Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Cargill will begin labeling products that use “finely textured beef”—or “pink slime,” as most of us know it. Cargill, the world’s largest beef processor, decided on this new labeling because consumers are demanding more transparency in how agribusiness companies make the food they eat.
Though many think the substance should be taken off the market completely, it’s unlikely that will happen. So you might as well know what pink slime is and how it’s made. Here, we present five facts about pink slime. The truth ain’t pretty:
1. Pink Slime is injected with ammonium hydroxide gas. Yes, pink slime is safe thanks to this chemical. Iowa State University Professor James Dickson says, “The gas actually kills a lot of the harmful bacteria that could be present. It’s important to remember that meat isn’t sterile.”
But, hello, weren’t you paying attention in health class? Ammonia is produced in the body as a waste product, and though we can handle digesting it, ingesting substances like this into your body is not healthy. We’d prefer not to eat things with any sort of gas injected into it anyway. Not to mention, the chemical can be tasted. In 2003, officials in Georgia returned 7,000 pounds of beef to Beef Products for a “very strong odor of ammonia,” which they claimed they could detect even when the meat was frozen.
2. It comes from the outer surface of cow carcasses. Because of this, Live Science reports, the trimmings are even more susceptible to E. Coli and Salmonella. This is the reason for ammonia treatments, but they are not 100% effective, leaving room for devastating outbreaks.
3. It might be in your hamburger. Pink slime’s qualities are perfect for meat filler, and Rodale News reports, you can find it in fast food like McDonald’s and grocery stores like Safeway and Kroker alike. No burger is safe. Well, maybe the test tube burger.
4. It’s served to America’s children. According to Huffington Post, as of September, four states have allowed pink slime back into their school cafeterias, joining the three states that never stopped serving it. This was after the national controversy over pink slime erupted in spring 2012. These states have ordered “2 million pounds of the questionable ground beef for the 2013-2014 school year” due to budget cuts and the discount price of the meat. Adding the slime into beef reduces cost by about 3 percent.
5. It will probably never be labeled as “pink slime” in the grocery store. Pink slime has been rebranded more than once, Slate reports. Before the mechanical process of removing fat with centripetal force, the meat substance derived from these meat scraps was known as “partially defatted chopped beef”—it was changed to “fat reduced beef” post mechanical invention. Later, when the substance was approved for wider use than ground beef, the USDA approved the name “lean finely textured beef.” In Cargill’s case, the phrase “finely textured beef” is used, so look for that—not the term “pink slime”—when picking up food for dinner.
[via New York Times]
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