The substance, known as “Pink Slime” is essentially fatty beef trimmings treated with ammonium hydroxide gas to kill off bacteria like E. coli and salmonella, which has a tendency to reside more prominently in these byproducts. Used essentially as “filler” to turn .7 of a pound of normal ground beef into a pound of “lean finely textured” ground beef, meat sellers and manufacturers can achieve greater profits with the substance.
It should be noted, these byproducts are actually beef, and it’s meat that used to be either discarded or processed into pet food because processing it into people food was too difficult. Called “lean finely textured beef” (LFTB) by marketers, the USDA has approved the substance for both safety and quality. The recent controversy has emerged because the USDA has announced plans to buy seven million pounds of LFTB for school lunch programs around the nation.
Beef Products Incorporated is a company producing LFTB. On its website, “Get The Facts About Lean Beef Trim”, it describes LFTB thusly; “LFTB is an end product made from boneless lean beef trimming, the very same beef that is processed into roasts and steaks for retailers and restaurants. These trimmings are simply small pieces of beef with fat attached. The boneless lean beef trimmings become “finely textured” using high-technology food processing equipment that resembles a large, high-speed mixing bowl, in which they are warmed to help separate away the fat so that only the beef remains. The result is a high-quality beef product and is at least 90 percent lean.”
Regarding the usage of ammonium hydroxide, the company says; “Ammonium hydroxide is not an ingredient added to the product – rather, the product receives a puff of ammonia to eliminate bacteria safely and effectively. When combined with moisture naturally in beef, ammonium hydroxide is formed, which is a naturally occurring compound found in many foods including baked goods, cheese, chocolate, and puddings, (as well as) in our own bodies and the environment. It is used in the production of each of these foods as a processing aid and not an ingredient, so (it is) not “on the label” of those foods either. It is safe and has been approved by FDA since 1974, and specifically approved for its food safety benefits in beef processing since 2001.
Despite Beef Products, Inc’s assertions, government and industry records obtained by The New York Times showed that in testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens were found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the U.S.D.A. about the effectiveness of the treatment.
This has led many healthy eating advocates to posit the question: “If you have to treat “food” with a toxic substance like ammonia, why take the risk?” While the actual truth may never be known, if you’re concerned about the possibility of ingesting LFTB, Decisive Media advises your best solution is to purchase meat from a local butcher who grinds the beef on the premises—while you watch.