in the way you would expect and not because of a filler.
- and, avoid all processed foods.
I’m not sure what caused the recent attention to pink slime but I am grateful because it is not something which I was previously aware. As a frugal-living, penny-pinching person, I can only imagine how much… gulp… pink slime I have fed my family. No more. I am paying attention and I want what I pay for. Beef. And as unprocessed as possible.
What are your thoughts about pink slime?
Linked with love at The Mommy Club.
*Many of the original posts which were linked in this article have been removed by those websites.
I say “EWWWW!” What’s next? The system has been hiding gross stuff in our food long enough. Out with Pink Slime, Out with MSG, Out with High Fructose Corn Syrup, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! I am so so thankful we live in a community where grass fed locally raised beef is easy to find. I cannot control however, what our local burger joints use, or anything we pay at the store. Or worse yet, how about the fact that like a million pounds of this crap (excuse my french) was bought for the school system. Nice.
Want to ship me some beef, Tonya? It is not easy to find here. 🙁
Thank you so much for posting this. I try to be as careful as I can when buying for my family. We are a large family of 8 so the budget is often stretched to fill the cupboard. After reading this and doing some research, I realize that we are going to have to cut back in some other areas to get better meat.
I understand that completely, Lisa. It’s sad that we have to make these adjustments.
So glad that you posted this article. I’ve been hearing about the pink slime quite a bit lately but haven’t had time to research it. All I can say is….Wow!!! I am thinking of going the route of buying the roast and having it ground up instead of purchasing ground meat. Thanks for the article!!!
It was quite the eye-opener for me. I’ve watched documentaries like Food Inc but never really thought about our beef supply, aside from hormones, but that is another soapbox. 😉
I am not sure how much of this pink slime hype that has come up is simply a way to do some political maneuvering, but it is good to think about what is going into our foods. I disagree with some of the scare tactics being used, and making people think food may have pink slime in it when there is no real proof of it. I do tend to stay away from processed food as it is no real secret how they are made.
I think when it comes to school food we enter an even trickier area to deal. Facts are that providing healthier lunches means an increase in costs, which schools can’t afford. As it is, schools can barely afford to provide a decent education with all the of the cuts they are being forced to make. We keep demanding the schools do more and more with less money every year. We should not be surprised they are finding cheaper ways to “meet” requirements. There is blame being put on the meat industry and butchers, some on the government…but the fact remains that we as a society are pushing this drive to “find” healthy alternatives as we keep demanding for more. We have made the demand, they found a “solution”. If we really want healthier food and better education it will not come through cost cuts, but through MORE EXPENSE…we have to decide how important our children are and push our government to invest more money into the schools we as society rely on. We have learned the truth about pink slime, but complaining w/o providing a possible solution solves nothing.
When my son was in public school he always took a home lunch. Now I home school. We are able to control what our children eat. In my house we do spend more to get quality meats because we feel it is worth the extra cost. We cut costs in other areas, but not meat.
Sorry about the long rant. It is just my opinion.
I also want to thank you for letting us know the areas where it was your opinion or speculation rather than making it appear to be a fact. Many articles try to mislead people.
Very good points, Nicole! I agree with you one hundred percent. Our local school system definitely struggles and way too many of our students are homeless and rely on these meals as their only source of nutrition. Instead of investing in our schools, our local officials would rather pay for a moonpie drop on New year’s Eve and a hall of fame for local athletes. CRAZY!
Vicki Harris says
Jamie Oliver has shown that schools can provide healthy nutritious meals without adding a tremendous expense..however, schools have to be willing to invest in the labor rather than just someone who heats up prepackaged foods….when I went to school the meals were fresh cooked…I can still close my eyes and smell those home made rolls and cinnamon bun day was the bomb…..stop selling sodas, flavored milk and spend that money on nutritious foods that will fuel our kids’ bodies….I am fortunate to live in germany where I can buy my meats directly from the guy who raises the stock…when we first went to a store in france and bought chicken my son remarked at how incredibly small they were….yeah, I said, they are NOT ALLOWED to feed them growth hormones and that yellow skin???? their diet is all natural and they are not ‘bleached’……so we have to eat 2 or 3 thighs to get full, but I’m confident that the meat is pure and not adulterated…and that I can feel good about…..thanks for the information Penny and I agree with the writer who gave you praise for letting us know what were facts and what were opinions…..you are a blessing!!!!
Thank you, sweet Vicki. I wish I lived closer to you. I would love to see what a REAL chicken is supposed to look like.
Toni clark says
Don’t be so sure that the packaged beef ground by your butcher doesn’t contain the slime. My butcher said they re-grind the tubes and repackage because customers prefer that type of packaging.
Eeeewwww. More questions for my local store. Thanks for the info, Toni.
Thank you for this! I think I’ll opt for asking the butcher to grind some for me. And yes, this raises a ton of questions about all those other lurking “fillers” in all those other types of food. Why do companies insist on treating the food supply like a giant experiment kit? I say if you want choice beef, be willing to pay for it. If it is cheap, well, you just showed us the reason why!
The saying “You get what you pay for” certainly rings true in this situation but I do wish that it was more affordable to eat a nutritionally balanced diet. 🙂
Serena@Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch says
Eww.. So gross! There is a reason why my kids take a packed lunch every day to school and this is a big part of it! I also am better able to control the nutrional value of the food my kids eat and the quality! It’s amazing what is in our food we aren’t even aware of! We have switched to almost all organic and local foods where I can speak to the people who have grown our produce or meat! I also feel there is a reason cancer and other health problems have become such a growing concern and it trickles back to what we are consuming and exposed to! Thanks for sharing such great information and have a blessed week!
I agree with you, Serena. I think the rise in Autism, ADD/ADHD and other disorders is directly linked to the hidden dangers in our food. I am not an alarmist but I have eyes and can see the trends. Just can’t figure out why our government doesn’t see the same connections… ???
Thanks for sharing this. I became familiar with it when I watched Jamie Oliver’s food revolution and have been grossed out ever since. I recently saw an article that listed what stores use the pink slime and you are right, Winn Dixie was on there…and of course, the chubs especially. I’m a penny pincher myself so I know this is going to impact my grocery bill in the long run.
Rachel, I would love to know the link to that article… if you remember. 🙂
Why are all the comments regarding Zaycon food’s beef having pink slime in it disappearing from their Facebook page if they have nothing to hide? My posts have been disappearing all day along with just about everyone else’s. The comments are definitely disappearing faster than the 40# of their beef I have in my freezer ;o(
I want to know that too. I personally emailed my contact at the company and begged for a straight answer. I will share it with all of you when (if) I get one. 🙁
Did you see that Zaycon allows pink slime in the meat they sell? I know they’re one of your affiliates.
Yes, I was speaking with them yesterday and have removed my endorsement of their beef until they come up with a solution. As far as I can tell, they were unaware that the company they were using participated in this practice and are trying to find a solution. They have stopped selling the beef until they can figure something out.