Some Pink Slime with that Burger?

March 16th, 2012 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Some Pink Slime with that Burger?

Up until a couple of weeks ago, most people had never really heard of the phrase “pink slime” and probably would never guess that it was something that they might actually be eating in their ground beef. Well kudos to social media for bringing this issue to light.

According to ABC News there was a piece in The Daily dealing with the USDA’s purchase of meat that included “pink slime” for school lunches.

The story touched a nerve with Houston resident Bettina Siegel, whose blog “The Lunch Tray” focuses on kids’ food. On March 6, she started an online petition on Change.org asking Vilsack to “put an immediate end to the use of ‘pink slime’ in our children’s school food.” Supporters signed on fast. By Thursday morning, the electronic petition had more than 225,000 signatures.

So what is “pink slime”? It’s a low-cost ingredient in ground beef made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. It’s basically the dregs and what’s left over after butchering a cow. The bits are heated to about 100 degrees and spun to remove most of the fat. The lean mix is then compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product is exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella.

Although there are no precise numbers, some estimate that as much as 70 percent of our ground beef in the U.S. contains “pink slime”. It has been on the market for years and federal regulators say it meets standards for food safety.

The good news is that amidst the protests, school districts soon will be able to opt out of pink slime-treated ground beef. Schools will be able to choose between 95 percent lean beef patties made with the pink slime or less lean ground beef without it. The change will not occur immediately because of already existing contracts that need to play out.

Proponents of pink slime will argue that using the entirety of the cow is efficient and safe. Even if we assume the “safe” part to be true, is this really the type of food we’re looking to consume? It’s still the bottom of the barrel, and while it might be “safe” according to some, it’s certainly not healthy! As for efficient . . . I’m a huge proponent of making our food system more efficient. Better land usage and less energy usage are excellent goals to strive towards, but this “pink slime” is only efficient to the producers looking to eek out as much profit from their cattle as possible. It’s the lowest form of food imaginable . . . and that’s not efficient. This is the food that we eat. It should bring us joy and sustenance. We all deserve better.