When the “pink slime” controversy first appeared on the media’s radar, many people thought that another food “boogeyman” had been found. Unfortunately, many of the television news reports and newspaper articles about pink slime contain inaccuracies and misconceptions.
When the “pink slime” controversy first appeared on the media’s radar, many people thought that another food “boogeyman” had been found.
Unfortunately, many of the television news reports and newspaper articles about pink slime contain inaccuracies and misconceptions.
The term “pink slime” is misleading; it is a misnomer. The proper term is “lean, finely textured beef.” The product isn’t slimy. It is definitely a solid. By definition, “slime” contains 96-98 percent moisture. LFTB contains approximately 65 percent moisture, the same amount as in ground beef. The consistency of LFTB is a paste.
There is nothing new or sinister about the product. Food companies are not trying to sneak a potentially dangerous or unhealthy product into our food. Beef processors have been making and using LFTB for nearly 30 years.
LFTB is exactly what USDA says it is — pure beef. No special labeling is needed because nothing has been added to it.
When a steer is slaughtered, the meat processors remove the large deposits of fat from the carcass. This fat contains strips of muscle — meat. A 1,200-pound steer yields approximately 150 pounds of fat. This fat contains about 20 pounds of lean meat. After processors remove this meat, they very finely grind — or texture — it, forming LFTB. They then blend the LFTB into ground beef. LFTB is simply a tool that processors use to get more beef from cattle.
Most of the newspaper articles that I’ve read and television news reports that I’ve heard about LFTB didn’t mention that it — like all other meat products — is inspected by USDA for safety and wholesomeness. LFTB does not have a higher probability of harboring pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli or salmonella, than any other beef meat product. Still, as a precaution, processors treat LFTB with ammonium hydroxide to kill any microbial pathogens.
The ammonium hydroxide treatment has caused false reports about LFTB. Food processors treat many foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, with ammonium hydroxide. Federal food safety regulators recognize ammonium hydroxide as safe. They have placed no limits on its use.
One article said LFTB processors pour household ammonia on LFTB. Household ammonia is a liquid; ammonium hydroxide is a gas that dissipates into the atmosphere after it kills the pathogen. There is no residue in the beef.
Some reports claim that LFTB is used in pet food. This is true. However, other human foods find their way into the dog dish or cat bowl, too.
The thought of how LFTB is made or its appearance may be unappealing, and, theoretically, it could become contaminated — as could any food. But the reality is that the unfounded bias against LFTB has caused three LFTB plants to shut down. This means that 650 people — real people — are out of work.
Page 2 of 2 - Another reality is that, because of unfounded fears over LFTB from parents, some cash-strapped school districts will be forced to buy expensive beef products for their lunch programs instead of more economical but highly nutritious LFTB.
Dom Castaldo, Ph.D, is a former editor of a meat-processing magazine and is currently a biology instructor at Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, Ill. He can be contacted via email at email@example.com.